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How to keep your business cool and save energy

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Summer's here! Whether you're running a temperature-sensitive business (chocolate shop?) or just mindful of keeping your employees and customers comfortable, keeping your business cool can become an important consideration during the hot months of the year.

Here are a few tips and ideas for keeping the temperature down without cranking the air conditioning – and your electricity bill – higher.

Some are easy fixes. For those that require more planning, you can monitor your needs this year and plan ahead to remedy them by next year. Some upgrades qualify for support from the Product Incentive Program, so you save on installation costs as well as monthly bills.

Air curtain

If you have a space with particular temperature needs and significant entries to the outdoors, consider an air curtain. By blowing a thin band of air across the doorway, an air curtain retains indoor air and blocks outdoor air, while allowing customers or delivery people to come and go through an open door.

That means you keep cooled air in your store when it's hot outside, and reduce how much outdoor moisture you bring in – which helps reduce condensation and improves the function of any refrigeration (or air conditioning) equipment you have.

Despite using electricity, an air curtain can be effective at reducing your overall energy use depending on what type of equipment and cooling needs you have in your space. (Read how air curtains helped one Vancouver market save $4,300 per year in electricity costs.)

HVAC tuneup, settings, and controls

When it's breathlessly hot outside, air conditioning is a great thing. But it's an expense that goes up as the mercury rises.

Make sure you're not paying more than you need to by ensuring your equipment is functioning at peak efficiency. Keep your system clean and get an annual inspection by a professional. Make sure the settings on your AC are at the proper spacing to avoid "short cycling" – a situation where the equipment is shutting on and off too rapidly, wasting energy. Read more about cycling and HVAC controls. And turn it down – keeping your indoor space comfortable doesn't mean it has to be cold.

Awnings and shades

Awnings and shades are often a decorative addition over the windows of a restaurant or street shop, but in the language of energy-efficient design, they "reduce solar gain." That is, during the hours when the sun is beating in your windows, these reduce the amount of heat you take in. Less heat means better comfort with less air conditioning, saving you money. There are many configurations of shades that can be oriented so they block hot summer sun but allow winter light (when the sun is at a lower angle) to enter.

Energy-efficient windows

If you're replacing any windows at your business, make sure you specify efficient windows – those that help reduce solar gain, keep out the cold in winter, and reduce drafts. Proper windows can go a long way to improving employee and customer comfort by reducing glare, summer heat and winter chill. Some windows have coatings that reduce the ultraviolet rays from the sun, which helps protect furniture, carpets, and product as well.

Lighting

Old-style lighting uses more energy to produce the same light as newer, efficient lighting. So where does all that "extra" energy go? Usually, the byproduct of inefficient lights is heat (think about how hot an incandescent light bulb gets compared to a fluorescent lamp). If you have air conditioning, you're paying for your inefficient lights twice – once to produce light, and again to cool the space they over-warmed. A lighting upgrade is a great option for saving money month over month – and reducing your air conditioning costs as well.

Waste heat

Other equipment that produces heat are refrigerator cases, some types of production machinery, office equipment such as computers and copiers, and of course, the various equipment in kitchens. Look for ways to efficiently vent extra heat to the outdoors during summer, so you're not paying to cool the air after heating it. Make sure the heat vents on your refrigeration units aren't placed too close to air conditioning controls, causing false triggers.

Keep air moving

Air conditioning is an energy-intensive way to remove unwanted heat from the air, and it may be overkill in some situations. If human comfort is what you're after, remember that your body will perceive a cooling effect anytime you keep air moving. So a few strategically placed fans (which use less energy) may be all you need in some offices or small businesses. That will allow you to use air conditioning only when really needed, and save energy costs.

Need help with energy efficiency upgrades? Looking for financial incentives to cut the upfront cost and shorten payback? Check out the Power Smart Product Incentive Program for ideas, solutions, and rebates.