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Where does a business start on the road to energy efficiency?

Christy Intihar is sympathetic to the small business manager overwhelmed by the volume of conservation information out there these days.

"What we find with a lot of small business owners is that they're saying 'Where do I start?'," says Intihar, Senior Program Manager with BC Hydro Power Smart. "'I've got to do recycling, I've got to look at all my transportation, I have to look at my electricity, my fossil fuel consumption... and I have to keep my business afloat.'"

Intihar's message? Start with the simple things. Pick off some low-hanging fruit, one or two things that will cut energy consumption, then build on that momentum.

"You don't have to retrofit your whole building and do all this behavioural stuff all at once," she says.

Lighting's the lowest hanging fruit

For most commercial businesses, the best place to start is with energy-efficient lighting.

"On average forty per cent [of electricity] goes to lighting in a commercial operation," says Intihar. "So the easiest opportunity is in lighting.

"It can be as simple as changing out old incandescents and putting in compact fluorescents. Or it could be more complicated, where you need to hire an electrician to change out your fluorescent tubes to a more efficient fixture."

How much does lighting matter? Power Smart's Product Incentive Program, which focusses on lighting incentives for business customers, has delivered more than 1,800 projects since late 2003 for savings enough electricity to power 6,700 B.C. homes for a year.

Change your behaviour (shut it off!)

Probably the easiest change you can make, immediately, is to start shutting off computers and lights when you're not using them. That means ensuring all laptops and related devices go through a power bar that can be switched off. And it means shutting the lights off at the end of the day.

One more thing: Change that exit sign

Power Smart did the math awhile ago and came up with an astounding figure. If every small business in B.C. upgraded the lighting on one exit sign, it would be enough to power 1,300 homes.

Swapping out that old incandescent bulb for an energy-efficient LED or equivalent is easy and inexpensive. And it pays off – saving energy and lasting for 10 years or more, compared to incandescents that usually last less than a year. You'll typically recover the costs of the upgrade in less than one year, simply in reduced electricity costs.

"Because they last so long, the fire department won't have to remind you to repair burned out exit signs," says Intihar.

Related links:

For more information to help you get started on the road to energy efficiency, call 1 866 522 4713 or visit www.bchydro.com/incentives.