Energy efficiency

Small Buildings Represent a Big Opportunity for Energy Savings

By Megan Porter

Small building owners have a unique opportunity to positively impact their bottom line with energy cost savings, according to a recent study by Preservation Green Lab (PGL) commissioned by the National Trust for Historic Preservation.1 A variety of energy efficient upgrades, solutions and practices have the ability to reduce operating costs and benefit a business.

A 2011 energy survey of the National Small Business Association indicated that business operators and owners were not only concerned about energy costs (52% were “very concerned” with the future energy costs of running their businesses, and 87% cited the negative effects of rising energy prices on their small businesses), but many of these business owners had proactively taken steps to reduce their energy usage in their efforts to save money.However, they reported facing five challenges in saving money on energy improvements.

5 challenges business owners face regarding energy efficiency:2

  1. Lack of cash flow to invest in energy efficiency improvements (this same challenge was cited in their 2009 survey)
  2. Lack of time to investigate and install energy-saving solutions
  3. Increased transactional costs in energy cost savings
  4. The problem of energy-saving incentives split between the owners and the tenants
  5. The limitations of user-friendly, sector-specific technology solutions

The good news is, for the owners and operators of these small buildings, green business energy savings abound when business owners know where to look.

The following steps have been identified as proactive steps in reducing energy usage2:

  • Switching off lights/equipment when not in use
  • Changing the thermostat
  • Reducing frequency of vehicle use through rerouting/rescheduling
  • Changing work schedules and operating hours
  • Purchasing more energy efficient vehicles
  • Rearranging/rescheduling processes
  • Adding insulation
  • Upgrading maintenance of equipment
  • Eliminating or reducing deliveries
  • Ventilating areas or adding ventilator fans
  • Installing/improving heat recapture systems
  • Planting trees or adding screens/awnings

Additionally, the DC Department of Energy & Environment reminds small businesses that small acts can add up to big savings, such as lighter-colored walls (so rooms need less light), purchasing ENERGY STAR office equipment that powers down when not in use, installing motion detectors to control lighting in oft-unoccupied rooms (such as restrooms and office supply closets) and even dusting diffusers and lamps every 6-12 months to improve their lumen ouput.3

One of the key recommendations of the PGL study was to “identify waste and measure results,”1 yet only 16% of small building owners and operators had done an energy audit of their facility in the past two years, and 37% of those surveyed in the National Small Business Association study were still unaware that utility-sponsored programs in their areas offered information on energy efficiency.2

Business owners can maximize the energy efficiency of their business by conducting a Business Energy Checkup. This online assessment tool provides highly customized suggestions for how to lower energy use and operating costs. It will also provide financing incentive information for making upgrades more affordable.

Incentives like rebates and On-Bill Financing are available to PG&E customers. To explore how energy efficiency can positively impact your bottom line, download this helpful eBook, "25 Money-Saving Tips for Businesses".


  1. Preservation Green Lab Study
  2. The National Small Business Association 2011 Energy Survey
  3. The DC Department of Energy & Environment

Small Buildings Represent a Big Opportunity for Energy Savings
  • SMB Blog Author
    Megan Porter
    Senior Program Marketing Manager at PG&E, is a recognized leader in solutions marketing for small and medium-sized businesses. Megan uses her proven and practical expertise to bring energy efficiency education to businesses in every industry. In this vital role, she develops and oversees highly successful initiatives that result in the adoption of more efficient long-term energy management behaviors.

Stay Informed

  • Energy Advisor eNewsletter
    Sign up for PG&E's monthly Energy Advisor for Business eNewsletter to stay informed of the latest news and tools for managing your business's energy use and costs.
    Subscribe »
  • Sustainability Journey
  • My Energy Usage
  • In the Dark? Receive Outage Alerts
facebook twitterlinkedinyoutubeinstagramCurrents