Energy Conservation and Efficiency

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What It Is

Energy conservation is the process of reducing your overall energy usage. Energy efficiency is the process of reducing the energy required to achieve the same result.

The two are not synonymous. For instance, removing all of the appliances from a home will increase energy conservation since there will no longer be any appliances using energy in the home. Replacing all of the appliances with Energy Star models will likely make the home more energy efficient, as the same results (chilled food, heated water) will be achieved with less energy. However, if the Energy Star appliances are larger and more numerous than previous models, the overall energy usage may not decrease, consequently, the updated home may not conserve more energy than it did with old (or, in the extreme example, no) appliances.


Why It Matters

Being a lean organization energy-wise equates to being more competitive. When less of your operating budget goes to energy, more can be invested in value-added activities or new jobs.


Getting Started

  • Turn off lights in rooms that are not in use and when the office is closed.
  • Use daylight wherever possible.
  • Keep your thermostat at the lowest comfortable temperature during the winter and at the highest comfortable temperature during the summer.
  • In the heating season, keep shades on sun-facing windows open during the day and closed at night. In the cooling season, keep shades on sun-facing windows closed during the day.
  • Unplug or turn off energy ‘vampires’, such appliances that use energy even when in ‘off’ mode. One way to quickly turn off the tiny ‘on’ lights from computer speakers and monitor is to use a power strip for the computer and its accessories, and turn the switch on the power strip ‘off’ after shutting down the computer.
  • Turn off appliances that do not need to be on overnight or when they are not in use.

Going Further

  • Replace incandescent exit signs with light emitting diode signs.
  • Install motion sensors on lights in meeting rooms or bathrooms so they turn off when a room is not in use.
  • Replace incandescent light bulbs with compact fluorescent light bulbs (CFLs) or light emitting diodes (LEDs), which use 75% or less energy as incandescent light bulbs and last at least 10 times longer.
  • Properly insulate hot water storage tanks.
  • Patch up leaky ducts (for heating and cooling systems as well as other non-air tight areas in your business).
  • Install storm windows, or use plastic sheeting as a temporary energy-saver
  • Install spectrally selective window film on windows if replacing your single pane windows with double pane windows is not an option. To read more about window film, click here.

Advanced Steps

  • Replace single-pane windows with double-pane Energy Star rated windows.
  • Install a green roof, which can significantly reduce the cost of heating and cooling costs among the other benefits they bring to a building. For more information on green roofs, see the an article on vegetated roofs and a Wikipedia article on green roofs.
  • Invest in further insulation for your office or work space.
  • Replace older and inefficient appliances with EPA rated Energy Star appliances.
  • When renovating or rebuilding an office space, pursue LEED Certification. For more information on LEED certifications and standards, see the LEED website.
  • Implement a renewable energy source such as solar or wind power in your office space.

Resources for More Information

  • This link is called Putting Energy into Profits-A Small Business Guide. It is a step by step guide developed by Energy Star that provides both simple and advanced ways to reduce energy use.
  • “Vampire” energy, or energy that is used for electronics that are plugged in, but not in use, can have a big impact on your energy bills.  This energy calculator from Greener Gadgets determines how much energy you use and the money you spend on your office and household electronics. 
  • Link to Energy Star for Small Businesses. This site contains a lot of resources as well as a lot of industry specific information on how to conserve energy.
  • There are many businesses that do not own their own office building or office space. It is important that renters and landlords maintain good communication and work together to reduce energy consumption in the rented office space. This link provides some easy ways for renters to cheaply reduce their energy consumption. In order to work together with your landlord, it may be useful to have a signed agreement to reduce energy consumption in the building.
  • This link was developed by the Natural Resources Defense Council and is a simple How-To-Guide on how to reduce energy consumption in your business. This link provides both tips on how to retrofit and building manuals.
  • This is a link to the Energy Savers How-To-Guide that was developed by the US Department of Energy. This is for residential use, but is applicable for small businesses as well.

Success Stories

Green Plus Certified furniture manufacturer, The Taylor Company, saves $80,000 in annual energy costs through energy efficient upgrades made in its facilities.



Energy Conservation: The reduction in the use of energy by both avoiding and cutting back on the use of energy.

Energy Efficiency: Performing the same process or task by using less energy than previously used.

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