Free energy audit now available to small and medium sized Nevada businesses


Even in a good economy, businesses want to lower their energy bills.  Some environmentally concerned business owners may also want to reduce their carbon footprint.

Climate experts support this and estimate that reducing energy consumption can contribute 30% toward the reduction of global warming.  The other 70% comes from green energy generation, such as solar or wind power.  So, not only is energy conservation admirable, it also has more immediate cost reduction returns and is far less expensive than switching to renewable energy sources.


Most business owners, however, are less altruistic and just want to lower their cost of doing business and their electricity bill, which can exceed 10% of operating costs.  Sometimes this can be thousands $ per month.  If you own a small or medium sized business in northern Nevada, the Business Environment Program can help get you started -- for free.  The program is tied to the College of Business at the University of Nevada, Reno (UNR) and they are supported by a variety of partner organizations that can help with energy assessment and making improvements.  The audit and even some of the improvements are at no cost, whereas more extensive improvements are not.

At a recent seminar held at the offices of NVEnergy, speaker Peter Millar gave examples of savings that can be achieved, return on investment (ROI) and payback.  For example, if a business had an annual power bill of $30,000, a 33% reduction in electricity usage through new efficiency measures would yield a savings of nearly $10,000 per year.  This adds 10% to the gross margin to a business earning $100,000 gross income per year.  And given federal and state rebates and tax incentives, very attractive ROI and  payback scenarios are possible.

Federal Energy Management guidelines suggest that 5-20% of a business’ energy can be saved without significant investment.  But it must start with a systematic audit, according to Millar. And the audit is free (no cost).  For example, their audit will:

• Evaluate energy bills

• Review building systems (structure, HVAC, lighting, equipment, etc.)

• Evaluate and prioritize energy saving opportunities

• Investigate sources for government incentives, financing & contracting

• Recommend lowest cost, highest ROI first

When the auditor makes the onsite review, they will explore ways the business can save energy costs.  The ways energy is consumed at a business and therefore the opportunities for saving energy may surprise you:

Operations and maintenance – timing HVAC to work schedules, install motion sensors, air filtration, perform regular equipment maintenance.

Lighting – replace incandescents with fluorescents, bulbs to CFL’s, T-12 linear fluorescents to T-8’s and T-8’s to T-5’s with reflectors.  LED lighting is energy efficient but still has a high upfront cost.

Heating, Cooling & Ventilating – evaluate HVAC systems, thermostats, ductwork, window treatments, economizers, coolers and chillers.

Envelope –insulation in walls and roofs; all sources of air leakage.

Hot Water – proper temp settings, insulation and flow.

Mechanical Equipment – evaluate ROI of replacing older equipment

Office Equipment style="font: 12.0px Helvetica; vertical-align: -3.0px;">and Appliances – look for Energy Star symbols

Operations and Maintenance should be considered first because it generally has the greatest return. Lighting usually accounts for 20-40% of a business’s energy bill and fluorescents are 4 times more energy efficient than incandescents, and last 10-20 times longer.

You can attend one of their free seminars the third Thursday of each month at the NVEnergy, Reno, offices by calling Shannon Hammond at 775-689-6670.  The Business Environment Program is another example of the resources available to business owners who want to significantly reduce business costs.  And at the same time reduce their consumption of electricity, that is primarily generated by aging, GHG emitting coal and gas plants.  Article also appears in my energy column.


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