How To Lighten Up On Bills

November 4, 2002
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GRAND RAPIDS — Change a light, save buck or two.

By changing all of the lights from incandescent to fluorescent bulbs around the office and in the factory, a business can make a dent in its monthly electric bill.

So says a team of what in the past would have been unlikely bedfellows.

“There’s a way we can improve the bottom line and reduce electric costs,” said Mike Rogers, vice president of communications for the Small Business Association of Michigan (SBAM).

The association, with about 6,500 small businesses members statewide, has partnered with the Grand Rapids-based West Michigan Environmental Action Council to promote an energy-efficiency from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

Known as Energy Star, the EPA program helps consumers and businesses identify energy-efficient appliances, electronics, office equipment lighting and heating and cooling equipment that carry the Energy Star label, as well as buildings and homes.

Energy Star is presently promoting the use of energy-efficient light bulbs, lighting fixtures and ceiling fans.

In promoting the initiative to small businesses, SBAM say it is tying together what it sees as an environmentally friendly practice that uses less energy and help to lower energy use and electrical costs.

Mark Clevey, vice president for SBAM’s Entrepreneurial Development Center, cites as an example an organization that replaced 20 100-watt incandescent light bulbs that were used to illuminate stairways 24 hours a day. By using 30-watt fluorescent bulbs that burn far more efficiently than incandescent bulbs, the organization lowered its yearly electric bill by $980, Clevey said. And the firm won’t have to replace the fluorescent bulbs as often as it would incandescents.

Fluorescent lights carrying the Energy Star label last several times longer and use about 75 percent less energy than incandescent bulbs and halogen lamps.

While the resulting monetary savings typically isn’t a large amount, Rogers said, using energy-efficient lights and fixtures does represent one way a small business can help its own bottom line.

A typical small business spends about 31 percent of its annual energy costs on lighting, according to the Lansing-based energy design and consulting firm Enerficiency.

Most business can achieve a 30 percent reduction in lighting costs by switching to Energy Star lighting, according to company founder Doug Black.

“You improve your bottom line a little bit more just by trimming your costs rather than taking in more money,” he said.

“It’s easier to cuts costs than it is to increase sales.”

The partnership between SBAM and the West Michigan Environmental Action Council to promote Energy Star is unusual but represents the start of things to come.

Tom Leonard, executive director of the West Michigan Environmental Action Council, sees the initiative as further helping to “put to rest forever” the notion that the interests of business and environmental advocates are always at odds.

The Energy Star program can launch a small business into additional energy-efficient, environmentally friendly initiatives that are cost-effective for businesses, Leonard said.

“It’s quite a payback and just a good example of the potential that’s out there,” Leonard said.

“It’s applicable to other things. We’re saying ‘If you like this, we have a whole list of other programs.’”

The Energy Star program features 35 product categories.

Among the national retailer selling Energy Star-labeled products are Home Depot, Lowe’s, Wal-Mart and Sam’s Club.

More information on Energy Star is available at www.energystar.gov.

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