Depending on where you live, your relationship with the sun may be anything from estranged to, well, in our case in Phoenix, quite smothering. But regardless of locale, we can all use a little help turning our love-hate relationship into something well, positive—environmentally and cash flow positive, that is. Here are some how-tos for harnessing the sun’s powers for good—as well as some other tips on things you can do in your practice to help conserve energy and thus, bring down your in-clinic costs while helping out Mother Earth.
First things first, get an energy audit. According to an article on Inc, most local utility companies offer businesses free on-site consultations on how they can reduce energy use. In case you missed the word free, i’ll repeat it now: free. Why not get an expert opinion on where you can improve your clinic’s conservational status and thus your costs? It certainly can’t hurt.
Want to know the most frequent suggestions the experts give? Improve your insulation and install timers to turn lights off automatically. But that’s not all. Here are some sunny pointers for saving energy (and bringing down your electric bill) that I’ve adapted from APS:
- Replace traditional incandescent light bulbs with CFLs to save $40 over the life of the bulb. Plus, because these bulbs produce less heat, they bring down cooling costs.
- Get rid of old appliances. If you have an extra fridge or freezer in the clinic breakroom, it could be using up to three times more energy than newer models.
- Repair leaky cooling ducts before the summer heat hits and save more than $200 on your annual energy costs.
- Consider using sunscreens or reflective film on your practice’s windows to block the sun’s radiant heat, which can make up nearly half of your AC system’s workload.
- Keep your AC system in good working condition—or consider installing new technology. New electric heat pumps and AC units are way more efficient than their older counterparts. Plus, if your AC system meets energy-efficient, quality installation standards, you could save about $180 a year.
- Whether you decide to just maintain your current system or upgrade to a new one, consider installing a programmable thermostat that will allow you to adjust the temperature consistently during cooler times of day or times when you’re not in your office.
And because you can never have enough tips, here are some more expert suggestions for all seasons from the Green Business Bureau:
- Turn off equipment (including computers) when they’re not in use. This can reduce the energy your practice uses by about 50%.
- Keeps faucets and taps tightly closed. (One drop per second equals 10,000 liters per year.)
- Install displacement toilet dams in toilet reservoirs by placing one or two plastic containers filled with stones in the toilet’s reservoir. This will displace about four liters of water per flush, which adds up to a huge decrease in water use per year.
Or, consider participating in your electric company’s green initiatives like this physical therapy practice did: “We pay Seattle City Light an extra $15 a month to participate in their ‘Green Up’ program,” says Central Physical Therapy and Fitness business manager Deb Schaack. “This is a voluntary payment on our electricity bill to cover the slightly higher cost of producing and integrating renewable energy into the Northwest power grid. We chose to contribute at the ‘gold’ level, which means we pay an extra fee on 30% of the kilowatt hours we use.”
Thinking of doing a whole remodel? Or maybe you’re building your clinic from the ground up? Take some advice from a green physical therapy facility in New Jersey and look into:
- Bamboo floors
- Locally sourced building materials
- Insulation with an R value of 30
- HVAC zones
- Waterless urinals
- Dyson hand dryers
Take a stab at any of these energy-conserving changes in your practice—even the relatively small ones—and you’ll make Mother Earth and your wallet oh so happy. Plus, you and the sun can get back to cohabiting cordially again—maybe—well, at least on days that don’t hit 120° F.
Have your own pointers or energy-reducing tips? Share ‘em in the comments below. I’d love to hear them.