Archive for October, 2009

Surviving Tough Economic Times

Friday, October 9th, 2009 by Clyde A. Lettsome, PhD, PE

Let’s face it, the economic recession has been deeper and lasted longer than anyone probably anticipated. Unfortunately, this has made it necessary for many small business owners to make some really tough decisions including:  laying off employees, reducing services, reducing office space, or even going out of business. If you are one of many entrepreneurs still experiencing tough times and considering one of these options as a way of reducing cost or calling it quits, you need to know that there are other options.  Through smart planning, a few changes, a bit of innovation, and use of technology, you can reduce the likelihood of your business failing.

I have a few suggestions small business owners can use to reduce these chances. Many of these changes our company has already been using and we have even suggested them to some of our customers. These changes all center on reducing cost without compromising quality, with the final objective being to increase your profit margin. Since this is a topic on all of our minds as entrepreneurs, I will be devoting a few months worth of blogs on ways to survive during economic times as an entrepreneur. The suggestions are from the video we submitted to the Office Depot “Survival of the Smartest” contest. In addition, I will be using my background in Business and Engineering Management and in Electrical Engineering to provide more content to help your business survive.

I want to start the series with very simple ideas related to saving energy and, in later editions, tackle larger and more difficult problems. Let us start with:

  1. Saving Money By Unplugging Devices – Sure, many times you have heard that turning off lights and equipment will save energy. Doing this definitely does help, but it does not mean that those devices are not still using power. If the device uses a transformer to convert the power from outlet to your device then these devices are still using power when they are plugged into a socket. The list of these types of devices is extensive. Just about every device you have has a transformer including computers, TV, DVRs, microwaves, and projectors. Pretty much any device that does not provide heat or light (non LED light producer) most likely has a transformer in it or connected to it that uses electricity. To eliminate all unnecessary energy usage, unplug these devices when they are not in use. If this is too much work, consider connecting the devices to a power strip. That way, you can turn it off and all devices connected to it will be fully disconnected from your power. There is one exception to this rule. That exception would be any inkjet/bubble jet printer. These printers need to remain plugged in even when they are off. Why, you ask?  Well, the ink in the printer (in the tubes and nozzle to be more specific) needs to remain in liquid form. The only way to accomplish this is for the printer to keep the ink warm. To accomplish this, the printer must remain plugged in as much as possible. Hence, do not unplug it when you are not using it unless you are moving it or transporting it.
  2. Saving Money Through illumination - If your office uses any type of incandescent bulbs, change them. They are very energy inefficient compared to the new compact florescent light (CFL) bulbs. An old 40 Watt incandescent light bulb consumes the same amount of power as a new 9 Watt bulb. That is more than 4 times the amount of power used. If you are afraid of the price, there is no need to fear that any more. CFLs last between 5-7 years (based on usage) and cost just slightly more than their incandescent counterpart.
  3. Saving Money Through Heating Water – If you have control over the heating of water in your office, pay attention to this. More than 40% of electrical expense is used to heat water. That’s right! And, you can perform a few tricks to reduce the cost. First, reduce the thermostat on your water heater to 120°F. This temperature is more than sufficient, although, many times water heaters are set to 140°F. Thermal blankets can be placed around the tank of the water heater to prevent the water heater from loosing heat and working more, if the water heater is not in a small closet. Finally, consider turning the water heater off during nonpeak hours (example nights and weekends for traditional businesses).
  4. Saving Money Through The Thermostat – Heating and air is another source of lost money in a business. To save money, set the thermostat to 68°F in the winter and 78°F in the summer, during peak hours. During off-hours and weekends, the temperatures should be adjusted to be as low as 55°F in winter and as high as 80°F in summer. This will save you significant amounts of money.

Use these measures to help reduce your business energy cost. The amount of savings you receive depends largely on the number of employees and the size of your space. If you have a small staff and small office space, the savings may only be in the high hundreds to lower thousands, but, in this economy, every penny counts.

Check back next month for the continuation of this series.

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