Yesterday I filled my wife’s gas tank up for $40.00, and this is a 10 gallon tank. That translates into $4.00 per gallon.
Average gas prices are up 80 cents compared to the same time last year. The Conference Board recently announced confidence among U.S. consumers dropped over eight points in March as fuel costs surged to the highest level in more than two years.
This does not bode well for businesses that heavily rely on gasoline or diesel fuel, and eventually for those that need cost-effective energy to protect their valuable products, property, equipment and materials.
Electricity is the most commonly used source of energy for most businesses, and mirroring the trend in gasoline prices, there has been an average retail price increase for electricity of more than 18 per cent since 2005. While electric generators have been able to manage their costs with long-term contracts and lower natural gas prices due to an expansion of shale gas resources, projections for electricity prices show an 18 per cent increase by 2035 as rising fuel prices and the construction of new power plants to meet rising demand according to a U.S. Department of Energy annual energy outlook.
Where does all this leave business managers and owners? For some, the cost may be minimal, say for a small company office in a mild climate. For others the cost can be significant: grocers, food distributors and restaurants with commercial refrigerators and freezers, pharmaceutical companies, hospitals and medical offices protecting vaccines and other critical, temperature sensitive formulations, IT managers responsible to keep their server and telecommunication rooms cool, and commercial property managers trying to control heating and cooling costs while keeping their tenants happy.
What are these business owners and managers to do? Two thoughts come to mind. First, know where you are. A baseline audit of temperatures in the high energy users is one way to start. For example, start by monitoring temperatures in south facing rooms, in critical refrigerators and freezers, in hot water pipes, and in server and telecommunication rooms to find out if they are operating within expected ranges. From there, whether or not any change in operation could be made can help save energy.
Second, look at your options. Do businesses keep some areas cooler than required because they have experienced AC problems or the occasional freezer door left open? If so, monitoring these locations and responding to temperature excursions can be much more cost effective than “keeping the thermostat dialed down.” The baseline audit can identify the areas of concern. Continuous monitoring can help manage energy costs, and temperature monitoring systems with alert notifications by email, SMS text messages, and voice phone calls can help keep businesses safe from the potential loss of valuable assets.
As a bonus, the baseline data can be used to help identify areas than would benefit from energy efficiency upgrades, and the before and after data can be used to validate the ROI of efficiency upgrades to support any potential tax or other government program benefits.
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