Winter came early this year. Before the season officially began Dec. 21, many cities across the U.S. had already experienced frigid temperatures, crippling ice storms, and heavy snowfall. The cold weather inevitably means higher heating bills for small businesses and keeping those costs from skyrocketing isn’t easy.
Here are 15 ways to keep the warmth in and the cold out — and lower your utility bill. Many of these tactics cost less than $50 and, with a quick trip to a hardware store, are easy enough to do yourself.
1. Replace old weatherstripping. Seven to 12 percent of a building’s heat loss occurs around windows and doors. You can help to prevent leakage by replacing old weatherstripping. Sometimes this material has an adhesive backing; other times it must be tacked into place. Either way, replacing it is a simple job.
2. Adjust door thresholds. Get down on your hands and knees and look at the space where each of your doors meets the floor: If you can see daylight, heat is escaping. You may be able to close the gap by adjusting the screws on the door’s threshold (the metal plate that’s screwed into the floor.) Turn them counterclockwise until the gap is closed. If that doesn’t work, replace the threshold.
3. Seal electrical outlets. Outlets on exterior walls can allow outside air into your office. To stop this, fill any small gaps between the sides of the box and the wall with acrylic caulk. (Do not inject caulk into the box where the wires reside.) Next, install a rubber gasket behind each wall plate.
4. Seal other holes. Anywhere a pipe, a cable, or another fixture goes through an exterior wall, seal the space around it. Replace old, cracking caulk with expanding foam.
5. Use a portable heater. If your office has only a couple of employees, consider turning down the furnace and using space heaters. Every degree below 70 that you lower your thermostat will save about 3 percent on your utility bill. Portable heaters are best used for short-term heating of small spaces like employee offices.
Turn the thermostat for the entire facility down and use portable heaters to warm individuals or rooms. Depending on the climate you live in and the makeup of your office, this may not be more economical, so keep a close eye on your utility bill if you choose to experiment with this idea.
6. Close vents in unoccupied rooms. If you have an office that’s not being used, shut its vents and doors. Why spend money to heat areas where no one’s working?
7. Use plastic film. Want to save up to 14 percent on your utility bill? Purchase a transparent plastic film kit for covering windows and doors (any that you don’t need to open). The film is easy to install and adds an additional layer of insulation.
8. Install a chimney balloon. Maybe your office is located in a home with a chimney that doesn’t get used. Even with the flue closed, warm indoor air can escape. The solution: Install a chimney balloon to seal it.
9. Install a programmable thermostat. If you’re still using an old-school thermostat, it’s time to upgrade. There’s no reason to heat your office when nobody’s there. Programmable thermostats are relatively cheap ($25 and up) and can save you 5 to 15 percent on your heating bill. Pricier models can even be controlled via smartphone.
10. Change your seating arrangement. If your employees don’t feel cold, you won’t need to crank up the heat. As much as possible, position desks and other work areas away from windows and outside walls, where the air tends to be colder.
11. Drink hot beverages. “Drinking hot fluids can be a great way to feel warm and cozy while keeping the thermostat a degree or two colder,” says Alex Zorach, founder of RateTea.com. “Not only does a hot beverage warm the body as a whole when drinking it, but holding it can warm up your hands, which is one of your body parts most likely to feel too cold in the winter.”
12. Open blinds on sunny days. Your employees may not want to look at the snow drifts outside, but allowing the sun to shine into the office not only lifts spirits, but also raises the temperature inside.
13. Insulate your water heater. Unless your water heater is so new that it’s already insulated, purchase an insulating kit. For about $20, you can save 4 to 9 percent on water heating costs.
14. Change your air filters. It’s cheap and easy to change the air filter on your furnace, but when things get busy, this task can easy slip your mind. Change it at least once every three months, or more frequently if you have a larger office.
15. Get your heating unit checked. Having your furnace serviced annually may save up to 10 percent on heating costs. Regular maintenance can also help you identify potential problems before they become costly repairs.