5 proven ways your business can cut costs and stay competitive

Businesses in California already face high costs, and new changes like health insurance mandates and a rising minimum wage will only add to those expenses. That's why business owners in Southern California should always be on the lookout for new ways to cut unnecessary costs — not only to protect their bottom lines, but also to ensure they're not wasting precious resources.

One of the biggest expenses for any business is energy, both electricity and natural gas. So it makes sense that you'd want make sure your business uses energy as efficiently as possible. Here are five ways SoCal business can cut energy expenses.

Get an energy-efficiency assessment

A professional assessment of your building and employee behaviors can not only pinpoint specific ways your business can improve energy efficiency, thereby cutting costs, but it may also help you take advantage of rebates and incentive programs that you might not know about. Businesses that are customers of SoCalGas and Southern California Edison may even be eligible for a free assessment through the Continuous Energy Improvement Program.

Go solar

Installing solar energy systems can be a great long-term investment, especially here in the Southland, where we enjoy year-round sunshine. An increasingly popular solution is a solar thermal system, which absorbs the sun's energy and uses it to heat water, significantly cutting natural gas use in water heaters. It can be an excellent choice for businesses like hotels and restaurants, as well as property management companies. The California Solar Initiative offers generous rebates of up to $800,000 to businesses installing solar water heating systems through the end of 2016.

Sweat the small stuff

Seemingly minor changes can have a big effect on your energy costs. According to the Small Business Administration, a U.S. government agency that assists independent business owners, lighting can account for 20% to 50% of a business' total electricity usage. Replacing all of the light bulbs in every hotel room or office with highly efficient LED bulbs could save up to $30 dollars per bulb annually — and they last almost six times longer than a standard fluorescent bulb. Additionally, changes such as painting the roof white to reflect the sun and planting shade trees on the sunny side of the building can help keep cooling costs down.

Move to the cloud

If your business or information technology department uses an on-site server to store digital data, consider switching to a cloud-based solution. Keeping a local server running 24 hours a day can constitute a large chunk of your total energy usage, and it's not as efficient as a remote server. Plus, moving to the cloud means there's no need to buy, maintain and upgrade equipment, and you can quickly scale up or down according to the needs of your business.

Consider retrocommissioning

Depending on the size of your building, retrocommissioning — updating and optimizing operations for maximum efficiency — may be one of the most cost-effective ways to reduce energy costs. According to a study from the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, for existing buildings, the median cost of retrocommissioning was 27 cents per square feet. With energy cost reductions of up to 15%, the retrocommissioning can be paid off in less than a year. If you're a SoCalGas customer with a commercial building 25,000 square feet or larger, you can get even more money back through a retrocommissioning incentive program.

—Tribune Content Solutions for SoCalGas

This sponsored content is produced by Tribune Content Solutions on behalf of SoCalGas’ Solar Water Heating Program. The newsroom or editorial department of Tribune Publishing was not involved in its production.

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