As the polar express bears down on Arkansas in time for Christmas weekend, with temperatures expected to fall dramatically Thursday and to rise only into the teens in many areas Friday, utility companies are offering tips on minimizing winter energy costs.
Though most suggestions are for homeowners, Arkansas electric cooperatives and Entergy Arkansas also had specific suggestions for businesses large and small, and those suggestions rely largely on common sense.
The Electric Cooperatives of Arkansas, through spokesman Rob Roedel, said their suggestions are particularly important in extreme weather but will keep power bills down all year long.
Starting with short-term steps, the cooperatives recommend adjusting thermostat setpoints down, particularly when the business is unoccupied. Companies with heat pumps are urged not to manually switch it to emergency heat, and all businesses are urged to look for sources of energy waste, including work stations and air compressors being left on 24/7.
“In large commercial spaces with multiple HVAC systems, ensure that all HVAC systems are working together,” Rodel said. “All systems should be set to the same mode — heating or cooling,” and setpoints should be set to ensure that the most efficient systems are doing the most work.
Brandi Hinkle of Entergy Arkansas agreed that in the short haul, companies should look to old-fashioned energy efficiency. “Maintain your HVAC unit, insulate what you can, weatherstrip doors and windows, be more conservative during peak usage, and lower the thermostat.”
She also said companies with overhead fans can use them to circulate warm air by changing their direction to clockwise. If the power goes out, “unplug large appliances or turn off the breaker so that they don’t all power up at once” when the electricity is restored. “This is geared toward residential customers,” she said, but it can also be important for businesses.
For the long run, she noted that Entergy has programs to help small businesses improve energy efficiency year-round. For more information, she pointed businesses to Entergy’s Business Energy Efficiency Programs.
The electric cooperatives said businesses looking to improve long-term efficiency should make sure company buildings have adequate attic and wall insulation and are air sealed to keep out the cold in winter and the hot air in summer. Roedel also suggested considering installing high-efficiency HVAC systems “such as 16 SEER or higher heat pumps.” Another idea is installing smart thermostats to schedule or automate efficient temperature setpoints.