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Small business energy consumers like restaurants, salons, gas stations and grocery stores, are starting to feel the pinch of colder weather. Colder weather means higher energy costs. In a tough economy, some businesses are fighting back.

Santa Clara (I-Newswire) October 25, 2013 –

Main street mom-and-pops across the country are taking control of their utility bills by managing their energy usage and making efficiency upgrades a priority. And they’re reaping the benefits of their investments, often very quickly.

A perfect example is salons.

Salons are saving energy this winter in five key ways.

• Programmable thermostats – Hair salons use a lot of equipment – i.e. hair dryers, curling irons, and other heating appliances – that can heat up a building quickly. Salon owners can capitalize on this and save big by simply utilizing the heat in lieu of the furnace. Programmable thermostats are one option for salon owners to automatically regulate the furnace so that it isn’t working when it’s not needed. Thermostats start at $ 25 and according to the Department of Energy, can save customers up to 15% on their utility bill. For salon owners, this could translate into hundreds or thousands of dollars of saving each year. And the cherry on top is that customers will be more comfortable.

• ENERGY STAR Central Air – The flip side to the heating issue is that in the summer or in especially warm climates, temperatures can run really high in hair salons. This means that air conditioners have to work overtime and salon owners have to pay big to keep their customers cool. In fact, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) estimates that heating and cooling bills can make up half of home and small business owners energy bills. Depending upon the climate, investing in a high-efficiency central air conditioning can have a simple payback of less than 2 years. Look for the ENERGY STAR label and utilize the EPA’s payback calculator to understand exact costs and benefits.

• Advanced power strips – Hair salons are hot beds for plug-in devices that consume large amounts of energy, sometimes even when they’re not in use. This phenomenon is called a phantom load and it occurs when a plug-in appliance like a hair dryer or curling iron, for example is plugged into an outlet but not working while still drawing an electrical current. The DOE estimates that phantom loads make up 5-10% of energy usage in homes and some small businesses. Advanced power strips are devices that cut this power draw when plug-in devices are idle. At a low cost of around $ 20, these devices can save big.

• LED Lighting – Lighting is another major energy hog in hair salons, since hair dressers need to have adequately lit spaces to effectively do their jobs and customers want to have good lighting to see the final product. One case study published by LED Resource found that a small hair salon was consuming 3270 Watts per year from lighting alone. The hair salon switched to high efficiency LED lights and was able to cut energy usage by nearly 80%. The payback for this salon was less than just one year.

• Occupancy Sensors – Another way to capitalize on energy savings from lighting in hair salons is to install occupancy sensors. Occupancy sensors automatically detect when a room is unoccupied and reacts by turning the lights off. According to Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, occupancy sensors save 24% energy.

It’s not only salons that can benefit. It is any small building, retail establishment, church, school, apartment, laundromat or gym. Commercial users of energy can use these tips the most because they typically have the highest energy cost.

As the winter approaches, firms will be looking at energy costs more and more, and making the right adjustment.

The Energy Customers Association wants commercial energy consumers across the country to be aware of these specific tips that can help them save.

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