By Joyce M. Rosenberg, AP Business Writer
NEW YORK (AP) — This winter's long cold snap has made people across the country miserable. Many small business owners are going to feel even worse when they see their heating bills.
The added expense of keeping businesses warm when the temperature dives cuts into already thin cash flows. It's not just the cost of natural gas and heating oil — electrical use can go up too.
Business owners need to be sure they're not losing money to drafty windows and doors, so this is the perfect time to look over a workplace and see how it can be made more energy-efficient.
Two key questions for an owner to consider: What can you do right now to save money, and what can you to lower your bills in the coming years?
THE SHORT TERM
A trip to the home improvement or hardware store can save you plenty on heating bills. And what you do now to lower heating costs will help you save on air conditioning when the weather turns warmer.
Many of the same things you'd do to make your house or apartment warmer apply to your workplace. Installing weather stripping and caulking around windows and doors are good ways to keep the cold air out and warm air in. Get some draft dodgers or door snakes, those skinny bean or pellet-filled bags people put on windowsills or on the floor to stop cold air from coming in.
Don't forget that innocent-looking crack in the wall — there's actually money escaping through it along with the heat. And check for drafts around window or wall air conditioning units, too.
The building's heating system can probably use some attention too. Insulation wrapped around a water heater will help prevent heat loss, and a new air filter will let the furnace run more efficiently.
Replace an old thermostat with one that has a timer to shut off the heat after everyone leaves at night and turn it back on an hour or so before they return in the morning.
Even if you're a renter and the heating and/or electricity bills are your landlord's responsibility, there are good reasons to try to save on energy. First, the reality is that ultimately you are paying to heat your premises, and you'll be paying more when your landlord passes the higher costs on to you. Second, if it's cold at work, your staff will be uncomfortable and very likely less productive.