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High Country Conservation Center 737 Ten Mile Dr Frisco CO 80443 PO Box 4506 Frisco CO 80443


(970) 668-5703


Ask Eartha, I’m a small business owner. This winter my energy bills were through the roof. What can I do to keep costs down? 

If you’re a small business owner battling high energy bills, you’re definitely not alone, winter can be a challenging time. But don’t worry- there are some simple strategies to help you reduce energy use and save money.

Let’s Talk Lighting

Despite Colorado’s abundant sunshine, we can’t work in the dark. That’s why lighting can be a big energy consumer for a small business. Luckily, there are two main ways to save: installing more efficient lighting and changing how you use it.

First off, if you’re still using fluorescent or incandescent bulbs, it’s time to switch to energy-efficient LED bulbs. They use less energy and last longer, which means less frequent replacements. Plus, Xcel Energy offers rebates to help cover the cost, and some businesses might even qualify to get all their lighting switched out for free! And don’t forget about exit signs. Upgrading old ones for LED versions is a simple way to cut down on energy use.

Do you have areas in your workspace that aren’t always in use, like conference rooms, bathrooms, or garages? Occupancy sensors turn off or dim lights when rooms are unoccupied, so you can save energy by ensuring lights are only on when someone needs them.

Is your Refrigerator Running?

You better go catch it… because for restaurants, refrigeration tends to be the biggest culprit for racking up energy bills. Regular maintenance can keep your refrigerators running efficiently and longer, saving you money.

Clean coils, replace damaged seals and broken strip curtains, and maintain doors by replacing worn gaskets and aligning them properly. Installing automatic door closers is a great way to cold air in even if employees forget to shut the door. Temperature settings are also important when prioritizing energy conservation– keeping refrigerators between 35 – 38 degrees Fahrenheit and freezers between 0 – 5 degrees Fahrenheit is best. Increasing your refrigerator’s temperature by 10 degrees can reduce its energy use by up to 25% – so every degree really does matter. Also, check your refrigerator placement. If it’s smashed against the wall, move it out a couple of inches to allow airflow to reach the coils and reduce overheating. And if your refrigerator is getting older than 15 years, consider upgrading. Xcel Energy can help offset the cost, and they have rebates for other equipment upgrades, too!

Turning up the Heat

It’s no secret that Summit County winters are long, so you need your heating equipment in tip-top shape. Regular tune-ups ensure boilers and furnaces are running at optimal efficiency and safety. Added bonus, Xcel offers rebates for these tune-ups, too.

Another easy way to save energy is by insulating hot water pipes coming from your water heater. This allows you to lower the operating temperature while still keeping the water warm. And when it’s time for new heating equipment, choose a more efficient boiler or furnace or even a heat pump (rebates available for these, too!).

Back to the Basics

Energy conservation should be part of your daily operations. Start by turning off lights and unplugging appliances when they’re not in use. When appliances break down, replace them with Energy Star certified models. The extra efficiency, paired with utility rebates makes these models cost-competitive with less efficient models. It’s also important to keep doors and windows closed when heating or cooling your space. A Cambridge University study found that closing doors in the winter can reduce your energy use by 50%. If you notice a slight breeze or see that your weather stripping is damaged, it’s probably time to replace it. While you are at it, check your door jams too.

For even more tips, the High Country Conservation Center offers free consulting for businesses in Summit County through the Resource Wise sustainable business program. HC3’s expert staff will help you identify easy ways to save energy – and water – as well as maximize your waste diversion program. Resource Wise businesses also program offers additional rebates that you can combine with those offered by Xcel Energy. Learn more at

By adopting these energy-saving habits and taking advantage of available resources, you can improve your energy efficiency, boosting your business’s bottom line – and the planet’s.

Ask Eartha Steward is written by the staff at the High Country Conservation Center, a nonprofit dedicated to waste reduction and resource conservation. Submit questions to Eartha at