Small business owners are always on the lookout for ways to improve the efficiency of their processes and tasks. But you could pace your store, your shop floor, or your home office for hours and never spot some of the most inefficient aspects of your business, even though they are usually in plain sight. These cost culprits are your lights, equipment, computers—anything that uses electricity. And if you don’t pay attention to how you use these it, the resulting waste may well be compromising your profitability and, potentially, your competitive competitiveness. And don’t assume that convenience makes up for the added cost; the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s Energy Star program estimates that small businesses can save as much money per square foot by cutting energy waste as large organizations. Fortunately, there are many simple ways to make your small business more energy-efficient. And even if you lease space or have equipment or processes that require ample amounts of electricity, improving efficiency in other areas will have a positive effect on your power bill—an important consideration in an era of volatile energy costs. Here are some tips to help get the most out of your energy dollar: • Turn off lights, computers and other equipment when not in use. This includes computers which, contrary to popular belief, do not lose less energy when in screen-saver mode. The better strategy is automatic switching to sleep mode or simply turning monitors off. • Track down “phantom” loads—computers, laptop AC adapters, printers, and other appliances that continue to draw a small amount of power when they are switched off. Unplug them when not in use, or have them plugged in to a power strip with an on/off strip. (Make sure the power strip itself is energy efficient as well.) • Replace incandescent light bulbs with ENERGY STAR qualified compact fluorescent lamps (CFLs), wherever appropriate. CFLs cost about 75 percent less to operate, and last about 10 times longer. • Eliminate unnecessary lighting and, if possible, make use of “free” daylight during the day by rearranging your workspace. “Solar screens,” shades, and blinds will help regulate glare and control solar heating, easing the burden on your heating, ventilating and air-conditioning (HVAC) system. • Invest in annual “tune-ups” of your HVAC system. Along with enjoying greater efficiency, you may also avoid major repairs, which typically happen on the hottest or coldest days of the year. • Use rechargeable batteries for products like cordless phones; they are more cost effective than throwaway batteries. But be sure to unplug the chargers when they are not in use, or the batteries are charged. For more guidance on cost-effective small business practices, contact SCORE. For more information contact the Lake of the Ozarks SCORE Chapter at http://www.lakeoftheozarks.score.org/, by e-mail at email@example.com or call 573-346-5441.