Big Breaks for Small Businesses: Save Money with Energy-Efficient Initiatives

Remember back in the day when energy-efficiency involved shutting off the water while you brushed your teeth or turning off the lights when you left a room? Well, we’ve come a long way since then, and although those are still good ideas, there are more ways than ever before to save energy by enacting a few simple conservation-centric initiatives and practices.

As any small business owner, freelancer or service-based entrepreneur will attest, every little bit counts when it comes to saving. Now, you can even get a break on your business bills and taxes by enacting smaller scale efficiency programs on the federal, state and local levels whether you work out of your home or a separate commercial building. Here are some of the biggest standout options at your disposal:

US Federal

Residential Renewable Energy Tax Credit

For those small businesses operating out of a home office, this program is a fantastic way to get the federal government to reward you for doing the right thing! Since most (if not all) of you already write-off a portion of household expenses related to the square footage/percentage of your dedicated home office, this is a way to “double dip” into the tax pool come next April.

Enacted through December 31, 2016, this rebate program allows a 30% personal tax credit/rebate for renewable energy upgrades to a residence. Most of these program divisions do not have a maximum limit for taking the rebate (previously, they capped the 30% credit at $2,000 worth of qualifying upgrades) and they do not even have to be made to your primary residence!

In an eco-nutshell, a taxpayer may claim a credit of 30% of qualified expenditures, including labor, assembly and wiring connection, for a fully-installed system that serves a dwelling. Overages can be carried forward for tax years up through 2016 (as of now…) and the systems include:

  • Solar-electric systems
  • Solar water heaters
  • Wind turbines
  • Geothermal heat pumps

There are certain requirements the systems must meet (some must be Energy Star certified) and for more information, check out the specs here.

Energy Star Program
Perhaps the most well-known federal platform is the EPA’s Energy Star program for homes and small businesses. Plastered on everything from dishwashers to windows, the widely-recognized Energy Star logo signifies a product’s energy-efficiency and a business’ devotion to conserving resources wherever possible.

The Energy Star website provides a plethora of info for small businesses trying to reduce their carbon footprint and do their part for the environment, available here.

For information on Canadian tax breaks for energy-efficient initiatives, contact your local tax office for details.

State Savings

No matter where you live or the nature of your work, one fantastic state-specific resource for tax breaks offered to small businesses upping the ante on their energy-efficiency is the US Department of Energy’s website: DSIRE – Database of State Incentives for Renewables & Efficiency.

Immediate In-House Cutbacks

Although DSIRE’s website lists programs and incentives for specific businesses within each state, there are basic cost-saving remedies to wasting energy and resources that apply across the board. Consider the following:

  • Switch over to a programmable thermostat. You would be shocked at how much electricity is wasted by running the heating and air units when nobody’s around. Instead, set your thermostat to begin shutting down before you leave the office and start running again before you arrive in the morning. By programming a gradual increase/decrease, you can avoid those drastic HVAC spikes in temperature and in your monthly bill.
  • Replace air filters on a regular basis, at least once a month. A debris-free filter means cleaner air to breathe and less work for the HVAC to suck in the air that it cools and heats before it pumps it back out into your spaces. Your electricity invoice – and lungs/sinuses! – will thank you.
  • If you do not already have energy-efficient windows and cannot afford or do not want to invest in them at this time, a simpler solution is to apply a fresh bead of caulk around the casings or attach new weather stripping. Leaky windows (and doors) account for a hefty chunk of wasted energy in our homes and offices and eliminating most of the problem is easy.
  • Get your window dressings to do some of the work for you. If you have blinds, leave them open in the day to allow as much natural light as possible to illuminate your office but close them to keep out heat and harmful UV rays. If you have drapes, line them with a light colored fabric that will reflect the sun’s rays back into the atmosphere, thereby keeping your AC from working overtime to cool down the hot spots of heat that invade your office through windows.

What other ideas do you have about saving money and energy in your small business and entrepreneurship endeavors?

Brent Hardy is Vice President of, responsible for all corporate construction & facilities management. He writes about corporate sustainable practices at

about the author

This is a guest post for the FreshBooks blog. FreshBooks is the #1 accounting software in the cloud designed to make billing painless for small businesses and their teams. Today, over 10 million small businesses use FreshBooks to effortlessly send professional looking invoices, organize expenses and track their billable time.