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The Power to Conserve

By Kimberly Weisul If the conservation-happy Carter Administration had built Web sites, chances are at least some of them would be something like the homepage for the U.S. Energy Dept.'s Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy Network.

With energy prices high nationwide and power sometimes unavailable in parts of the country, the Web site is well worth a visit. It'll help you figure out what your energy costs are now, how much you could be saving, and how to get organized enough to do it. Geared especially toward small businesses, the site promises energy savings of 10% to 50% if you follow its advice.

RENEGOTIATE. Granted, some of the tips boil down to common sense and advice that you've heard before but perhaps haven't implemented, such as installing programmable thermostats and sealing up leaks and drafts in your ductwork. While the site may not inspire you to install a transpired solar collector to give your heating systems a boost, you could easily set your hot water to run a few degrees cooler and wrap the hot water tank in jacket insulation. Turn computer equipment off overnight, and get rid of power-hungry screen savers with dancing graphics. Instead, set your computer screens to go dark when not in use.

Once you've done all you can to improve the energy efficiency of your business, it's time to call your heating and air conditioning vendor(s) and see if you can negotiate a more favorable contract. The site walks you through different financing and contracting options designed to provide guaranteed energy savings and add some predictability to your energy bills. And no, it never suggests you add more cardigans to your winter wardrobe. This is an occasional feature in which Small Business Staff Editor Kimberly Weisul reviews some of the many Web sites aimed at entrepreneurs and managers

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