ST. ALBANS — At first glance, spending money to save money can seem somewhat counterintuitive.

Look a little closer, though, and the evidence is clear: boosting energy efficiency through newer, better technology can reduce costs in the long (or not-so-long) haul.

Dave Corliss, an account manager for Efficiency Vermont, gave a presentation on the topic as part of the “Strategy for Success” lecture series last Thursday at St. Albans Free Library. Corliss also announced that Efficiency Vermont is teaming up with the Huntington-based group Shelter Analytics on a limited-time initiative to help small and medium sized businesses in St. Albans.

With energy efficiency, said Corliss, it’s all about assessing what business owners currently have, where their higher costs are coming from, and where opportunities to save are. There are ways, he added, to minimize electric bills.

“We want to shift that thinking to see [energy use] as a variable,” he said. “With everything you do, there’s always a more efficient option.”

Corliss pointed out that efficiency doesn’t mean sacrificing comfort or presentation, but rather, being smarter about energy use. “It’s not about sitting in the dark, about trying to operate in worse conditions.”

Some common changes Efficiency Vermont helps businesses make include installing more efficient light bulbs, installing air sealing and insulation, and buying more up-to-date heating, cooling, and ventilation systems. Efficiency Vermont oversees projects from start to finish, from consultation, to financing, to contracting, to doing the project, to helping business owners take advantage of rebates.

Most efficiency upgrades end up getting paid off by just the energy bill savings business owners experience. Payback time can range anywhere from a few months to a few years.

Corliss used the example of Maple Center Motors in St. Johnsbury, which recently made energy efficiency upgrades costing $800 but will save $1,450 in less than a year.

A lot of the time, said Corliss, incentives Efficiency Vermont offers and financing options they help coordinate for business owners end up creating a positive cash flow to the business after efficiency upgrades.

“It’s something you can do in addition to all your regular activities as a business owner,” Corliss said.

St. A. Power Play

Efficiency Vermont, Corliss also announced, is partnering with Shelter Analytics on a project called, St. Albans Power Play for Small Businesses, a free consultation service to look at individual businesses’ energy use.

This is the only service of its kind offered in the state, and will be available until the end of 2014. “I would encourage everyone to take advantage of that,” said Corliss. “There’s huge opportunities for efficiency for real returns on investment.”

“It’s all about making it easy for business owners to complete projects,” said Bret Hamilton, co-founder of Shelter Analytics. “We’re eager to complete projects.”

Rep. Mike McCarthy (D-St. Albans) attended Corliss’ presentation, where he spoke about the needs of businesses in the area, including his own former business: Cosmic Bakery.

“People are just burning through energy bills,” he said. “It’s a great time to go, whoa, what are we doing in these spaces?”

In addition to free energy evaluations, the incentive is offering financing free of the usual 2.25 percent fee until Sept. 2014 through funding from the Vermont Economic Development Authority. The initiative is open to all businesses in St. Albans Town and City limits that don’t already have an Efficiency Vermont account, in rented or owned buildings.

“It’s really a fantastic deal,” Hamilton said.