Energy efficiency is beneficial for a number of reasons, but in terms of running a business, it is perhaps motivated mostly by the impact it has on an organisation’s bottom line. And though it has positive knock-on effects towards the environment as well as your business’ reputation, reducing energy waste will lower your energy spend and carbon emissions, saving you money in the long term.
The Carbon Trust estimates that most businesses could cut their energy costs by at least 10% with just a few straightforward changes to the office. Through further measures, a 20% cut in energy costs represents the same bottom line benefit as a 5% boost in sales in many businesses, so improving your energy efficiency is well worth investing time and money in.
To help you get started on improving things, we’ve created this extensive guide as a resource to help you become more energy efficient. Whatever the sector you’re in and whether you’re a small start-up or a large organisation, the insight within applies to all aspects of your company’s power usage.
Before we delve into what you can do to reduce your energy consumption, it’s worth flagging up the importance of your supplier’s energy tariffs first. With over 60 energy suppliers in the UK, it’s worth shopping around to find the deal that’s right for you. However, given the sheer amount of suppliers out there, it’s surprising to know that over 58% of small businesses have either never switched suppliers or have only switched once.
In such a competitive market not switching suppliers is a massive missed opportunity and can save your business up to 40% on energy bills, money which could then be used in other important areas.
So why the reluctance to do this legwork? There seems to be a few misconceptions surrounding switching suppliers, mainly that it takes too much effort and that the effort isn’t worth the savings you stand to make. On the contrary, the savings you make could be significant, especially if you haven’t switched for a while.
Supplier loyalty is another issue. Perhaps it’s the typical British quirk of not wanting to rock the boat. But it’s well worth comparing quotes from other suppliers, or at the very least, negotiating with your existing supplier for a fresh deal that’s more in line with your business needs.
For more on business energy quotes, and how to compare them effectively, check out our guide.
Reducing energy consumption
Aside from reducing energy tariffs, businesses can make a few alterations to their energy habits around the office to reduce their consumption. Even a few small changes can have a powerful effect on your business’ energy efficiency – and your all-important bottom line.Office equipment
It’s probably not too surprising to know that office equipment is the fastest growing energy user in the business world. Computers, photocopiers and printers are all pretty much essential whatever your business, but are there ways we can minimise the energy consumption it accounts for in offices? With a few alterations, the short answer is yes. Take into account the following:
A single computer and monitor left on 24 hours a day could cost around £45 a year. If you’re in the habit of leaving things on overnight, then this is worth remembering. Also, consider using 7-day timers to automatically power down photocopiers out of office hours.
It’s likely to be the highest single energy-using piece of equipment in the office, so try to save where you can by encouraging staff to copy in batches where possible. Additionally, try placing it in a separate area with good airflow to minimise air conditioning and excessive noise.
Avoid wasting paper, ink and energy; don’t print any emails and documents that aren’t necessary.
Equipment with energy-saving features use 70% less electricity than computers without enabled power management.
Regulating your space and water heating is important since supplying adequate hot water can use up a lot of energy. Consider the following to save on your heat waste:
For every 1˚C of extra heat, your heating bill goes up by around 8%. Aim for 16˚C for warehouses and 20˚C for offices.
If the heating is on at the wrong times throughout the year, you may end up paying more for the extra hour of heat.
Doing so reduces the circulation of heat, so keep radiators, fans and ducts clear of furniture and other obstructions.
To prevent heat from escaping and paying more on your bills, boilers, hot water tanks, pipes and valves should be insulated.Buildings
It’s estimated that around 10-15% of total energy costs are wasted by heat losses through the building fabric. With the correct implementation of insulation and draught-proofing, you can avoid such occurrences.
Draught strip windows to reduce heat loss. If a 1p coin can be slid between a window and its frame, draught-proofing will be possible.
When heating or cooling systems are in operation, close any doors. Also, make sure you aren’t heating any unoccupied rooms.
Though prices will vary, any investment is typically recouped within five years.Air conditioning
Air conditioning can increase a building’s energy consumption and associated carbon emissions by up to 100%. In a stuffy office filled with heat-generating IT equipment, it’s easy to see why businesses opt for it. Handily, there are some low-cost ways to save energy and make your system more efficient.
Provide employees with the right guidance on how to set heating or cooling units properly; display instructions on individual units and ensure that remote controls have accessible and obvious storage space.
Make sure your air conditioning doesn’t operate below 24°C. Create a “deadband” between your heating and air conditioning control temperatures, this ensures the two aren’t competing with each other – a complete waste of money.
If you’re producing more cooling than you need, then you’re wasting money and energy. Variable speed drives meet your needs by adapting the output of air throughout the day.
These use outside air as a source of cooling for air-con systems, providing it’s cool enough. In the UK’s climate, this means rather large savings, since you won’t need to use as much energy to produce cooling for the air conditioning system.Lighting
Lighting is another large energy sink, simply because we all need light to do our jobs. Whether it’s an office environment or a retail outlet relying on display lighting to make their products visible, a significant amount of energy goes towards lighting our workplaces.
And while natural lighting is preferable, it’s often scarce and/or impractical. However, here’s what businesses can do to cut their costs.
When you leave a room, switch off any lights that aren’t being used. Simple, effective, and unfortunately often under-utilised. This also goes for lights being left on after office hours.
Dirty shades and rooflights greatly reduce lighting levels.
These can reduce electricity use by 30% by dimming or switching off lighting when there is nobody in a room.
Installing compact fluorescent bulbs in their place eliminates flickering, extends lamp life and can often reduce consumption by around 25%. Additionally, reduce standard light bulbs with more efficient compact fluorescent, as these have a longer life, lower maintenance costs and use up to 75% less energy.
If you’re happy to do so, consider turning off any external lights that are on throughout the night and install lighting controls to limit their hours of use.
Following direction from the government, businesses are being encouraged to invest in small-scale electricity generation in the form of mini wind turbines, solar panels, on-site hydro sources and anaerobic digestions units. These can all help to cut greenhouse gas emissions and help meet future renewable energy targets.
The Feed-in Tariff can come in useful here. It’s a ‘clean energy cash-back’ scheme designed to incentivise businesses to invest in these technologies in return for guaranteed payments. The tariffs are set taking into consideration the technology costs and expected electricity generation, with an approximate rate of return between 5 and 8% for well-sited installations.
For more information on generating your own electricity as a business, take a look at our extensive guide here.
Implementing an energy strategy
Creating a document that defines exactly how your energy management system will be approached is a sound idea. Include a plan of tasks which take into account your businesses’ current situation and the existing management framework. As you outline these tasks, your energy strategy will become clearer, with things evolving as you implement the various energy-saving measures that will also save you money.
Things your strategy should touch on include:
Your plan should also include a schedule of improvements to be made, when they’ll be made and who will be responsible for them. Therefore, your plan will detail:
A plan is all well and good, but its efficacy is only assured if people are onboard with the details within. Therefore, it’s important to get buy-in from across the business, whether it’s employees or stakeholders. A few ideas include:
To find out more about our energy contracts for small businesses, visit our small and medium businesses page, or give our team a call on 0161 837 3395. Or, if you’d like to read more of the latest articles and features from SEFE Energy, check out our blog and newsfeed.