A guide to cutting energy costs for businesses

12 August 2021

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A guide to cutting energy costs for businesses

When you've a business to run, you probably don't give your energy bills much of a second thought. After all, with an endless list of duties to complete, meetings to attend, clients to keep onside and employees to pay, cutting your energy costs is likely to be somewhere near the bottom of your priority list.

However, with energy bills soaring in the past few years, keeping an eye on your energy efficiency is worth shuffling up the to-do list by a space or two. Reducing the amount of energy your business uses can create some significant savings, freeing up money to invest in other areas of your business.

Of course, reducing your energy consumption plays a large role in improving the sustainability of your business too. By using less energy or switching to more efficient and renewable energy sources to power businesses, we can reduce the demand for fossil fuels and create a healthier environment for everyone on the planet.

What’s more, when it comes to reducing business energy costs and increasing your own sustainability, all it takes is a few quick fixes to keep the numbers low. And when you’re a business looking to highlight your green credentials, being able to walk the walk is always a good look.

Avoiding pricey bills and unnecessary pollution. What’s not to like? To help you start reducing your energy costs, we've detailed a number of things you can carry out, whether you're a large business or a small start-up.

Switch your energy supplier 

Did you know you can switch your energy supplier within a matter of weeks with zero hassle? Switching energy providers is one of the easiest ways to cut energy bills, but as many as 1.3 million businesses might be losing out on better deals by remaining with the same supplier. Find out more about switching your energy provider here.

Carry out an energy audit of your business

 You can’t make meaningful changes if you don’t know where you’re currently losing money. An energy audit involves taking a fine-tooth comb to the whole business and analysing where changes could – and should – be made. Don't know where to start? We'll show you how to conduct an energy audit right here.

Switch off computers and other equipment

Many businesses struggle to enforce rules on switching off equipment overnight, but it can make a real difference to your energy bill. Over the course of a year, a single desktop computer and PC monitor will use up nearly £10 from being left on standby alone. Multiply that by 50 members of staff and suddenly, there’s a £300 annual saving to be made simply by switching off your computer when the clock strikes five.

Likewise, lights left on when not in use could be bumping up your bills. The easiest way to curb this is by investing in a motion-sensor lighting system. You can cut your bills down further by switching incandescent light bulbs for fluorescent bulbs too, a move that makes for a significant annual saving.

And, as an added bonus, a compact fluorescent bulb will last about 10,000 hours as opposed to the 600 to 1,000-hour average life of an incandescent, so you’ll need to replace them less often, too.

Another way of cutting energy costs that business owners might not be aware of is by providing staff with energy-efficient equipment. Laptop computers, for instance, use up to 90 per cent less energy than a standard desktop computer. Go for equipment with an A+ energy rating, and you can expect cheaper energy bills — offsetting the purchase price of the appliance, too.

Keep the office warm and your bills low 

When there's a chill in the air, working in a cold office often means disgruntled workers and plunging productivity. After enough complaints, it's easy to cave and simply turn the thermostat on full blast. Although employees will be toasty, you'll soon be burning through your money trying to cover the cost of the energy bills too.   

Luckily, there's plenty of things you can do to keep the place warm without resorting to whacking the heating up. Consider, for example, that turning the thermostat down by one degree can save £85-£90 annually in a three-bed semi-detached home, according to the Energy Saving Trust. So, imagine what it can do in the workplace.

Obviously, it pays to turn down your thermostat at night or when you’re away for more than four hours during the day. Just don’t turn your heating system off entirely, as this may cause pipes to freeze during the colder months.

Small gaps around windows and doors can also steal heat. For best results, invest in re-sealing windows and doors, and always be sure to close them so you can feel the effects in your pocket over time.

Likewise, you might want to install ceiling and wall insulation too. The price tag certainly makes this one more of an investment, but you'll save more over time on your utility bills by stuffing your ceilings and walls with insulation.

And even though the idea of work uniforms is a little old hat now, there are still many workplaces enforcing restrictions on workwear. It makes little sense to keep a room hot enough that workers wear summer clothing in winter. Convince them to do their part by asking them to pull on their thermals to save energy instead.

That may all be well and good for office workers, but what if you're a retail business that sees an increase in custom during the festive period? Keeping the door open can bring the chilly air in and force you to crank up the heating as a result. It’s important for retailers to provide an inviting environment for shoppers by keeping it warm inside, so make sure the door is kept firmly shut to help conserve heating.

Use natural gas for heating

Gas can work out at about half the price of electricity per kWh, so if possible, consider switching to a natural gas heating system in the workplace. You might find that investment in switching from electricity to gas now could save you a lot more in the long run.

Keep heaters, radiators and air vents clear 

Putting furniture in front of radiators and vents can obstruct heat output, meaning more heat is required to feel the benefits. And more importantly, keep your staff safe: never create fire hazards by obstructing electric heaters.

Stay cool and cut costs 

At the other end of the scale, you'll want to keep your workplace cool in rising temperatures too. If you have an air conditioning unit, you might want to go old school instead. While a typical central air conditioning unit uses 3,500 watts of energy when running, the average ceiling fan uses only 60 watts — even when running on high.

If you do insist on holding onto your A/C unit, however, then as a rule of thumb, it’s good practice to replace air conditioning filters on a regular basis (ideally bi-annually). Replacing a dirty, clogged filter with a clean one can lower your air conditioner's energy consumption by 5-15%. 

Workplace fridges and freezers are often not given the best care and attention, either. But taking time out once a year to give these hardworking appliances a bit of TLC can reduce their consumption significantly.

Leaving freezers frosted up or not keeping the fridge well stocked can both reduce the running costs. For the average fridge freezer, this is estimated to be around £62.00 per annum, but this could be much higher if you don’t help it to run efficiently.

Watch your water use

In the home, hot water accounts for around 10% of the average energy bill, and though that number is lower in places of business, it’s still worth keeping an eye on your usage. Consider whether the hours of hot water availability can be reduced and watch out for any dripping hot water taps, too. The amount of wastage they create can be very surprising.

If coffee breaks are a common occurrence in your workplace, then we've some bad news for the caffeinated among your workers. Overfilling the kettle has been estimated by the Energy Saving Trust to collectively cost Britain £68 million every year in the extra energy expended to heat a greater volume of water. Make sure staff are being sensible with the brew round, and only filling the kettle with the water they need.

You could extend this further to the kinds of appliances that get used in your kitchen, and opt for energy-efficient varieties instead. For example, a dishwasher model with air power or overnight dry settings can automatically turn off the dishwasher after the rinse cycle, which can save up to 10% on dishwashing energy costs.

You might want to educate employees about ‘dishwasher etiquette’, such as only running full loads in the appliance. A bit of know-how in this area can end up having a significant impact on your kitchen’s efficiency.

Be smart with energy management

Using a programmable thermostat makes it easy to regulate the temperature. Both advanced and smart meters can also help business owners to better understand their energy usage and make adjustments accordingly, even remotely. If you can, it might also be worth keeping the thermostat in a place with limited access, so that temperature settings are regulated by just a few people in the business.

Take advantage of tax breaks

UK businesses may be eligible for tax relief or be exempt from some taxes if:

  1. The nature of your business means a lot of energy is consumed
  2. It’s a small business that doesn’t use much energy
  3. The business makes a conscious effort to embrace energy-efficient technology (also known as the Climate Change Levy)

For more information about whether your business is eligible, visit the Gov.uk site.

Introduce flexible or remote working

At one point in time, flexible or remote working felt more like a pipedream that only a lucky few across the country reaped the benefits of.

Fast forward to the ongoing global pandemic, and remote working is something that the majority of employees the world over are well-versed in. Obviously, such a shift has been out of necessity, but long before the pandemic, it was touted as a way of creating a more energy-efficient workplace.

With fewer members of staff in the office meaning less equipment to switch on (not to mention, far fewer cups of tea made), it's certainly a good move for boosting efficiency. And after 18+ months of working from home under our belts, it looks like a practice that could well be here to stay in some form.

Get employees engaged 

A study by The Carbon Trust back in December 2013 found that UK workplaces could save more than £300 million per year if they educated and engaged employees on the benefits of energy efficiency.

Weigh up the pros and cons of providing charging facilities

According to a report in the Guardian, Britain is becoming a nation of 'cheeky chargers' with over half the population topping up devices in their local pub or library. Collectively, this is estimated to add a potential cost of £12.5 million for high street firms each year.

Footing the bill for someone else's energy use isn't exactly ideal. But before you start preventing people from charging in your premises, consider that 14% of consumers said they would consider spending more with the business in return.

Understanding your energy bill

Of course, even after carrying out all the above, it may be the case that you're simply being overcharged on your energy bills.

With so many different contract types, rates and extra costs to be factored in, understanding what goes into your energy bill is important. If you suspect something might be wrong, you can find a handy primer on different energy rates and things to look out for on your energy bill here.

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