By Hannah Corbett
Hannah Corbett is a writer who specialises in the startup business and energy industries.
For all the offices that will struggle to keep workers warm at their desks, for the high street shops who will feel the cool breeze come in with Christmas shoppers, for the pubs and restaurants trying to create cozy atmospheres for punters, and for just about every other small business who will feel the cold this winter – energy bills could be a huge problem.
As temperatures drop, energy costs rise. With this coming winter predicted to be a chilly one, managing the cost of gas and electricity bills is more important than ever – particularly for small businesses.
It’s thought that energy bills for SMEs could increase by an extortionate 44% for gas, and 32% for electricity* – which could amount to as much as half of the overall energy usage for the year.
In order to combat these rising costs, small businesses can take a number of preventative steps to increase the energy efficiency of their business, and reduce consumption.
The following are key areas that all small businesses can target:
Heating can account for almost half of a business’s energy use, and while some businesses are likely to use heating more than others, almost any can cut their bills by taking the following steps:
- Reduce thermostat by one degree – this can reduce overall usage by 8%, according to the Carbon Trust.
- Only turn on radiators in high-use rooms – You don’t need to heat every single hallway and storeroom – only the rooms that are in constant use.
- Time switches should match opening hours – make sure you’re not heating the place when no one is there.
- Avoid using electric heaters – these are highly inefficient and consume a large amount of electricity.
- Switch heating off early – turning your heating off 30 minutes earlier than usual can significantly help to reduce your consumption. And chances are, your buildings will still stay warm until you leave.
A lot of energy is spent heating water and keeping it hot. Unfortunately, much of this heat is lost before the water reaches its desired destination. Even if your business does not use a lot of hot water, a lot of heat can still be lost, meaning extra energy is used reheating it. You can tackle this by:
- Insulation – on both hot water pipes for heat lost in transit, and on your boiler for maximum efficiency.
- Service your boiler – failing to have your boiler regularly serviced often means that it is not operating efficiently. If your boiler is particularly old, you may even want to consider replacing it.
Lighting can easily be one of the biggest energy users for any business. Luckily, there are a huge range of ways that you can make the lighting throughout your entire business more energy-efficient.
- Change light bulbs – If you’re not already using low energy light bulbs, then you should make the change immediately. As an example, CFL lights can use up to 80% less electricity than standard ones, meaning you could make a huge reduction in electricity consumption.
- Only use when needed – Make sure that lights are turned off in rooms that are not in use, for example store rooms, back offices, toilets, etc. Lights certainly should not be on when the business is closed.
- Use daylight sensors, motion sensors and time switches – All three of these sensors will help to make sure that your lights are off when they aren’t needed. Lights will turn off automatically either when it’s light enough already, when no movement is detected in the room, or after a set amount of time.
Whether a restaurant or a manufacturers, almost every business will use some kind of equipment in their day-to-day running. This equipment can account for a large amount of the business’s overall energy consumption, making it a perfect area to target for efficiency.
- Turn off when not in use – this may seem obvious, but it’s amazing how many businesses neglect to do this.
- Use stand-by savers – Electrical equipment, such as a computer, still consumes energy on standby. Using energy stand-by savers can help to eliminate this.
- Motors – if your business uses motorized equipment, invest in high-efficiency motors. It may be an upfront cost, but will save you money in the long run.
- Maintenance – make sure relevant equipment is serviced as necessary, and that any damage is repaired quickly. This ensures all equipment is running at optimum efficiency.
Even if you’re not in a position where you can splash out on brand new double glazed windows, you can still make sure that your business premise is efficiently insulated.
- Well-fitting blinds – Believe it or not, blinds can reduce heat loss from windows. Consider something such as Heat Saver Shades, which fit snug into window frames for a maximum reduction in heat loss.
- Draft proofing – taking simple measures to make your business premises more air tight can reduce heat loss in a huge way.
- Automatic doors – for businesses whose doors are constantly opening and closing, automatic doors can help to make sure doors are not left open unnecessarily.
Your staff, if you have any, need to be a part of your business’s energy efficiency changes. There is not much point in you making an effort to reduce your energy bills if the actions of others simply undo your hard work.
- Raise awareness – Your staff need to be aware – and constantly reminded – that you are trying to reduce energy consumption. Place reminders and energy-saving posters around the premises, especially in places where changes can be made, e.g. next to light switches, doors and electric equipment.
- Energy management training – This involves enrolling employees on a formal course for energy management and efficiency. This may only be relevant to businesses in certain sectors, such as those in hospitality, but could greatly reduce energy consumption.
Energy supplier and tariffs/taxes
You may find that you can reduce your energy bills by reviewing the energy deal you are on, and the supplier you are signed up with. There are a number of approaches here:
- Use an ‘energy switching service‘. This is, arguably, the easiest option, as these services compare the market and find the best prices for your business.
- Negotiate with your current supplier/energy provider. Your current supplier may offer you a better deal if you tell them you are thinking of switching. Sometimes you can also get ‘loyalty discounts’ by staying with the same supplier year on year.
- Look out for renewal dates. Make sure you know when your contract expires, so that you avoid being rolled over onto a more expensive tariff, and so that you have the chance to shop about for the best deals.
If your business is not utilizing any of the above energy-saving techniques, then it may be time to incorporate some into your business’s day-to-day operations. It does not cost a lot of money to invest in some of the more simple methods, and the savings are often well worth it.
Remember that winter is just around the corner, and your energy bill costs are only likely to rise over the coming months. A 20% cut in energy costs can equal the same as a 5% increase in sales – and a boost like that in your bottom line could be a huge help this winter.
* Statistics based on: www.britishgas.co.uk/business/smarter-working/energy-made-simple/saving-energy/winter
About the author
Hannah Corbett is a writer who specialises in the startup business and energy industries. She’s passionate about improving energy efficiency, reducing consumption, and helping others to do the same. To connect with Hannah, and keep up to date with the latest in the business world, follow her on Twitter.
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