Managing Your Cash Flow

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27 ways to cut your energy bills

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1. Shop around

If you’ve been with your utility company for more than two years, chances are you’re getting shafted. For gas, electricity and water, it’s imperative to search the market annually for the best deal. With 11,000 different tariffs and tricky termination rules, this could be a chore, so use a comparison service such as MakeItCheaper.com. Guy Tudge, the farmer behind Tudge Meats, used the site when his annual bills doubled. By searching for the best deal, he halved his renewal quote. What to do in a power cut

2. Hire an expert

If your energy needs are complex, consider delegating negotiations to a third party. Orchard Energy is a West Yorkshire-based broker specialising in managing the utility needs of small firms. Orchard will find you the cheapest deal and provide you with expert information on long-term energy trends so you can take action to hedge against price spikes. Premier Waste delegates its electricity and gas account management to Orchard. Spokesman Michael Curry says Orchard saved the firm 23 per cent on its annual gas spend and 20 per cent on electricity, adding up to a £10,000 saving over two years.

3. Power down

When you leave the office at the end of the day, is there an audible hum of hard-drives and fans in your office? PCs consume up to 250W of power, so leaving them on overnight is profligate. Solution? You could alter the power settings in Windows to force machines to stand by if left untouched for half an hour. Or you could install a more comprehensive package, such as Certero’s PowerStudio software, which allows your IT manager to control the power settings on all machines simultaneously. A 100-machine licence costs £1,700, which you should recoup in six months.

4. Measure your usage

Peter Drucker said: “If you can’t measure it, you can’t manage it.” But it’s a bit boring watching your electricity meter slowly turning. So why not install a digital electricity usage meter that displays to the nearest watt how much energy your firm is consuming? Meters aren’t expensive. You can pick up a Current Cost Envi digital display (made by British entrepreneur Martin Dix) for under £40 on eBay. Installation is non-technical and takes 30 seconds. If you input your price per kilowatt hour, it will translate the energy statistics into pound signs. The display is wireless, so you can keep it on your desk.

5. Lower your voltage

Europeans run their devices at 220V, which is 22V lower than us. Your devices will all run more efficiently at this lower voltage, so get yourself a voltage adjuster. A powerPerfector unit will lower your voltage, saving you up to 20 per cent on your electricity bills. And it smooths out the power supply, protecting your kit from surges. ASDA and HM Prison Service have installed powerPerfectors, and Down Hall Hotel in Hertfordshire has saved £12,000 a year thanks to this nifty device.

6. Gather from gutters

We all need to conserve water. If taking fewer showers isn’t your style, consider getting a rain harvester. These tanks store water from your guttering for non-potable usage. Small tanks, such as those made by Stormsaver, retail at £1,700, giving a payback time of five to six years. Larger tanks, suitable for firms with 250 employees, cost between £8,000 and £15,000 and have a payback time of six to ten years.

7. Pimp your boiler

Next time you service your combi-boiler, get it upgraded with a Zenex Gas Saver. These widgets re-use waste heat from the flue to maximise efficiency. Founded by Plymouth entrepreneur Chris Farrell, Zenex received start-up capital from the Carbon Trust and has products to help both residential and commercial customers. Leisure centre Plymouth Pavilions halved its gas bill from £140,000 to less than £70,000 in the first year after installing a Zenex Gas Saver.

8. Burn less petrol

Keith Johnston, the entrepreneur behind GoinGreen electric cars, decided to spend less time on the road. Forgoing the video-conferencing route, Johnston uses his humble Blackberry to dial into meetings. And despite his peripatetic lifestyle, he says he has cut down on petrol consumption by 50 per cent simply by organising his schedule using the phone.

9. Fiat lux!

Lighting is the biggest energy overhead in many businesses. But the cost of it can be slashed by installing motion-sensing lights for meeting rooms and cupboards. Gloomy wallpaper can be whitewashed to reduce dependence on artificial light. And solar-tube lighting uses mirrored pipes and lenses to transport daylight through ceilings and walls.

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