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5 simple steps to help SMEs save on energy costs

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This feature was placed by npower

npower has carried out energy saving audits with a number of SMEs that practically demonstrate where real savings can be made. Examples include:

  • A convenience store in Birmingham, that could save £600 annually through some air conditioning maintenance and changes to set temperature points ;
  • A pub in Yorkshire that could save £500 a year through water conservation measures;
  • A glass manufacturer in Telford that could take over £1,000 off its energy costs by implementing a simple energy policy; and
  • A Somerset-based printer, that with some straightforward lighting improvements could make £100 saving.

As these examples show, small changes can result in big savings and it is certainly worth any SME spending a small amount of time identifying simple ways to potentially reduce their usage and costs.

In general there are five areas which hold the key to driving energy use down and cost efficiencies up.

1. Reduce wastage 

SMEs need to ensure energy usage is efficient. It sounds simple, but if lights, air conditioning, heating and ventilation and other equipment are not required, then they should be switched off. Control systems are available to do this, for example, technologies which will switch off display cabinets automatically when they are not in use, e.g. when a retail outlet is closed.

2. Look at lighting 

Businesses keep premises well lit for customers and employees, but savings of up to 20 per cent can be achieved by making small level investments in energy efficient technologies. Changing from halogen spotlights to LEDs could save up to 80 per cent of energy used and reduce maintenance costs too, as they last many times longer.

3. Heating up

Assessing heating and ventilation equipment can also make a big difference. Heat can easily escape out of the front door of any premises or building with large, open entrances. One way to save energy is to install ‘air curtain’ equipment above the entrance. This provides a stream of hot air, keeping the warmth in and the cold out. Old, poorly maintained boilers can also waste up to 35 per cent of energy input through inefficiencies. Well maintained, modern, high efficiency or condensing boilers can have seasonal energy efficiencies of more than 90 per cent, making significant savings.

4. Keep cool with refrigeration

When using refrigeration, it is important to ensure all units are well maintained, clear of any debris which may restrict airflow and positioned away from radiators – failure to do this can lead to fridges consuming more energy than required. Make sure fridges are set to the lowest optimal temperature needed to maintain the quality of your stock.

5. Get employees involved

Changing employee behaviour can also have a real impact. All staff should be encouraged to think about energy usage and their role in reducing consumption. Appointing an ‘energy champion’ can be a simple but effective step. They can assist by taking responsibility for initiating small-scale efficiency practices and reminding fellow staff members of the everyday steps they can all undertake to bring energy usage down.

The recent npower Business Energy Index (nBEI) revealed that nearly half of SMEs are embracing the business growth opportunities offered by good energy efficiency practice. However it also showed that a sizeable number have yet to examine the potential for energy efficiency driven savings which can then be re-invested back into the business. For such companies, energy suppliers such as npower can provide advice and support on the simple steps they can take to unlock energy cost savings.

Independent authorities such as The Carbon Trust say that good energy management practice can result in cost savings of between five and 25 per cent per year. In a challenging business environment, SMEs would be well advised to take a close look at their business practices to see where potential savings could be made. 

Watch helpful short videos with energy saving tips for your business

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