Business Technology

5 top tips to help SMEs save on energy bills

9 min read

18 March 2015

In the 2015 Budget the chancellor might not be offering small businesses much in the way of specific help with energy bills, but these are a significant outgoing for most SMEs and there are concerns they'll rise over the next few years.

However, help is available for smaller and medium sized businesses who are looking to cut energy bills.

The Chase Golf Club in Staffordshire is one smaller enterprise that recently decided to try and reduce its own.

“Energy has always been a big outgoing for us and even more so now that we’ve expanded to include a gym, restaurant, hotel rooms and spa,” explained owner Chris Simmons. “Many SMEs shrug energy off as a necessary cost, but as we grew we knew there were potentially some big savings to be made. Having more control over the amount of energy you use – and the effect on the bottom line – is a great comfort when running a complex business.”

He worked with supplier npower to look for savings. A consultant toured the property to look at the club’s use of electricity for heating, ventilation, refrigeration or water. “We were then given an action plan that included specific energy saving measures,” said Simmons. “These were ranked so we could weigh up the costs and benefits and make a decision that was right for the business on which measures to take forward.”

A plan tailored to the club’s needs included installing LED bulbs, changing its ventilation systems and improving voltage optimisation. Simmons and his team will soon be able to monitor energy consumption in real-time using a web-enabled device, which means that they’ll know, for instance, if lights have been left on overnight in the conference room or if the air-con is working for too long a time in the gym.

“We’ve never been wasteful when it comes to energy, so the main challenge was looking for innovative ways to reduce our energy use even further,” added Simmons. “We employ 60 people and are open from 6.30am till 10pm, 364 days of the year, so as you can imagine, we had to make a cultural shift too. Energy isn’t something that just one person in the company should worry about – it requires everyone to do their part.”

Proximity sensors were fitted in the internal corridors and on storage cupboards, so that lights now only activate when someone is around. “One of the biggest things we’ve installed is a 49kW solar photo voltaic system. This has helped to greatly reduce our electricity bill. Npower Business helped us to set up real-time monitoring of our electricity consumption,” he went on to say. “We can now see via a live link what we are using and what we have used, which is great as a lot of companies just run blind. We did look at installing an export meter for the photo voltaic cells, but the monitoring showed it was not worthwhile. We use just about everything we generate.”

Simmons advises SME owners to use the skills of an expert. “Changing your approach to energy doesn’t need to be time-consuming or expensive,” he commented. Since making the changes the club is now on track to save more than £4,700 per year on its energy bill – the equivalent of 9,000 golf balls, 235 bottles of champagne for the bar or a new golf buggy.

“Controlling your energy use isn’t only about controlling the bottom line; it also helps you plan how to reinvest these savings, which is hugely important for any growing business – large or small,” emphasised Simmons.

Love Energy Savings is an SME that provides a service comparing electricity and gas bill rates to inform other small and medium businesses of the best deals on offer.

“Being energy efficient is a term that is often thrown around in CSR meetings these days; it seems that everybody wants to be an energy crusader,” it said. “But being energy efficient helps more than just the environment, as changing the way that you use energy throughout your business can significantly improve your bottom line.”

Love Energy Savings has offered SMEs five top tips for saving energy.

Audit your energy

Before you can start to put energy saving habits into practise, you need to know where your energy is being wasted in the first place. Walk around your business and scrutinise the areas where most of your energy is being used, then consider how it could be improved.

Make the switch

Lighting accounts for a huge amount of any business’ spend. You need to create a well-lit and pleasant atmosphere to work in, but this can often come at a high price.

One of the main traps that businesses find when it comes to lighting is that they aren’t using energy-efficient light bulbs and are sticking to the traditional high wattage bulbs which typically expel most of their energy through heat. Swap incandescent bulbs for LEDs, which use 80 per cent less energy. 

While these may initially cost more when you purchase them, the savings will quickly make the extra spend worth it. If you don’t want to fork out for an LED, opt for the next best thing, CFLs (compact fluorescent lamps), which use 60-80 per cent less energy.

Put standby habits to sleep

One of the easiest ways for businesses to waste money is by leaving appliances on standby. In the energy saving world, standby mode is the devil – encouraging people to waste nearly as much energy as they would if the appliance was left on.

In an office the main culprit committing standby crimes is the computer/laptop. Instead of switching our laptops off properly at the end of the day many of us are guilty of shutting the lid and leaving it plugged in and running constantly, so the energy use soon adds up.

Be vigilant about staff leaving appliances on, remind everyone to unplug and switch off their machines properly and double check this is done at the end of the day. It may seem slightly pedantic at the beginning, but after a week or so it will become a habit which people will do automatically.

Motion sensors 

More often than not, we leave lights on in rooms that are not frequently used, simply because it is convenient. That means that lights can be unnecessarily running for long durations throughout the day. Eliminate this by installing motion-sensor lights which automatically turn on and off when they detect movement.

Replace outdated technology

As part of your energy assessment, take a look at the appliances you use in your business. If they are old and worn, chances are they will be wasting large quantities of energy without you even realising.

Many appliances nowadays are designed with energy efficiency in mind, so they automatically conserve energy by switching themselves off after use. Upgrade your appliances gradually, so you don’t jeopardise your cash flow, and watch as your business becomes fully energy efficient.

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