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Making your business more energy efficient

By Nicole Wilson

By making a few low-cost changes at work, you can reduce your carbon footprint and cut bills at the same time.

Businesswoman at her desk tracking her energy use on an app

It all adds up

The average small-mid size business could cut its energy bill by 25% by installing energy-efficient measures, says the Department of Energy and Climate Change. The good news is 40% of these measures would need zero capital investment, and the rest would pay for themselves in less than 2 years.

Understand your energy use

The first step to becoming more efficient with your business energy is to find out how much of it you use, and how much you might be wasting. You can find a monthly and yearly breakdown of your total usage on your energy statement. For a more detailed understanding, it's a good idea to start a record of regular meter readings.

If you're billed monthly for your energy, you could take weekly readings. If you're billed quarterly, try taking a reading every month. If your business is very large, you may already have half-hourly meters, in which case you've got a big head start when it comes to collecting data. Just ask your supplier to send you a record of your half-hourly usage to get started.

Taking readings is one piece of the puzzle. Once you've got a sparkling spreadsheet of your energy usage, you can begin to recognise patterns, investigate wastage and identify opportunities for saving.

If your energy usage skyrockets during winter, heating and insulation might be a good place to start looking. Comparing January 2019 with January 2020 will give you a fair picture, but that doesn't mean you need a whole year of data before you begin to make changes. You can compare times of day, times of the week or energy usage by department, too.

You could also benchmark your energy use against others in your industry using tools like this one from Carbon Trust. Are you less energy efficient than other businesses your size? Reach out to the star performers in your marketplace and see what they've done to make a difference.

Naturally, all this comparison is only effective if you act on your insights. The tips in this guide are here to help you. It's a good idea to try one tip at a time and measure the difference it's made using your meter readings. That way you'll be able to see the areas your business needs to prioritise, and keep track of your savings, too. Use your spreadsheet of joy to inspire your coworkers and keep your energy-saving momentum going.

Adapt your workspace

This is a big one. But making effective changes to your physical space can be surprisingly easy and doesn't need to cost a fortune. Whether you work on a farm or in a factory, finding efficient ways of lighting, heating and cooling your space is one of the best ways to save energy. In fact, turning an office thermostat down by just 2 degrees would save £140 on a £1,000 bill.

Tips for lighting

  • Replace lights with LED bulbs. They're up to 65% more efficient than standard lighting. Avoid lighting empty rooms by using occupancy sensors.

  • Install daylight sensors to dim lights automatically in bright or outdoor spaces.

  • Let as much light into your building as possible. Open blinds, clean glass and move HR's filing cabinet away from the window.

  • If you're thinking about renovations, consider splitting lights onto smaller circuits with more switches. This gives you more flexibility to zone your space.

  • Whenever you rearrange a space, remember to think about your lighting. Move any fittings that are no longer effective.

Tips for computers and electronics

An office at nighttime

  • Consider using laptops instead of desktop PCs because they use less energy. Turn your screen brightness down and activate sleep mode when you're away from your desk.

  • Switch off all communal equipment at the end of the day. Check the manual first, but almost all electrical and electronic appliances can be turned off at the plug without upsetting their programming. This includes printers, copiers, vending machines and coffee machines. Anything left on standby is using energy and costing your business money.

  • We know reinstating the tea round isn't specific to computers, but making a cuppa for the whole office saves boiling the kettle repeatedly.

Tips for heating

  • Follow the recommended temperature for your workspace. According to the Health and Safety Executive, it's 19°C in an office, 16°C in a workshop, or 11°C in very physical workplaces.

  • Ensure thermostats are positioned correctly (away from radiators or windows) and timers are displaying the right time and date.

  • Insulate pipework to prevent heat loss and wasted energy.

illustration of a hand on a thermostat

  • Check that your thermostat or timer switches off the circulating pump as well as the boiler.

  • Keep warm air in and cold air out of your building. Seal up draughts and install insulation where it's needed. PVC strip curtains can help to reduce energy losses in warehouses and temperature-controlled rooms.

Tips for cooling

  • Modern refrigeration technologies outperform ageing equipment. According to the Carbon Trust, installing them will pay for itself within 4.5 years based on energy savings alone.

  • Ensure air conditioning filters are free from dust. Even small obstructions to airflow increase running costs.

  • Defrost freezers regularly and avoid overfilling them so cold air can circulate properly.

  • Repair or replace any ageing door seals on fridges and freezers.

Tips for manufacturing

  • Compressed air is used in lots of industries and the equipment is very energy intensive. Leaking air can account for a surprisingly high percentage of your energy bill, so check your machines for air loss routinely. The best way to do this is by listening for a leak. It's also a good idea to switch compressors off when not in use, because they use 20-70% of their full power when idling.

  • Label all switches for machinery and train your team to know what can be safely switched off at the end of the day.

  • Turn motors off during lunch breaks. A 4kW motor turned off for an hour each day could save your business £114 a year.

  • When replacing equipment, refer to the Energy Technology List for the most energy-efficient options available.

Imagine new ways of working

As well as physical changes to your workspace, creating new procedures at a company level can make a massive difference to energy-saving initiatives and behaviours. We've given some examples below to get you started, but it's a good idea to ask your team how they think your business can be more efficient, too.

Travel policies

Consider reducing business flights for meetings and use video conferencing instead. A cycle to work scheme can be a great way to encourage healthier lifestyles and reduce carbon emissions. A car-pool system might also work for colleagues commuting from the same areas. This may not impact your energy bill directly, but you'll get a warm fuzzy feeling from reducing your business' carbon footprint.

Purchasing

Create a policy to help anyone responsible for buying resources look at lifetime running costs as well as initial expenses. Buying a slightly more expensive dishwasher that's more energy efficient could save you money in the long term. Think about recycling or repurposing the equipment you replace.

Work style

Offices with less people use less power. Think about adding more flexibility for teams to work from home and encourage hot-desking so everyone who's present can share a smaller physical space.

Start-up and shut-down procedures

Powering office equipment and industrial machinery out of hours is wasteful and expensive. Creating an easy checklist for teams entering and leaving the building to follow could save your business time, money and energy.

Challenge your landlord

Ask about the sustainability of other facilities and resources in your building. This includes catering, water and waste management.

Motivate your people

There's always one person at home turning the lights off in empty rooms and waxing lyrical about woolly jumpers. You know the one… it's usually the bill payer. The truth is we need more energy-conscious people at work, too.

Energy efficiency can do more than save your business money. It can help to attract eco-conscious customers, business partners and talent to your team.

Choose the right time to share your ambition for a more energy-efficient workplace with your co-workers. If you can do it in person, all the better. Remember that your colleagues may have different motivations for embracing sustainability so be clear about the benefits it can bring, from a healthier bottom line to more freedom to work from home.

The key to keeping momentum going is to share ideas, actions and results with your team. By giving people the right training, the forum for feedback and specific responsibilities, they can take ownership of the impact they've made. You could consider an incentive for the best energy-savers too.

Energy can be an abstract thing, so it's a good idea to translate your energy savings into something more relatable when you set targets and share your success. If you work out how many kWh you've saved by installing LED bulbs, tell your team the number of households that could power for a year. If you're a big business, find a city or country with an equivalent power usage. Just think, you could be powering Wigan by turning your printers off at night.

Another way to make energy savings more relatable is to translate them into money. If helping to save the planet isn't motivation enough, just watch the Christmas party budget soar after a year of low energy spending. Sharing the amount saved as well as your plans for spending it on something other than energy bills (investing in a new coffee machine, for example) is a good way to keep people motivated.

Switch to greener energy

By making your business more energy efficient, you'll be saving energy and money. But chances are your business still needs energy to run. One way to feel better about the energy you do use is to choose a greener supplier.

Bulb for Business supplies thousands of UK businesses with 100% renewable electricity and 100% carbon neutral gas, and we're on average 10% cheaper than the usual names in business energy.

Read more about renewable energy for business

Find out how to switch business energy suppliers

Produce your own electricity

This one's not for every business, but another way to become energy efficient is to produce and use your own power on-site. From installing a wind turbine to fitting solar panels to your roof, there are options out there for generating your own electricity and selling what you don't use back to the grid. Businesses can do this either through export tariffs like Bulb’s (for smaller generators) or through Power Purchase Agreements.

Get a quote today