Remaining efficient is essential if you want to succeed in business. Keeping a tight rein on your costs helps to ensure that your cash flow stays healthy. Savings can be made in most areas - including business energy - where even seemingly small changes can make a big difference
According to the Carbon Trust, no-cost or low-cost actions can reduce energy costs by at least 10%. So, what can you do to reduce your energy costs?
Assess your current bills
How much energy are you currently using and paying for? Dig out your bills for reference. During which months do you use more or less energy? Why? Are you using more energy than last year? Where could you be wasting energy? Consider heating and lighting first. Perhaps you're powering machinery when it's not being used, or using equipment that isn't energy efficient.
Ask for your employees' input on ways to reduce your energy use. Their full support will be critical to your drive to reduce your bills. According to the Carbon Trust, a 20% reduction in energy costs can represent the same bottom-line benefit as a 5% increase in sales. Why not offer your staff rewards for the best energy-saving ideas? Discuss the issue at your next staff meeting and draw up an action plan. Provide energy efficiency training where necessary.
Realise it's time to get smart
Smart meters will have been offered to every home in Britain, at no extra cost, by 2020 - and many small businesses (with fewer than 10 employees) are eligible too. Installing a smart meter could offer many business benefits. You'll only pay for the energy you use, which is better for your cash flow. Readings are also automatically sent to your supplier, meaning less effort for you. And you can monitor exactly how much energy you're using, in pounds and pence, every day, week and month. You might then be able to take steps to reduce your consumption.
Not all fixed costs are as fixed as you might imagine. Switching suppliers might get your business a better energy deal. You can compare rates using such sites uSwitch, GoCompare.com, MoneySupermarket.com and CompareTheMarket.com.
Turn down your heating
So, where could you save money? Heating typically accounts for half of office energy costs, with costs rising by about 8% for every 1°C of overheating (source: Carbon Trust).
Central heating thermostats should be set to come on by timer to heat rooms to 18ºC-21ºC when it's cold, according to the Energy Saving Trust. Turn radiators off or down where possible. Fit draft strips/excluders to windows/doors, and keep them closed. Get your boiler serviced or replaced. According to the Carbon Trust, inefficient boiler use or poor maintenance could add 30% to your heating bills. Also make sure that tanks, boilers, valves, pipes and loft space are well insulated.
Learn to switch off
Always turn out lights when not in use. Fitting motion sensors and timers can reduce lighting costs, as can more energy-efficient light bulbs. Replacing a traditional light bulb with a CFL (compact fluorescent lamp) of the same brightness could save you about £70 over the bulb's lifetime (source: Energy Saving Trust), while LED bulbs can offer even greater cost savings.
Computers, scanners, printers, photocopiers and other office equipment (which are responsible for about a fifth of an office's energy bill) shouldn't be left on when not being used - not even on standby. Put up signs to remind staff to turn off lights and equipment when not in use. According to the Carbon Trust, switching computers and laser printers off at night and weekends can reduce annual energy consumption by up to 75%.
Once you've made your changes, compare your bills to see just how much you've saved. Don't allow bad, energy-wasting habits to creep back into your business. Regularly assess your bills and working practices to ensure that you continue to minimise your energy costs.
- Visit the Smart Energy GB website to find out more about smart meters.
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