This article is written by Olaf Garvey, a business energy expert at Uswitchforbusiness
SMEs face significant challenges in surviving in the current economic climate, with most firms realising that savings need to be made at every level and in every department. One of the key areas in which SMEs can make savings is energy.
Although spending money on gas and electricity for business purposes is unavoidable, small businesses can, to a certain extent at least, control how much they spend.
These are are some of the most effective ways to reduce spending on business energy.
1. Switch off the lights…
…and computer monitors, photocopiers, printers, phone chargers, microwaves, kettles, radios, TVs and any other electrical items your office may have.
How many times have you left an empty office in the evening to discover your colleagues have not switched anything off? Set an example and switch items off – try putting labels on plug sockets reminding colleagues to do the same. Simple steps like these cut energy bills and could also save items shorting out from electrical power surges.
2. Generate green electricity
Going green need not be expensive. In fact, SMEs can save substantial sums by switching to eco-friendly power sources. While all of the leading energy suppliers offer deals on energy that has been generated in an environmentally friendly way, for example from wind turbines, small firms can go a step further by producing their own green energy.
Installing solar photovoltaic panels on company buildings can result in substantial savings over the year. This is particularly true during the spring and summer months when solar panels capture sunlight to be converted into electricity or hot water (or both). Electricity generated by solar panels can be used throughout the office, enabling companies to dramatically cut spending on energy bills. It is also possible to make a profit on solar panel installations if surplus power is produced and sold to the National Grid.
3. Insulate, insulate, insulate
Heat loss is as much a drain on the bank balance as it is a scourge to the planet. Office buildings that lose excessive heat through poor insulation consume far more energy than those that have been properly insulated.To ensure that heating bills remain as low as possible, SMEs should consider investing in triple glazing (a significant step up from double glazing in this respect), draught excluders and cavity wall insulation. Lofts and ceiling spaces should also be insulated as a matter of priority.
4. Turn down the thermostat
Most office buildings in the UK are warm, stuffy places which lack adequate air conditioning and are jam-packed with staff and machinery; it is little wonder employees tend to complain about the ambient temperature.
Overly hot office buildings are not just uncomfortable, they are also damaging to the environment. Research suggests that turning down the office thermostat by just one degree can result in an 8% saving on heating bills.
5. Install motion sensor lighting
Energy can be saved by controlling when and how lights are used. Environmentally unfriendly offices maintain a lights-on policy throughout the day. In contrast, sensible firms install motion sensor lighting to ensure that lights only come on when people are present in a room.
6. Use energy efficient hardware
Finally, companies can save money and become more environmentally friendly in the process by replacing old, energy inefficient equipment. This exercise should focus particularly upon computers, printers and central heating boilers. All of these items can be replaced with modern, greener alternatives.
The initial capital cost of replacing old equipment is very little in comparison to the long-term savings that can be made on energy bills.
More ways to save energy and money
Further methods of greening your business can be as simple as working towards a paper-free workplace where practical, reducing waste and recycling as many materials as possible. Even boiling a full kettle rather than the amount of water you actually need drains energy and small electrical heaters are just as bad.
Switching your business energy supplier to greener and more efficient supplier can also save your small business a fair amount of money over time.
Remember to question yourself too – do you REALLY need to print out that extra copy of a document? Could you reuse paper rather than chucking it? Do you recycle batteries?
Remember the three R’s whenever possible – Reduce, Reuse, Recycle.
We'd love to hear your small business energy-saving tips too. Please share them in the comments.