6 energy saving tips for SMEs that will help you cut costs and emissions.
As an SME, electricity may not be your biggest operating cost, but it’s still a drain on your profits – if you can avoid some or all of it, why wouldn’t you? Not only that, by saving energy you can boost your ‘green’ performance: did you know that, in the UK, SMEsÂ are responsible for about a third (28%) of climate change emissions from business electricity generation andÂ use?
We’ve put together 6 energy saving tips for you to get you going, starting with the most simple and least costly and finishing with the most complex and expensive.
Before you start!
There’s a saying: “if you don’t measureÂ it, you can’t manageÂ it” and it definitely applies to business energy consumption. So, before you think about making energy saving changes, it’s a good idea to monitor and record your usage for a while to get a feel for how much electricity your business uses every 24 hours over a typical billing period – that way, you’ll be able to tell if your efforts are working.
1. Turn off lights when not in use
This sounds so simple, you might wonder why we bother mentioning it, but you’d be very surprised at how often people leave a room unattended with the lights still on – especially rooms that aren’t used all that often.
Remind people using stickers next to light switches, encouraging them to switch them off after use.
If you notice that it’s a real problem, it may be worth considering installing push-button timer switches or even more sophisticated occupancy sensors.
2.Â Don’t leave equipment on standby
Computers and their monitors, printers, and just about every other common office gadget will probably have a standby setting on it – making it ready to power-up quickly when you need it after a period of being idle. Except, leaving things in standby mode instead of switching them off wastes a lot of power – according to the Energy Saving Trust, for instance, a computer monitor left on standby overnight uses enough electricity to laser print over 500 pages.
The Carbon Trust reports that leaving a computer on overnight for a year would create enough CO2 to fill a double-decker bus.
3.Â Can you adjust your work patterns?
The cost of power is higher during the day when more people are using it, but drops at night when demand is lower. Some utility companies even have special tariffs that are specifically designed to encourage ‘load shifting’ by offering steeper discounts for overnight electricity use.
It’s worth looking at what your business does and working out if this can benefit you. For instance, if there’s a particularly power-hungry process you perform, check to see if this can be done at night – even if that means automating the process around a particular start and finish time if you don’t have staff on a night shift.
4.Â Consider low-energy lighting and heating
Once you’ve tackled the measures that have little or no cost, and made some savings along the way, it’s time to start thinking about investing in energy saving equipment.
Lighting and heating make up a significant proportion of business electricity consumption, so they’re a good place to start. Right now, we’re using 1.34 kW of electricity – if we switch on the two 5ft twin fluorescent lights in an adjacent office, our real-time power monitoring tells us that consumption jumps to 1.62 kW – a rise of 0.28 kW. These particular light fittings are now quite outdated and will be replaced soon with newer equivalents. Switching on the lights inÂ a similar sized office on the ground floor, where we’ve already replaced the lighting, boosts consumption toÂ 1.43 kW, a rise of just 0.09 kW.
That may not sound like much, but it all adds up. Over a 40 hour working week, for a year, it’s the difference between an extra 582 kWh or 187 kWh.
5.Â Explore voltage optimisation
Voltage Optimisation is a term given to the systematic controlled reduction in the voltages received by an energy consumer to reduce energy use, power demand and reactive power demand.
Without getting too technical, it’s because of this: the declared low voltage electricity supply in the UKÂ as per the Electrical Safety, Quality and Continuity Regulations 2002, is now 230V with a tolerance of +10% to -6%. This means that supply voltage can theoretically rangeÂ between 216V and 253V. However, the average voltage supplied from the national grid (in mainland UK) is 242V.
If your supplyÂ voltage is higher than the voltage at which equipment is designed to operate most effectively, it causes a reduction in equipment lifetime and increases in energy consumption.
Voltage Optimisation isn’t right for every business, but it’s definitely worth exploring with the right help.
6.Â Generate your own renewable power with added battery storage
If, after doing all you can to reduce your power use you still consider it too high, then it’s time to consider generating your own electricityÂ with on-site renewables – this can include rooftop solar panels, biomass boilers, and, for larger sites, even anaerobic digestion of organic waste.
Major benefits of installing micro-generation renewablesÂ areÂ that not only does it put you in much greater control of your costs, but it can also generate an additional income through government subsidies – which typically mean that the payback period on your capital investment shrinks.
As with Voltage Optimisation, it’s best to get expert advice on precisely which forms of on-site power generation could work for you. If you do elect to generate your own electricity from renewables, it makes sense to do so in conjunction with battery storage – so that power produced when you don’t need it, can be stored until you do.
There’s a handy reminder of these 6 tips here (opens as a PDF).
What have you already done to save energy and money in your SME? We’d love to hear about your successes in the comments below!