Short-term (tomorrow!), medium-term, and long-term: whichever way you frame it, small businesses can save energy – and money – by following some simple steps.
Our guide to energy efficiency for small businesses will banish any worries about time, potential outlays, and value as barriers to entry. Any investment is usually quickly repaid and then becomes savings, or more profit.
Learn how you can save on energy use and bills by picking up good habits, from lighting to installing solar panels to home working.
Benefits to your business and brand
‘Why bother?’ when there are a hundred more important things to do, and profit-making ones at that.
Being seen to be green has a vast influence on potential consumers. They like to purchase from companies that reflect their values. You get positive branding, gain a competitive edge over your rivals, and employees and customers will buy into your modern and innovative outlook.
All that positivity can funnel into more sales, improving your bottom line.
How to plan it out
The first step is to come up with achievable goals for the short, medium, and long term.
A problem shared is a problem halved, so get your employees involved and invested to provide extra impetus and mutual encouragement. Post your ideas to your company mission statement, too; we all need some stick as well as some carrot.
An energy audit is a great starting place, using our guide to identify areas for improvement. Look into potential government grants and tax rebates.
If that feels overwhelming, then it is well worth investing in hiring an energy auditor to clarify thinking and provide advice and structure to your plan.
We’ll start with some straightforward steps to help you save energy and money.
Low hanging fruit – lighting
According to the U.K. government, a company spends up to 40% of its electricity bill on lighting.
Energy-efficient LED light bulbs use up to 90 percent less energy. You can save energy and money with an integrated approach to lighting:
- Turn off all lights when they are not in use.
- Swap switches for motion sensors.
- Split lights over many switches, so you light the right areas.
- Install dimmer switches in windowed rooms so you can adjust light levels.
- Make sure windows are clean and unobstructed; natural light provides a boost for your employees’ health and morale, as well as being free!
- Keep lamps clean and free of dust.
- Replace old lighting fixtures with modern fittings that send out more light.
- Paint walls with light, reflective paint, to maximize light.
Energy saving tips
Get your energy bill delivered online to save paper and look around for a better price from a supplier. Electricity comparison sites allow you to search for the best energy rates in your area and based on your business energy needs.
Make sure everyone turns off any unused office and factory kit. Standby mode doesn’t count; unplug everything to prevent wasting ‘phantom energy.’ This includes fans, pumps, conveyors, compressors, filters and more.
Figures show that up to 46 percent of electricity is used to power idle machines and outside standard office hours. Every red standby dot costs your business just over a dollar a year.
Screen users can dim overly bright monitors, too, but not too dim that it leads to eyestrain.
Keeping all equipment in excellent condition, be it office or factory, ensures you are running tools efficiently.
Lots of day-to-day adjustments can help save energy:
- Buy and use rechargeable batteries where possible.
- Order what you need.
- Recycle paper, ink cartridges, computers, and phones.
- Buy green cleaning products and environmentally-friendly paper.
- Audit hard copy mailing lists to save on flyers and paper.
- Install hand dryers in bathrooms.
- Fit water-saving taps and showerheads.
- If possible, buy second-hand office equipment.
Improve the air and ambiance with a few plants, too.
Heating and cooling
Heating and cooling are vital when considering energy efficiency for small businesses. Make staff aware of how expensive air conditioning is – it may double your energy bill.
Invest in a smart thermostat and make sure it is in an optimum site and not in a draughty corridor. Use it properly by setting it to a higher temperature when cooling (recommended 24°C/75°F) and lower when heating (recommended 19°C/66°F). Set the temperature lower than 19°C/66°F in corridors, storerooms, and areas of higher physical activity. If possible, turn the air conditioning off during the last hour of the workday.
Fans use less energy than air conditioning and help maintain healthy airflows. Maintain your HVAC and air conditioning unit with regular services. Seal heating and cooling ducts, unused doors and flues, and avoid draughts by leaving doors propped open.
Radiators need to be free from obstructions, and desks neither too close nor too far from them. If it’s too hot, ask the staff to turn the thermostat down before opening windows.
Analyze how you use your heating. Avoid heating a sizeable area where a few people work; try smaller, portable spot heaters to warm specific zones.
See if you can recycle waste heat to your advantage. Ovens and refrigeration systems produce waste heat that can be ducted to warm other areas or converted to heat hot water. Insulate all pipework and install efficient water heaters.
Walk-in freezers and coolers need automatic door closers or strip curtains.
Employees can feel especially engaged in your company’s energy efficiency drive in the kitchen.
- Boil kettles with the water needed and no more.
- Run dishwashers when full and on an eco-wash.
- Keep fridges only three-quarters full, so air circulates properly.
- Buy energy-efficient microwaves and appliances.
- Encourage recycling by providing recycling bins.
Energy efficiency projects
More significant projects have higher costs and bring big returns on investment (ROI).
There are many types of renewable energy sources you could install. Many governments run schemes offering financial help and grants. Solar, wind, geothermal, biomass, hydroelectricity, and ocean thermal energy are a few that reduce your long-term energy bills. They make fantastic marketing opportunities to showcase your renewable credentials.
Insulate your building from the roof to the loft and cavity walls. Suspended ceilings work well in high-ceilinged rooms by reducing the space that needs heating.
If appropriate, let your employees come to work in casual dress. They’ll wear cooler clothes in the summer, reducing the need for air conditioning, and jumpers in the winter to lessen the heating bill.
COVID has shown that home working can work. Allow staff to work from home and save on greenhouse gases caused by their commute and improve morale thanks to your business flexibility.
Remember: make a short-term, medium-term, and long-term plan, using this ultimate guide to energy efficiency for small businesses, and you can save your company energy and money for many years.