Small businesses can see a number of benefits by improving energy efficiency and reducing overall gas and electricity consumption. While the main and often most obvious incentive for reducing energy consumption is saving money, there are also a few other benefits that are less often considered.
Some small business owners are conscious of the impact their company has on the environment, and so for them, this is a great benefit. Even for those who are less eco-inclined, having a low-impact business can bring with it other benefits. For example, green consumer communities are likely to favor your business over others – increasing your sales and revenue – and green businesses often get a lot of positive attention from the press, which creates free advertising and exposure opportunities, as well as boosting brand and reputation.
Funding and grants
Businesses who put effort into reducing their energy consumption and strive to be part of a low-carbon economy are sometimes entitled to certain grant and funding opportunities. From government grant schemes to green finance companies, there is a lot of potential.
As well as the aforementioned funding opportunities, low impact and low consumption businesses are often incentivised by the government with reduced tax rates. This could apply to small businesses that only consume small amounts of electricity or gas, or businesses that have purchasing energy efficiency technology or invested in installing retrofits.
Using less energy means you pay for less energy – effectively increasing your bottom line. Most businesses can reduce their energy bills by up to 15% by reducing consumption, which is money that you could invest elsewhere in the business.
Businesses are often well aware of the benefits that come with lowering energy consumption, but many just don’t know how to start. There are a number of ways in which small businesses can adapt their day-to-day business operations to use less energy – ranging from simple changes to drastic modifications.
These adjustments are very minor, and do not require to you spend any money. Of course, because they are such small modifications, the result in consumption will also be small – but every little bit helps.
• Budget for energy: Awareness is key in improving your efficiency, so by including energy bills in your budget, you will be conscious of exactly how much it costs you each month. You will also be able to see when you’re spending too much, and monitor the benefits of reducing your consumption.
• Lower the temperature: Did you know that lowering your thermostat by just one degree could reduce your energy bill by over $100? A one degree difference in temperature is not enough for you to really notice, so you will be saving without sacrificing comfort.
• Time switches: Make sure that your heating works on a time switch, and set it to only come on in the hours that your business building is in use. This saves the building from being heated unnecessarily when no one is there to feel the benefit. To be extra thrifty, you can even set your heating to go off an hour or so before closing time to save even more energy.
• Draught proofing: For businesses with external doors, such as shops on a main street, a huge amount of energy can be lost and wasted through those doors being permanently open. A simple way to combat this is to make a conscious effort to keep the door closed when no one is using it; you could even put a sign in the window to make customers aware.
• Work culture: As mentioned before, awareness is key in energy saving, and it’s integral that you get your staff on board with energy efficiency and inject an energy efficiency culture into your workplace. You can start with simple things like putting signs next to light switches and plug sockets to remind staff to turn them off when not in use. You can also put your staff through energy efficiency training to ensure maximum levels of awareness at all times. You may also want to assign certain energy-saving roles to some of your staff, and make them accountable for consumption.
If you’re willing to spend a reasonable amount of money to assist your energy efficiency ventures, consider the following tips:
• Lights: Lighting typically accounts for 20% of all electricity used in commercial buildings – so there’s a big opportunity to save here. Exchange all of your light bulbs for low energy ones, and install motion sensors to ensure hallways, storeroom, restrooms, etc. are not being lit unnecessarily.
• Standby savers: These devices plug into your wall sockets, and all your electrical equipment is powered through them. They minimise the energy that is leeched by vampire power, which is the energy used when equipment is on standby. The average PC and monitor will consume about $30 a year in standby electricity. This may not sound like much, but when you multiply it to cover an office with 50 computers (over $1500), or all the electrical equipment in your building – the money soon adds up.
• Eco-equipment: Whether it’s just a coffee machine and toaster in your staff room, or a refrigerator and microwave, you can replace it all with energy efficient alternatives. Eco-appliances are specially designed to consume less energy than traditional alternative. While it may be a bit of an upfront cost, after a year or two you soon start to see savings.
These are the energy efficiency measures that cost the most money upfront, but also bring the highest savings. It may be worth trying some of the simpler and cheaper cost cutting techniques first, and then investing savings made from those towards some of these more drastic measures.
• Double glazing: If your business does not already have double glazed windows, then you could benefit hugely from having them installed. A cheaper alternative to this is secondary glazing, which is where a second pane of glass is fitted to your existing window. It is not as effective as proper double glazing, but can still help.
• Draught proofing: For businesses with external doors, installing automatic doors could help to ensure that as little cold air from the outside gets in as possible. Also sealing any holes there may be between the inside of your offie and the outside world – such as broken seal on doors and windows, vents, letter boxes, etc. – can help to keep the heat inside, meaning you will have to spend less to keep the inside of your business environment a comfortable temperature.
There are a wide range of steps that small businesses can take to improve their energy efficiency, reduce consumption and save money. These options come in all prices ranges, so there really is no excuse not to start today. Reduce your energy consumption, boost your bottom line, and give your business the opportunity to benefit from all the other benefits that can come from adopting energy efficiency into your day-to-day operations.
Hannah Corbett is a copywriter with a particular enthusiasm for startup business and the energy industry. You can follow Hannah on Twitter to keep up to date with all the latest in the small business world. Or, for more help lowering your business energy consumption, visit Make It Cheaper.