Business

Becoming an Energy Efficient Business

bulbFor many businesses, energy efficiency is one of those time-consuming, zero-return activities which are the first to be abandoned whenever the phone rings. Though this is understandable, the truth is that most businesses could affect at least a 10% saving via low-cost, and no-cost, means. Translated into balance-sheet figures, a 20% reduction in energy costs typically equates to a 5% sales increase. This helps to explain why global research conducted by McKinsey in 2010 established that 63% of 2956 companies had taken steps to reduce their operational energy costs.

Energy saving walk around

The easiest route to energy savings is just to walk around your premises noting when and where energy is used wastefully and any opportunities for savings. Important areas to check are factory, office and warehouse core equipment, and heating and lighting. Varying the timing of your check is important too: for example, usage patterns will be different at break times, overnight, and during holidays.

Having discovered potential areas for energy savings, you will ideally want to prioritise interventions which are likely to produce the greatest cost savings and cause minimal business disruption.

Heating

Overheating causes discomfort and wastes money - every extra 1ËšC of unnecessary heat produces a rise in heating costs of around 8%. In a typical office, heating consumes around half the annual energy costs and this pattern is often reflected in other business spaces too. Therefore, it pays to look carefully at a range of potential wastage situations.

Usage of equipment and heat:

1. Is there regular servicing and maintenance? Malfunctioning raises costs by up to 30%.

2. Are portable heaters used? These are costly, though a time switch helps increase efficiency.

3. Is there simultaneous operation of air conditioners and heaters? A surprisingly common form of wastage, this can be prevented by programming a ‘dead zone' of 5˚C between cooling and heating trigger levels.

4. Instant water heaters efficiently deliver small quantities of hot water, perhaps allowing a summer shutdown of the main boiler.

5. Zonal heating helps to focus resources, for example corridors and storerooms won't need much heat.

6. Warm air is sometimes used to reduce warehouse humidity - a task which dehumidifiers perform more efficiently.

7. Correctly set thermostats, in optimum locations, maintain precise and efficient control of internal heating zones.

8. Correctly set time controls help optimise heating schedules. State-of-the-art types even react to prevailing weather conditions.

Lighting

Typical business office lighting costs can be reduced by around two-thirds in an energy-efficient office; and there are many easy and cost-effective ways to cut lighting costs without causing discomfort or endangering health and safety.

Lighting usage:

1. Newer 26mm slimline fluorescent lighting tubes are cheaper to purchase and 10% cheaper to run.

2. Fluorescent tubes should be switched off when a room is empty - start up uses only a tiny amount of power.

3. Grubby rooflights and shades will reduce light levels.

4. Old-style tungsten bulbs are much more expensive than the newer fluorescent bulbs, which are 75% cheaper to use.

5. ‘Task lighting', which lights the actual workspace and provides lower-level backlighting for the remaining space, is often an efficient strategy.

6. Substantial cost savings can be achieved where it is appropriate to install LED lighting.

7. Any exterior lighting should be timer-controlled to optimise its efficiency.

8. Lighting unoccupied premises is wasteful - the overnight lighting of a standard office uses the same energy as boiling water for 1,000 cups of coffee. Raising staff awareness is the best way to achieve significant improvements.

Office equipment

1. Office equipment consumes around 20% of the total energy used in an office-savings can be achieved by monitoring patterns of use.

2. Switching off computers overnight reduces annual costs by 75%.

3. Photocopiers should also be switched off overnight, and located in naturally ventilated areas to reduce air-conditioning requirements.

4. It may be cost-efficient to consider the power needs of equipment such as faxes, and printers too.

5. Old kettles, refrigerators, and similar, are less efficient than newer models, which are cheaper to run.

Factory floor

Some commonly occurring issues are highlighted below:

1. Leakage in compressed air systems is costly, though easily repaired. Compressors should be switched off during downtime.

2. Electric-powered machine tools and other systems should be shut down when not in use.

3. High-efficiency motors, 3-5% cheaper to run, cost the same as other types.

4. Keeping refrigeration doors closed, and equipment well-maintained, can significantly reduce costs.

Data audits

Modern billing and metering makes it easy to take control of energy costs. Bills can be checked, patterns of use can be analysed, and precise year-on-year comparisons achieved. Reductions can be effected by switching to cheaper tariffs, altering production schedules to avoid peak-energy rates, and negotiating with your current provider or even switching to a cheaper deal.

Author: C McDonald. I am working on behalf of one of the countries leading commercial energy suppliers that Launched in 2006 specifically to serve the electricity needs of small to medium sized business customers. To view their product range please visit www.havenpower.com.

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