Taking a close look at the energy costs of your business will help identify areas that are using the most energy, and give you an idea of where to start saving energy. Reducing the energy bill not only saves money, it also helps lower your contribution to climate change by reducing the carbon footprint of your business.
A recent study showed that a 20% cut in energy costs can represent the same bottom-line benefit for your business as a 5% increase in sales. So where can businesses start to save energy?
Heating and cooling
Simply lowering your office temperature by one degree can cut your heating bills by 10%. Turn heating or air-conditioning down or off at night, and consider installing a timer or programmable thermostat to regulate temperature.
Check ducts and pipe insulation for damage, clean condenser coils and replace filters. Close shades or blinds on the windows in the early mornings and late afternoons, and keep doors to the outside closed wherever possible. Consider investing in loft or cavity wall insulation, make sure windows and doors are well sealed, and when replacing appliances, choose energy-efficient models.
Turn off all lights at the end of the day. Clean bulbs, fixtures, lenses, lamps and reflective surfaces regularly. Substitute incandescent light bulbs with compact fluorescent lamps, which use less electricity for the same lighting output. Remove excess fluorescent lights and install reflectors.
Consider installing motion detectors to control lighting in frequently unoccupied areas such as storage rooms, bathrooms, and photocopying rooms. Use task lighting instead of overhead lighting, and light only those areas that are needed at the time. Use natural light whenever possible.
Keep equipment properly cleaned, maintained and serviced regularly. Turn computers, monitors, printers and copiers off at the end of the day. Encourage staff to use power-down settings or to switch off their computer monitors when away from their desks: screen savers keep monitors running at full power. If appropriate, use laptops, which consume 90% less energy than desktop computers. Inkjet printers use 90% less energy than laser printers. Share printers as much as possible and run photocopiers in batches.
Train your staff in fuel-efficient driving techniques. Promote car-sharing when appropriate and encourage employees to make use of public transport whenever possible. Use e-mail and video conferencing to cut down on travel costs of face-to-face meetings. When buying or replacing company vehicles, compare the energy requirements of various models and make your choice based on fuel-efficiency.
Reduce, reuse, recycle
If your business uses paper, metals, glass, plastics or cardboard, encourage your staff to look for ways to reduce unnecessary consumption, reuse inputs and recycle materials.
Trees planted around your building can provide surprising cost-cutting and energy-saving benefits. They can lower wind speeds by up to 50%, reducing the need for heating. In terms of natural cooling, just three well-placed trees can save up to 30% of a building's costs.
This is an edited version of an article that first featured online at emergingstars.com
This feature has been made possible by the Mail & Guardian's advertisers. Contents and photographs were sourced independently by the M&G's supplements editorial team. It forms part of the bigger supplement.