Make money by saving money

Taking steps to reduce energy consumption can make you a saving of between 20-30% on your annual bill.

Why be energy efficient?

Cash savings are not the only reasons for being energy efficient. Others include:

Working environment

Making some simple improvements to lighting and heating to improve energy efficiency will benefit your business in two key ways. It will help drive sales, as your premises will become a more comfortable place for your customers to visit. For you and your staff, it will make your business a more pleasant environment to work in.

Taking responsibility

Energy efficiency measures can help make your business more attractive to customers, as we find consumers, and also existing and potential new employees, are frequently becoming more concerned about the environmental impact of businesses. In recent research, one in four consumers said they would prefer to buy from businesses that are environmentally responsible.

Informing your customers about your 'green' credentials, of which energy efficiency is a very practical example, will give you an additional point of differentiation against your competition. Consumers might choose to buy your products or services in preference to your competitors because of the efforts you have made to reduce your businesses' environmental impact.

You might think that this is more aimed at larger businesses. This is not the case because large corporate companies in fact employ only around three percent of the total workforce and it is small companies that constitute the vast majority of companies in the UK.

Monitoring and performance

The best way to find out how much you have saved is to monitor energy usage before and after any changes, and it's really easy to do. For example, the typical annual energy cost per square foot for an independent retailer is normally about £38. If your energy bill is higher than this then there is definitely scope to save money by implementing some of our tips.

After all which business, large or small can afford to waste money? According to British Gas Business' commercial director, Adrian Harvey, “It's essential that owners of small businesses keep an eagle eye on energy costs. If a retailer has a 10% margin, £100 a year saved on electricity has the same effect as increasing turnover by £1,000 and frankly it’s much easier to do.”

To help you on the road to turning your business into a lean mean green machine here are a few easy starter tips:

· Replace light bulbs with energy-saving equivalents. Compact fluorescent lamps last eight times longer than tungsten bulbs, and use a quarter of the energy

· Get the most out of your light. Clean your light fittings for maximum reflection, and clean windows and skylights

Once you have carried out the basic steps to becoming energy efficient, try these more detailed measures and watch you savings grow:

· Set your heating thermostat to between 19 degrees and 21 degrees. For every 1 degrees of overheating, energy consumption rises by 8-10% – it will also make customers more comfortable. After all, who wants to walk into a hot, stuffy business!

· If you have air conditioning, only use it on hot days where temperatures are 25 degrees and over, as natural ventilation should be sufficient. So, open windows and doors on hot days, fit solar film onto windows to reduce the heat from direct sunlight. Avoiding air-conditioning could reduce your energy spend by 50%, and if it’s too cold in your store, customers might go elsewhere.

· Keep the gap between the switch-on temperatures for your heating and air-conditioning as wide as possible, so they will not both be working at the same time. For example, if your heating comes on when temperature dips below say 19 degrees, and your air-conditioning comes on at 25 degrees and above, when the temperature in your store is between 19 degrees and 25 degrees, you are not using energy on heating or air-conditioning – and saving money.

You also need to think about your other energy users such as computers. Make sure that you and your staff remember to turn them off when you are not using them, especially at night, or install a simple timer to control the power.

What the experts say

If you are really serious about reducing your energy consumption consider reviewing every aspect of your business to see where savings might be made.

Vince Wells, Managing Director of Energys, consultants for British Gas Business on energy efficiency, believes that, “It is vital to take a systematic approach. Start your review nearest the point of consumption and work back towards the point of supply. So if you take lighting look at the lamps and fittings and decide how to make them efficient first; then you can evaluate the potential benefits of measures such as lighting controls.

“Once you have implemented changes it is important that you regularly monitor your energy consumption in order to maintain the efficiency you have worked to achieve. This could mean something as simple as checking the electricity meter every week and comparing the consumption over time. Any significant changes in consumption should be investigated and dealt with.”

Wasted energy is the same as any other waste in your business, something you should always minimise. It's plain common sense.

© Crimson Business Ltd 2006