You don’t need to make big changes to improve your energy efficiency. Little things can add up in a hurry. Robert McMahon is managing director of Energy Conservation, mind a company that conducts energy audits for businesses Australia-wide. Robert says there are several areas where small businesses can make savings
“Lighting technology has improved enormously in recent years,” Robert says. “The new fluorescent tubes that are available produce five percent more light for just two-thirds of the electricity. You can get even greater savings by replacing halogen down lights with LED down lights.”
There are more savings to be made than just the electricity required to power the lights. Inefficient lights generate heat, which in the warmer seasons means air conditioning must work harder to compensate. The new fluorescent tubes also have up to 15,000 hours of life compared to just 800 hours for the older tubes, so you’ll save on your maintenance bills as well.
Robert also recommends installing sensors that turn the lights on when someone enters an area and off again when they leave. These are most effective in low-traffic areas such as storerooms and bathrooms. The commonly-held belief that turning lights on creates a surge of power is a myth. It is more economical to turn lights on and off, even frequently, than to leave them on continuously.
Heating and cooling
The temperature settings of heaters and air conditioners matter. Would it be possible to turn the heating or air conditioning down without affecting comfort?
The most economical, and still comfortable, setting for cooling is 24-25°C. For each degree lower, cooling costs rise by 20%. The most economical setting for heating is 18-20°C. This may not be warm enough, but take into account that for every degree above 20°C, costs increase by up to 20%.
It may not be possible to alter the temperature settings you use, but there are ways to reduce the power required to achieve these settings. “Make sure you are not heating and cooling areas that don’t need it,” adds Robert.
Just like at home, keep doors closed to rooms that don’t need to be heated or cooled. Robert also suggests turning the heating or cooling off half-an-hour before the end of the day.
“The temperature won’t change much in that last half-hour, but the savings over a whole year will add up,” he adds.
It is also possible to reduce heat exchange through your windows. “Thermal blinds are very effective,” says Robert. “They don’t affect the light that passes through, but they do keep the heat out in summer and in during winter. Plus, in winter, they can be opened on sunny days to let in the heat.”
Turning computers off when not needed is an easy way to cut energy use, so make sure staff follow the basic rule of turning their computer off at the end of each day. Don’t forget about your printers either.
Even turning monitors off when not in use can create reductions. Screen savers don’t reduce energy use and the energy required to power a single monitor is significant. If a computer needs to be accessed quickly, so it can’t be turned off, but can go an hour or more without being used, putting the monitor into sleep mode will make a difference.
“Most modern computers have an automatic sleep mode. You just need to ensure it is enabled,” Robert says.
The kitchen may be a small part of your office, but it shouldn’t be forgotten. Robert says inefficient equipment is usually the main cause of excessive power use in the kitchen, though equipment that is bigger than required also plays a role. Fridges are common offenders for both problems.
There are other considerations when evaluating your power costs, such as the potential damage to expensive office equipment. Paul Tyrer, vice president, Pacific, at Schneider Electric IT, claims the most common mistake small businesses make is insufficient knowledge. He explains that a single power outage, surge, or spike can damage expensive electronic components and result in data loss.
“Consistent surges also have the ability to shorten the lifespan of computers, printers, network components and other equipment,” he explains. “For all businesses it is vital to ensure that everything in your company is backed-up and protected.”
According to Paul, the best way to protect your equipment is with an uninterruptible power supply (UPS) which is essentially a standalone battery that provides emergency power to your computer systems if the main power fails. He recommends a free program that Schneider Electric IT runs to educate small business owners and staff about the potential risks.
The most powerful way of all to save on your energy bills is to get staff involved with the idea. Even the best plans will fail if staff are not committed to implementing them. It is important to communicate why the initiatives are being introduced – whether it is to reduce energy bills or improve the environmental footprint – so your employees understand the aims of the plan and get behind it.
Energy saving tips
Paul Tyrer, vice president, Pacific, at Schneider Electric IT, shares his thoughts on saving on energy bills.
Measure – it is important for all organisations to measure where, around the office, energy is being consumed. This is so they can understand the areas of concern and target areas to improve. If you can’t measure your energy usage, you can’t manage it.
Start simple – there can be some very simple, inexpensive and practical steps that can be done to drive efficiency. For example, LED lighting is one area where savings can be achieved. LED lights will deliver up to 75% energy saving over most halogen down lights straight away.
Continuous monitoring – even after initial improvements are made, you should continously monitor on a permanent basis. That’s because demands on IT and electrical devices may change over time. The demands of your IT can change quite rapidly. You need to have IT equipment that is designed in an agile way from the outset, so you can adapt to changing requirements, such as new government legislation which can happen often.
Replace – old office equipment should be switched out with newer, more energy efficient equipment. New computers, printers, and heating and cooling devices, are designed to enter sleep mode when they’re not in use. This simple feature can help to reduce the cost of your electricity bills.
Audit – professional energy audits can be done in any office. An auditor will examine your office and help spot ways you can save even more energy – it’s often worth the cost.