As a sustainability consultant working for Coventry City Council on their Green Business Programme*, much of my working day is spent looking up at ceilings or at walls! This is because I walk around client’s sites looking at lighting, building fabric, equipment and manufacturing processes considering where they can make the most significant energy savings. In this blog I discuss some of the easiest and most effective no cost/low-cost energy saving top tips that organisations can implement. The Carbon Trust (www.carbontrust.com) suggest that typically organisations can reduce their energy bill by 10-20% by implementing no cost or low cost energy saving measures.
1. ENSURE THAT YOU ONLY PAY FOR ENERGY YOU ACTUALLY USE BY TAKING ACCURATE METER READINGS: and try to understand where your energy is being used on your site.
A couple of years ago I visited a client (let’s call him Brian) at his food manufacturing site. As I was looking at his electricity bills in his office with a warm steaming coffee I said to him “Brian, so you tell me that your site closes at 6:30pm every night and yet I can see from your estimated bills that you are being charged for night time consumption that is costing you as much as your day-time electricity usage each month. How is this even possible?!”
Brian scratched his head, he did not know. We then went for the energy audit walk around his site and then I exclaimed “Hey, Brian, come and see this! Look, here is an electricity meter that has actually been decommissioned a while back. I believe your energy supplier is still charging you for this night time meter based on estimated readings”. This assumption proved correct and I’m pleased to say he did receive a healthy financial rebate for more than 12 months of incorrect energy usage for this error by the energy supplier.
The first point of investigation I look at in a company for potential energy savings is their energy bills. Whilst, not the most exciting starting point, it can be very effective! I am astounded by how many client’s bills are based on estimated readings. More often than not, the energy supplier will substantially over estimate the cost and the company really has no idea what their annual energy consumption actually is.
To understand where energy savings can be made, you have to take control of your energy usage and know how much this is actually costing you per annum and ideally where, for example, on lighting, air compressors, cooling or heating systems, office equipment, and manufacturing equipment. Once you know where the most energy is being used, then you can target that area to make energy savings.
Here are just a few more points for consideration about your energy bills:
• Look at your tariff rates you are paying per kWh. Does your tariff seem reasonable or can you switch to another supplier or improved contract (subject to contract renewal conditions)? However, when considering alternative tariff rates please do look at the additional charges (e.g. connection charges). Two understandably rather agitated clients of mine are tied into contracts on half hourly smart meters with 70% of their monthly electric bill just for additional charges, not even the electricity they are actually using.
• Check taxes and other charges are fair and accurate.
2. COOLING AND HEATING TOP TIPS IN THE OFFICE – set programmable controls appropriately to occupancy patterns and at correct temperatures.
More often than not, especially for older air conditioning units, I note they do not have sufficient programmable controls. For example, when in “heating mode” in cold winter months air conditioning units can be left on to heat open planned offices although the site is closed. Thus, in such instances, I demonstrate to my clients that for a typical investment of around £500 they can purchase a programmable control panel to programme air conditioning units to switch-on and off subject to hours of occupancy patterns and ambient air temperature settings.
Similarly, these controls can programme the air conditioning units to switch on and off as appropriate for cooling offices in the warmer summer months. Typically, payback on investment is well within 1 year. It’s also worth noting that new air conditioning units are at least 30% more energy efficient than older models due to the heat pump technology inside them. The Edie website (https://www.edie.net) has some useful information on energy efficiency technologies and events where you can find out more.
Incidentally, for cooling offices, desktop fans/standing fans can give the feel of a cooling effect and can be 10% running costs of an air conditioning system (if practical and comfortable to do so).
For central heating systems, ensure the boiler has associated programmable thermostatic controls and that these are set correctly. For example, the Carbon Trust reference 21 to 23 degrees centigrade for offices in their literature.**
3. ENERGY SAVING TOP TIPS FOR HEATING IN THE FACTORY OR WAREHOUSE.
During energy audits, it’s not unusual for me to see factories or warehouses with oil or natural gas fuelled industrial hot blower heaters (e.g. 50 kWs to 150 kW heaters) unnecessarily blasting warm heat out with roller shutter doors wide open, wasting considerable amounts of energy and money. 3 simple top tips to help improve the efficiency of such systems are:
– Install a sensor from the roller shutter door to the heater so that when the door is open the heater switches off. Typical investment is around £300 to £500 for an electrician to install the sensor and payback can be well within one year.
– Manual pulley roller shutter doors can be upgraded to have motors. For around £1, 000 a manual shutter door can have a motor installed to become a fast rapid door meaning staff are more likely to use the door and close this more often.
– Install thermal destratification fans to hang from the ceiling. This is just a smart name for fans that circulate rising warm air back to the ground where staff are working. If heaters are connected to thermostatic sensors then they will switch off when they sense the warmer air at the ground level, meaning the heater does not have to work so hard or for such long periods blasting out warm air. Savings can be around 25% on heating costs.
4. LIGHTING UPGRADES IN OFFICES AND WAREHOUSES OR FACTORIES.
A very effective way to reduce costs is to replace out-dated lighting with LED upgrades. This is applicable to offices, warehouses and factories. Typically, you can reduce your lighting running costs by a significant 60% to 70% as LED lights are so very efficient and the lighting quality can be much improved.
5. PROCESS EQUIPMENT IN FACTORIES.
Whilst more bespoke, its possible that manufacturing equipment can have new energy efficient motors installed or variable speed drives replacing fixed drives (e.g. in an air compressor) to improve the running energy efficiency of processes and help to reduce annual running costs, typically by 10-30%.
If you think that your business can benefit from my top tips, from a free energy audit and possibly receive a 40% grant contribution then please get in touch.
* The green business programme is partly funded by the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) to support SME business to reduce carbon emissions in Coventry and Warwickshire. To determine eligibility for the green business programme, please visit https://www.coventry.gov.uk/greenbusinessprogramme
The benefit of the green business programme for clients is that they have a free energy savings audit and a no obligation energy savings recommendations report. There is also the possibility to apply for a grant to help implement the recommendations made, for example, for the types of energy saving top tips I have referred to above and for investment in new modern energy efficient equipment to replace out-dated machinery.