Please note that this article is intended for educational purposes only and should not be deemed to be or used as legal, employment, or tax advice. For guidance or advice specific to your business, consult with a qualified professional.
Millions of small businesses in Ireland and around Europe are facing a worrying winter as energy prices continue to surge. Since February, energy has risen 349%. With further increases expected this month and the country in the grip of a cost-of-living crisis, it’s no wonder many small business owners fear they may not survive.
While you can’t change the record energy prices – the result of a highly volatile global market, surging demand, the Ukraine war, and inflation – follow these business energy-saving tips to keep your costs as low as possible.
Turn it off
It sounds obvious, but it’s easy to forget, whether it’s a light switch in an office or a coffee-grinding machine standing idle in a café. Even if appliances are on standby, they use a small amount of electricity which can add up to a lot over a year, so make sure you switch them off at the plug when not in use.
Don’t wait to get a new deal
Firstly, make sure you know when your energy contract is up for renewal, and if it’s six months or less, get looking now. We’re facing a sustained business energy crisis, and prices aren’t likely to drop any time soon, so make sure you get the best deal you can before they rise even further.
Reject any take or buy clauses
When you do renegotiate your energy contract, watch out for this clause in the terms and conditions. An energy supplier may try to get you to take a certain amount of electricity and charge you for it, whether you use it or not. If you spot this kind of clause, avoid it at all costs.
Know your KVA load
Within your energy contract, you’ll have a KVA load, which is the amount of electricity your provider supplies you with. If you exceed it, they’ll fine you, known as a reactive power charge, so make sure you know what it is and take steps to stay within the allowance.
Know your energy usage
Understanding how much you consume is key to working out where wastage occurs, shaving pounds off your energy bill, and avoiding exceeding your KVA load. Monitor your usage throughout the day so you can adjust energy-hungry equipment wherever possible. Consider installing a smart metre to keep track of exactly where most of your usage goes.
Do an energy audit
Take this step a stage further and have a professional come to your office or shop for an energy audit, to identify any areas you can make cost savings. It could be installing better lighting, adding insulation to reduce heating costs, or using plant architecture to create shady spots or protect buildings from wind – all things which can have a knock-on effect on energy bills.
Whether you run an office-based business or a restaurant, lighting is a huge power guzzler, but you can make savvy savings by switching out your traditional bulbs for LEDs. There are smart LEDs with controls that adjust automatically depending on the natural light available and turn themselves on and off. Even better, bring in an expert to devise a lighting plan – yes, it costs you up front, but over time it saves you money by reducing fittings and maximising the usage of natural light.
Get your staff on board
Sometimes just making staff aware you’re on an energy-saving drive can pay dividends. Introduce an energy-saving policy, encouraging them to switch off when they’re done.
Lower the temperature (just a tiny bit)
Dropping your thermostat by just 1 degree can make a dent in your annual utility bill, with energy savings of as much as 13%. It’s a small change for your staff and customers, and it’s easy to do, but it could save you pounds over the next 12 months.
Don’t bother heating areas that are rarely used, like stairwells, corridors, or storage rooms. Heating these areas simply wastes your money.
Reduce your energy usage without alienating your customers
Whether you run a café or designer boutique, you want to make it welcoming for your customers. But you can still maintain the ambience and save money:
Keep exterior doors closed as much as possible rather than turn up the heating
Install blinds to stop the sun from overheating your shop, instead of switching on the aircon
Add blinds to refrigerator display units – they stop refrigerated air from escaping when you’re closed
Lower your hot water temperature
Instead of using a kettle, use a hot water heating machine which uses less electricity
Invest in better equipment
Hospitality businesses in particular have lots of heavy energy-use equipment, but if it’s old it may run very inefficiently. Every time it breaks down or needs replacing, look for more energy-efficient alternatives.
Embrace remote working
Remember how much your consumption dropped during the lockdown? While WFH isn’t for every business, if your staff can operate remotely one or two days a week, this can add up to €€€ saved on your energy bill.
Turn down your equipment
Consider reducing the speed or power of any equipment you use, provided it doesn’t impact performance. A small drop in power can equate to a bigger energy saving without any noticeable drop in productivity.
Avoid printing whenever possible and make sure to turn your printer off entirely when not in use. Sign up for any paperless services your suppliers and bank offer, too.
The European energy crisis is far from over and while it’s a worrying time for everyone, these energy-saving ideas for businesses can help. They won’t stop prices from rising, but they can cushion the blow.