When I was young, I was scared of the dark. Now, when I see my electricity bill, I’m scared of the lights.
The worldwide geopolitical events of the past year, resulting in rocketing energy prices, have upset many financial predictions and budgets. Although ‘price caps’ and similar policies have shielded households (to some extent) from the dire doomsday scenarios some claimed would occur, businesses have been less fortunate and have seen their energy bills double or treble in space of a few months.
Prices have since stabilised, and as we’re now coming out of a mild winter, are starting to see a steady retreat from the peak costs seen last year – but interest in energy conservation is still ‘hot’ (pun intended).
Applying the rules of physics
What some commentators overlook (in my opinion) is that basic rules of physics apply to energy use, and some suggestions rather smack of the old adage about the cure being worse than the disease. The law of conservation of energy states that energy can neither be created nor destroyed – only converted from one form of energy to another; hence the first focus (and likely the one where the biggest and easiest wins can be achieved) should be to reduce, as far as is practically possible, energy being used for non-useful purposes.
One thing I realised many years ago at college was that the same amount of energy – and hence cost – was needed to heat a stated volume of water to boiling point, irrespective of the size of the heating appliance.
In context – it costs exactly the same to boil a litre of water using a fast-boil 3KW kettle as it does when using a 1KW travel kettle; the only difference is that the 3KW kettle achieves it in a third of the time.
From this, whilst using smaller appliances may seem to be a way of saving energy, the basic physics dictate that this concept is false – things just take longer to complete.
Changes you could make to reduce energy costs for your business
Here are some of my thoughts/ideas that could be deployed in any business:
1) Internal Lighting – don’t waste energy lighting unoccupied spaces! Whether you have energy-efficient LED or traditional fluorescent lighting installed, there is no point in illuminating infrequently occupied rooms. Storerooms, kitchens, washrooms , and warehouses are all examples of essential spaces – but ones that only need to be accessed occasionally. Occupancy sensors (that switch lighting on when movement is detected, and the ambient levels are low) are a great possibility. (But do evaluate whether the cost of installing them would outweigh the savings.)
2) Security Lighting – change these for low-energy lamps, and only run them during hours of darkness. Security lighting is there for a purpose (to deter criminals during the night) so it makes little sense to not use them based on energy saving if the risk of burglary is increased. Older light fittings can be retrofitted with energy-efficient LED lamps at a fraction of the cost of replacing the whole light unit; in the UK, total annual darkness is around 4,300 hours – so even modest energy savings will quickly stack up and cover the initial investment.
3) Ban fan (and similar) heaters – these are the office equivalent of a massive gas-guzzling V8! Nobody enjoys cold feet, but a bit of draught-proofing and some warm socks (boots, even) will do the job just as well …
4) Switch computer monitors off at nights and at weekends – but leave the PC switched on! Just like lighting, there is no point in burning energy if someone isn’t sitting in front of the monitor. But remember that leaving the PC on allows essential security and software updates to be installed without affecting users’ work time.
5) The heating (or air con) is on full blast, and the windows wide open – office climate control is a thorny subject, and polarised between those who like it stiflingly hot and the others who can only work in freezing cold. – perhaps a simple change-round of seating might be a solution so that the heat-lovers are near the radiator, and the cold-blooded ones by the door
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