How to reduce energy bills in winter – a no-cost approach to energy-saving can reduce energy bills for office-based companies by as much as 20%—without compromising staff comfort.
With energy one of the largest controllable overheads in office buildings, reducing office energy consumption makes perfect business sense; it saves money, improves working conditions (which in turn increases productivity) and reduces carbon emissions, which enhances corporate reputation.
Yet minimising gas and electricity costs in a busy office environment during the winter months can seem like a challenge. With heating pushing gas and electricity bills higher—not to mention electrical equipment to run—it might seem as if your bills are beyond your control, but it’s possible to minimise the cost of heating, regardless of which system is in place.
Here’s how to reduce energy bills in winter
Optimising office heating efficiency
The cheapest energy is the energy you don’t use, but many office-based small and medium-sized companies under-estimate the extent to which simple actions can save energy, cut costs and increase productivity. By focusing on low and zero-cost measures, you’ll be amazed at the savings you can make with the quickest payback without compromising staff comfort.
Minimise the cost of heating, regardless of which system is in place
Heating accounts for 20-40% of energy costs in a typical office environment, which means that there’re ample opportunities to make savings, with some businesses shaving up to a third off their heating costs through the implementation of some simple energy-saving measures.
Reducing heating temperatures by just 1°C can cut fuel consumption by 8%—in a large office this can save enough energy to print over 40 million sheets of A4 paper.
Consider comfort and temperatures
The recommended temperature for offices and sedentary work is 21–23°C. Most people feel comfortable in a temperature range of between 18-26°C, provided the temperature is in line with outdoor conditions. However, when setting temperatures, it may be sufficient to set thermostats to 19-20°C, since internal heat gains from equipment and lighting will bring the temperature up to a level that most workers find comfortable.
Match working hours
Check that system operating hours match the times when heating is required and use inexpensive time controls to automatically switch off the heating at the end of a work day.
Some signs of poor control include:
- Heating remains on when the building is unoccupied, because timers are set incorrectly
- Heating is on too high or not high enough, because the thermostat is located where sunlight, radiators or office equipment affect its reading
Rather than relying solely on controls, ensure settings are reviewed every month. Systems often operate inefficiently because someone made a short-term adjustment that was forgotten about.
Often, simple adjustments to the location and control settings can reduce costs without affecting staff comfort.
Heating system control can be problematic with old, inefficient time controls. Upgrades can pay for themselves very quickly through energy and cost savings.
Certain heating systems now automatically adjust themselves to the UK’s changeable weather. These include a compensator, which automatically regulates the heating temperature according to the weather, and an optimum start controller, which brings the heating on at the optimal time prior to building occupancy.
Keep systems clear and unobstructed
Clear radiators, fans and ducts of furniture and other obstructions, keep fans and ducts clean, and replace any filters at manufacturers’ recommended intervals.
Maintain boilers and pipe work
A regularly serviced boiler can save as much as 10% on annual heating costs. Gas-fired boilers should be serviced once a year; oil boilers twice a year. Furthermore, boilers, hot water tanks, pipes and valves should be insulated to prevent heat from escaping. Payback can usually be expected within a few months of installation, with additional savings in subsequent years.
Consider installing a Building Energy Management System (BMS or BEMS)
Based on a network of controllers, a BEMS can reduce total energy costs in a medium to large office by 10% or more by offering closer control and monitoring of building services performance, including heating, ventilation and air-conditioning. This is shown on a computer screen in real time, enabling settings to be changed quickly and easily.
Obtain feedback from staff
Office staff usually have strong views about an office’s internal temperature. This is valuable information, so encourage staff to report areas that are too hot, cold or draughty. Investigating problem areas and addressing maintenance issues will make workers less likely to bring in portable electric heaters whilst heating is on and discourage staff from tampering with thermostats. Encourage your staff to come up with their own ideas on how to reduce energy bills in winter.
When considering how to reduce energy bills in winter, why not consult the experts? Smarter Business energy consultants can help you achieve both quick wins and long-term efficiencies when it comes to saving energy. Click here for more information.