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4 ways small businesses can keep down energy costs

April 23, 2015

For many small business owners and start ups energy is what you wish you had more of at the end of a long day! But, when it comes to utilities, then energy is also a key part of your overheads and can have a big impact on the bottom line.

A recent Censuswide survey found that three-quarters of SMEs believe they pay too much for their utilities. That equates to a whopping 3.9 million businesses across the UK.

However, there are a number of simple steps that can help you reduce your energy bills, these range from changing staff behaviour, through to finding a deal with a different supplier or using different tariffs.

The savings you make can be significant, so it’s worth a little of your valuable time and energy. To help you get started, here are 4 things you can do to save money on your energy bills right now;

1. Get everyone involved

The cheapest energy is the energy you don’t use. And the best way to make sure you’re not wasting wattage is to get your employees involved.

There may only be one or two of you, a gang of ten or a small office full, but together you can really make a difference. Just getting everyone to turn off machines at the end of day, rather than leaving them on standby, could save you £350 each year, according to the Carbon Trust.

Get into good habits like this now and the savings will really mount up if you grow, or take on new staff. And what better way to incentivise your current employees than by offering to put the money you collectively save towards a team treat, whether it’s the Christmas party or free lunches from the local sandwich shop?

These new behaviours will soon become second nature, especially if everyone’s vigilance is rewarded with small things that make the attention to energy usage feel valued and worthwhile.

2. Have a light bulb moment

Once you’ve got your team into the habit of hitting the off switch, you might want to think about having a good spring clean.

What does cleaning have to do with energy saving? If you’re working in a dim office or workspace and thinking about acquiring more lights or upgrading to more powerful bulbs, try cleaning your windows and light fittings regularly before you make the leap.

It sounds odd, but you’d be surprised how many people don’t do this. You might as well make sure you’re getting the best value from the facilities you already have before you spend any more money!

If you do decide to upgrade your light fittings, you should consider opting for energy efficiency. For example, LED spotlights use 92% less energy than the halogen equivalents, while inefficient strip lighting uses over 20% more energy than T5 tubes. You could save even more energy by switching from a T12 tube to LED.

Technology can also help you to cut the electricity your small business uses;

  • Motion sensors can turn lights on and off automatically in areas where staff have their hands full coming and going
  • Timers that can turn off lights when your premises are closed are invaluable, especially for shop owners who want to keep their curb appeal after dark, but don’t want to pay for keeping the lights on all night
  • Dimmable controls that can sense the sunlight coming in and reduce the power going to the lights, maintaining the correct lux level while reducing your energy consumption.

3. Be savvy and shop around for the best energy deal

For many of us comparing our mortgage deal, looking at the latest offers on credit cards and spotting the best bargains has become an everyday occurrence. Being a savvy shopper is a badge we’re proud to wear.

As a small business owner your eye is always on the bottom line, and you’ll drive a hard bargain to get a good deal. Yet, when it comes to energy there’s still a blind spot about switching.

The Censuswide survey also found that nearly half of small businesses have never switched suppliers or tariffs, with one in five reporting that they didn’t know that switching was an option for them.

So why aren’t businesses reaping the rewards of shopping around? For most bosses it’s the familiar story of being too busy being in business: 46% fear costs and fees attached to transferring to a new supplier and a similar number were worried about having more paperwork to do.

Incredibly, over a quarter of businesses even believe that switching providers will cause a disruption to their energy supply and that they may be left for a period of time with no gas or electricity

It is undeniably daunting and more complicated for commercial enterprises to navigate switching but that’s where experts can help by taking the hassle out of switching and helping businesses like yours manage their energy better. The best consultancies provide a trouble-free, efficient service with a personal touch.

4. Move away from estimated bills

When the gas, water and electricity bills do come in make sure that you’re paying for what you’ve used, rather than an estimated bill.

Estimates leave everyone unhappy: you’re often either hit with a big bill you didn’t know was coming when the readings finally get taken or you over pay for months before having to wrangle to get that hard earned money back. Your cash flow can do without either option.

Instead, make a date in the diary to check bills either online or with paper copies. The best energy consultancies will offer this as part of their service when it comes to finding you a better deal on your energy supply. That way you can be flexible to any changes in the market and know when it is time to start shopping around again.

If you know you don’t have the time to check the readings yourself choose one of your staff and delegate this task to them. After all you can’t recognise the savings if you don’t know how much you spend in the first place.

By reducing consumption and shopping around for a better deal you can move out of the energy efficiency darkness and into the light.

About the author

This article was written for ByteStart by Andrew Richardson, Deputy CEO of Utilitywise, one of the UK’s leading energy and water consultancies. Utilitywise has more than 20,000 customers up and down the country and has switched 80% of new customers to a better deal in the past year.

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