With such a strong focus currently on saving energy to drive down costs – as well as emissions – we asked energy specialist Mark Griffin to share his top seven tips from his many years of conducting business energy audits for organisations of all sizes and sectors.
1. Start at the bottom
When businesses start working towards net zero, it’s tempting to focus on high-profile projects such as installing renewable generation assets or moving your fleet to electric vehicles. But starting with the low-hanging fruit – which tend to be less intrusive low-cost projects – can often provide quick wins that help you to realise savings faster. The savings you make will also free up budget to pay for projects that require investment.
2. Get clear on your data
To effectively track progress, it’s important to first understand exactly where and how your business is consuming energy – and how these translate to emissions. So get clear on what’s being used by all the different processes and activities in your business – from heating, lighting and powering equipment and machinery, to which sites use what and when. An energy monitoring and data visualisation platform can be helpful here, although you could record this information via a spreadsheet. For monitoring individual processes, sub-metering can also provide invaluable insights. Once you have data visibility, you can then compare sites, floors, areas – and start to spot anomalies.
3. Create a level playing field
Once any anomalies become clear – for example that the square metre/kWh usage on one floor, area or site is twice as much as another – you can then start to investigate why, and start to plan interventions. For example, lighting or equipment may be left on all night, or too many windows are being opened while the heating is running, rather than adjusting the temperature. Making the necessary adjustments will generate immediate savings that can free up more budget to focus on investing in other energy-saving measures, such as new lighting or improvements to building insulation.
4. Take your business’s temperature
As we approach winter, heating costs will obviously increase. Together, heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) are responsible for around 60-70% of a building’s energy costs. So ensuring these functions are set at an appropriate level – and also synchronised with building occupancy times – can save on unnecessary expenditure. An effective building management system (BMS) can automate this process, and even control HVAC individually in rooms that are not used daily (e.g. meeting rooms). Adjustments to the building control strategy can typically save around 20% in building energy costs, depending on the level of controls you have.
5. Investigate your building fabric
As we move towards net zero, upgrading to low-carbon HVAC solutions will become more important. But before you look to upgrade fossil-fuel systems, first focus on the energy efficiency of your sites. By this I mean improving the building envelope to reduce unnecessary heat/cooling losses through the building fabric. This way you won’t opt for a system that’s oversized for what you need. So review insulation in walls, ceilings and roof spaces, as well as around windows and doors – and install appropriate measures to stop energy escaping. Improving your building fabric can reduce energy bills by as much as 15%.
6. Review lighting options
Lighting typically accounts for around 20% of a building’s energy consumption, so making sure this is as efficient as possible is another key area to save energy. For example, switching florescent or incandescent bulbs to LED can save around 60% on running costs. Also consider a full lighting re-design, rather than a like-for-like replacement, where possible. You can save on capex cost by installing fewer light fittings, and significantly improve your return on investment – while achieving better light output levels – from the LED fittings installed. Installing occupancy and daylight controls can also reduce unnecessary lighting use, which can potentially add between 20-30% saving.
7. Get help where you need it
Businesses often lack the time and resources to gather all the information they need and formulate the most effective plan. This can include knowing which technology options would work best to upgrade existing equipment or systems, and analysing return on investment to meet budget requirements. So reach out for expert guidance where you need it, as this will often more than pay for itself if you choose wisely.
Strategic Account Manager at E.ON Control Solutions Ltd. A strategic thinker who is commercially driven with over 12 years’ experience of working within the energy sector. Supporting large private and public sector organisations through the net zero transition by helping them meet and exceed their energy and carbon reduction targets.