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Energy management plans: How to improve energy efficiency in your business

Setting up an energy management plan for your business is crucial to reducing your carbon footprint as part of the UK’s transition to net zero by 2050.

Energy management plans: How to improve energy efficiency in your business
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 FSB’s report on small businesses and net zero, published in September 2021, found that 36% of small businesses have a plan to combat climate change and 67% of small businesses have taken steps to address their energy usage, some of which include:

  • Installing a smart meter (22%)
  • Installing energy-efficient appliances (37%)
  • Switching to a renewable energy provider/tariff (26%)
  • Investing in microgeneration (18%)
  • Installing solar panels (14%)
  • Installing a heat pump (4%)

What is an energy management plan?

An energy management plan involves monitoring how much energy you use in order to work out how much energy you’re wasting. You can then take steps to improve your energy efficiency. Having an energy management plan in place allows you to comply with international standards and shows any customer, investor, or future employee that you’re committed to going green.

Step 1: Collect your data

The first step is to find a way to monitor your energy usage and get useful data to analyse.

When we talk about your energy usage, we’ll generally refer to any gas, electricity, or oil your business buys and uses. You may buy heat or steam which would also be included in your energy management plan.

Installing a smart meter                                                                   

A smart meter sends live data to you and your energy supplier about your energy usage. Most of the UK’s major energy suppliers now offer cheap (often free) and quick (less than 2 hours) installations of smart meters. Unlike the first generation of smart meters (SMET 1), the current generation (SMET 2) allows for easier switching between energy suppliers.

For an energy management plan, smart meters allow for more detailed regular meter readings to start monitoring your total energy usage. You don’t have to spend time doing meter readings and you won’t receive inaccurate estimated energy bills. Smart Meter GB has explained in more detail the benefits of smart meters for small businesses.

Using energy monitoring systems

An energy monitoring system differs from a smart meter because it does not send live meter readings to your supplier - only you have access to the data. You can have both a smart meter and an energy monitoring system, but an energy monitor gives you more detailed data.

For businesses with higher energy bills, energy monitoring systems can be incredibly beneficial for monitoring individual areas of energy usage, unlike a smart meter which will just tell you the total change for the building.

What is submetering?

Submetering data tracks the energy consumption of individual parts of your total energy consumption to try and track down energy usage in more detail. With this data, you can assess the impact these individual areas are having on your total energy bill. For example, you can see separate data for:

  • HVAC (Heating, Ventilation, and Air Conditioning)
  • Lighting
  • Individual floors
  • Energy-intensive machinery

With submetering, you can factor in energy usage to lifetime costs of different equipment, helping you to make smarter financial decisions moving forward.

Step 2: Monitor your data

Now it’s time to monitor the data and do some detective work to understand where your energy is being used and where it’s being wasted. You should be able to access your half-hourly data, which is the amount of energy you’ve used in every half an hour period of the day.

Look at your energy usage when the building is not in use, such as at night or on the weekend. Ask yourself:

  • What’s causing this energy?
  • Can any of the equipment be turned off?
  • Does this vary at certain times of the day, week, month, or year?

The simplest way to test is to walk around as the building closes at night and shut down any equipment that can be turned off. Any difference between the normal data at night and the data from the test night gives an estimate of how much energy (and money) is wasted leaving equipment on unnecessarily every night. Whilst naturally more energy is used to heat a building during the winter, this process could identify equipment that you could limit the use of or replace with a more energy-efficient alternative.

Step 3: Reduce wasted energy

Aside from considering green tariffs, there are many steps you can take proactively to minimise wasted energy in your business. We’ve covered a few examples here and FSB’s free guide to getting started with sustainability includes even more practical advice for reducing your energy consumption, water usage, and waste.  

Renting your business premises? From Energy Performance Certificate ratings to record-keeping requirements, find out more about the existing and upcoming legislation for landlords and tenants to support net zero.

Heat controllers

Rather than manually turning your heating on and off or having your heating on a timer, a heat controller uses a well-placed thermostat to turn the heater on and off when the temperature differs from the temperature you have selected.

You can set the temperature so that it’s only at that temperature during your normal working hours, so you aren’t wasting energy and money heating a building with nobody in it. It also means the building will be constantly at a comfortable temperature for all your staff and customers when you’re using the building. There are various heat controllers on the market, including ones with motion sensors and settings to control individual rooms.

Heat Recovery Ventilation

A Heat Recovery Ventilation system (HRV), also known as mechanical ventilation heat recovery (MVHR), is an energy recovery ventilation system. Compared to traditional boilers and air conditioners, HRVs are significantly more energy-efficient and are becoming increasingly popular alternatives to traditional heating solutions.

The system uses an air-to-air heat exchanger that recovers normally wasted heat while at the same time supplying fresh highly filtered air improving the indoor environment. It has a core unit, blower fans, and a series of channels to extract staler air from damp rooms. The air is then expelled before drawing in fresh, filtered air from outside. During this process, heat is recovered from the extracted air and brought back inside.

What are the benefits of HRV systems?

  • 85% of old heat is retained through the two fans, reducing the energy needed to heat your space.
  • It’s estimated that you could save 30% on heating bills as the fans, though running continuously, use less energy.
  • A typical HRV unit consumes roughly 13 watts of electricity, which is the same as a CFL (compact fluorescent light bulb).
  • Levels of carbon dioxide are diminished, helping to reduce your carbon footprint.
  • Eliminates condensation, mould, and the risk of structural and cosmetic damage within a building by constantly ventilating a property.
  • Improves indoor air quality whilst simultaneously future-proofing your premises.

Although an installation expert can help you, HRV systems are designed for larger premises and buildings as they tend to be added to the roof space of a building. They are also not designed to cool a building, so you would need to disable the system in summer and ventilate naturally.

Insulation

A well-insulated building can help to cut the cost of heating and cooling by up to 40%, whilst also reducing your carbon dioxide emissions. Improving insulation means that heating systems don’t have to work as hard or as long to reach moderate temperature and run more efficiently. However, this is dependent on the size of your premises and the type of property.

Whilst there is an initial cost, particularly with loft insulation, this will pay for itself over time with the energy savings you will make. If you already have insulation, you can make further savings by increasing insulation thickness for a small cost.

As up to 30% of energy can be wasted through exterior walls, it’s not just your loft and roof spaces you should consider insulating. Ensuring that walls are insulated also traps more heat inside and would involve less use of heaters and oil systems.

Which insulation is right for my business?

It’s important to choose the right type of insulation because different types of insulation have different thermal resistances, known as R-values. An R-value is the maximum thermal performance needed to keep your premises warm through winter and cool through summer. The higher the value, the higher the performance and the less energy you will waste in heating and cooling.

Conducting an energy audit with your utility company could help you to determine the correct R-value needed for your business.

Blanket batts and rolls of insulation

✅ Easily available and can be installed in ceilings, unfinished, floors, attic spaces, and crawl spaces.
❌ Only provide an R-value of between 2.9 and 3.8 per inch of thickness, so several inches (usually 10-12) are used to achieve the right amount of insulation.

Concrete blocks

✅ Provide structural support, as well as insulation.
❌ Usually, an extra layer of insulation is applied to increase their R-value. They are primarily used in new construction and additions.

Foam blocks and board

✅ Provide higher R-values than other insulation materials and can be used anywhere.
❌ Cannot be used to replace existing insulation in walls, as the wall would have to be rebuilt.

Loose-fill or blown-in insulation

✅ Recycled newsprint, fibreglass, and mineral wool are all used in the material for this insulation, with at least 75% of it coming from post-industrial recycled content.
❌ Easily succumbs to mould over time so there could be an added cost of sealing your property correctly to ensure this can be avoided.

Spray-foam insulation

✅ Liquid foam that is sprayed in place, hardening into effective insulation material. It can be used on walls, attic surfaces, below a roof, and under floors. It’s twice as insulating as batt insulation and can kill small cavities to reduce air leakages.
❌ Ensuring that closed-cell foam insulation is used is the best method, but also more expensive. Open cell, whilst cheaper, should not be used before ground level.

LED lights

An easy, relatively low-cost switch is to simply swap your typical screw-in bulbs to LEDs, which are 80% more energy efficient.

Did you know?

  • An LED bulb only uses 10 watts and yields the same lumens as an incandescent build that uses 60 watts of power.
  • On average, most LED fixtures deliver at least 50% improvement in energy savings when compared with non-LED lighting fixtures, leading to lower running costs.
  • LED lights also give a great return on energy costs, with some cheaper bulbs such as LED GU10 providing a 195% return on a £3.50 cost.
  • LEDs emit less heat, with 80% of the energy going into the light and 20% going into heat on average.
  • By eliminating frequent light bulb changes, LED technologies to reduce the time and cost involved with maintenance.
  • When designed correctly, LED lighting systems can last over 100,000 operating hours, potentially eliminating maintenance for up to a decade.

Unlike their incandescent predecessors, LEDs don’t include components like mercury and chlorofluorocarbons CFCs that could potentially be released into the environment post-disposal. They also mitigate the safety risk involved in lighting fixtures replacement and the impact on production.

However, LED lights can have a higher initial cost, aren’t always dimmer compatible, and emit more blue light than traditional incandescent bulbs. Light emitted is also directional, which means the light is not illuminating in all directions.

Shared from FSB

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