Of course, using energy is unavoidable, and yet many SMEs fail to implement measures which could help them make significant savings on their bills.
A simple, straightforward energy audit can have a positive effect on your business and help stamp-out inefficient energy habits. This guide covers why carrying out an audit is important, a walkthrough of the auditing process, advice on action plans, and a helpful checklist you can use during your own audits.
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At times, there’s a misconception that energy audits are time-consuming and pointless, but this couldn’t be further from the truth. At its most basic, an audit provides a clear overview of your company’s current energy usage, giving you insights into the areas that have a financial impact on your business, and doing so in a way that makes it easy to understand.
With the feedback from your energy audit, you can formulate a plan from which to correct your energy oversights.
Identifying areas where energy is being wasted can save money in the long term, and the results of your audit will suggest ways where you can reduce your energy consumption to cut costs and reduce your carbon footprint. An effective audit is all-encompassing and takes everything into account, inspecting both the building’s interior, exterior, its fixtures and equipment, to determine how these systems interact with one another.
A successful audit can have a positive effect on both company morale and the wider culture of the business. In this respect, the results of auditing are two-fold: not only will it help your company run a leaner cost base, these new-found best practices could help to foster innovation and competition among your workforce.
In terms of competition, developing a greener, more sustainable business model through auditing shows an understanding of energy efficiency that could put you ahead of the competition. The adaptability you’ll show will illustrate your business’ willingness to adapt and stand out amongst an increasingly competitive market. As a result, your business could make inroads to a more environmentally conscious audience, which is perhaps the most important benefit to be had.
Unlike large business, SMEs are not bound by mandatory energy audits. So, while you’re not legally obliged, it’s well worth taking the time to carry one out. There are plenty of energy auditors who can consult, highlight troublesome areas, and give you invaluable advice.
Alternatively, you can carry out a DIY audit. Even a basic, cursory investigation can give you some effective, beneficial insights into energy wastage.
If you’re going the independent route, consider these basic steps when formulating a strategy for your own full energy audit.
An important starting point, a look at how energy is currently being used brings the areas that need correcting into sharp relief. Pinpointing the inefficient areas across different departments, buildings and sites (if necessary) is particularly useful, highlighting areas that need improving and require investigation.
This step helps later down the line, too. Once energy-saving tools or methods are in place, the information illustrates clearly to managers and staff the savings you’ve achieved.
How you assess your current energy is up to you. Energy usage tracking spreadsheets are available online which can be very helpful, while your energy provider may be able to offer assistance. Alternatively, you may have devised your own tracking system. Whichever you go for, the information gained helps with the next step of the process.
A structured, systematic walkaround on your premises serves to identify energy saving opportunities. As we mentioned, a successful audit should be as thorough as possible, so a clear framework for the physical investigation is key. To help out, we’ve created an Energy Audit Checklist for you to download and use as part of your walkaround.
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The checklist structures things in a way that allows you to prioritise the best places to save energy and money. In using the checklist, you will walk through the areas of your business, thoroughly investigating processes and equipment, notifying any areas you could potentially save on.
Covering as much of the business as possible is integral here. Quick fixes can be implemented speedily, helping to make small savings, build up momentum and convince colleagues that the process and results will be worthwhile. Additionally, opportunities that were not a priority initially can be re-assessed later down the line once the main projects have been completed.
Once problems have been identified after your walkaround and opportunities have been noted, an action plan needs to be developed.
In order to work out the next step, you need to quantify the potential savings from each of your identified areas. This is done by calculating your estimated energy savings, the calorific values (i.e. the amount of energy per unit for any given fuel), costs and carbon factors. You can also engage with equipment suppliers and installers, who can give you quotes for the work.
The comparison between potential savings and estimated costs produces payback times for each potential project, allowing you to prioritise actions for implementation.
With current usage assessed, walkarounds carried out and an action plan devised, you could likely start implementing some of your lower cost projects. However, larger projects might require some external financing. In this case, you’ll need a more formal business case to justify your requirements.
So, while every project is likely to be different, there are key elements that should be considered and made clear in your business case, including:
While creating a business case might sound like a time-consuming process, remember that you can make some quick changes to your energy usage by simply putting an end to bad habits.
If you have a thermostat, it might be worth moving it to a location that’s more efficient, away from drafts, windows and skylights.
Is the fridge in the kitchen over 10 years old? If so, it’s likely to be less energy efficient than new models. Likewise, consider replacing your current light bulbs with energy-efficient options like CFL or LED bulbs – and be sure to turn them off when they’re not in use, especially overnight.
We hope that you found this guide useful. To find out about Gazprom Energy's range of business energy services, visit the homepage or call us today on 0845 230 0011.
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