At a glance:
- Energy audits identify areas in your business where your energy use negatively affects your bottom line.
- Comparing energy companies is crucial to determine that your energy bill is too high.
- You can save hundreds of dollars by cleaning, maintaining, and optimising appliances on a regular basis.
In most cases, an energy bill is one of the highest utility bills of any business. A busy workplace full of employees’ needs lights, heating, and cooling, coupled with enough power to run all the devices and computers in the office, which is why their energy bills are often so high. However, there are plenty of ways to lower your bills, some of which we might already know, but there are some that you might not know about.
These are significant steps you need to follow when it comes to saving on your energy bills.
Get Informed and organised with a energy audit:
Energy audits identify areas in your business where your energy use negatively affects your bottom line. An effective energy audit understandably presents information and suggests ways to reduce your consumption. Here is how:
For a comprehensive picture of energy use, you may want to collect data showing energy usage patterns for at least 12 months. You can get this data directly from your suppliers or authorise a third party to access it.
Rent a meter or install a meter: specific energy consumption periods. Monitor performance daily, monthly, and seasonally, as it will be useful information for switching tariffs, which will be explored in greater detail in the following sections.
Electricity monitors: Provide real-time information about how much energy is consumed in your business and its costs. Energy retailers often offer free energy monitoring. There are also energy monitoring apps for Apple and Android devices. You could also opt for plug-in monitors.
Visualising your energy baseline
Energy baselines demonstrate how your business’s energy use relates to its activities and costs.
You will first need to map out your company’s energy usage patterns: seasonal, monthly, weekly, daily, or hourly usage. To graph energy use, plot X-Y (Energy use vs. other parameters). It is a good idea to use benchmarks to determine whether processes, facilities, or business units are performing at their peak or compare energy usage between sites.
You can evaluate the energy baseline using the above-described analysis techniques, opting for the most suitable parameters. Keeping track of progress as you move forward lets you make significant improvements and optimise appliances to close the loop.
Choosing an auditor:
The three types of Australian Standard energy audits are as follows:
Type 1: Basic energy audit,
Energy consumption overview and overall energy savings estimate with short payback periods. However, this suits the small business model while also imparting benefits to large companies without a prior energy efficiency assessment.
Type 2: Detailed energy audits
This method identifies potential energy savings after analysing detailed data and operating conditions. The analysis is thorough enough not to require the installation of additional measurement equipment for accuracy.
Type 3: Precision subsystem audits
This is ideal for larger businesses with specialised equipment or manufacturing facilities, as the audit focuses on major subsystems, such as boilers. Additional measurement equipment is needed to quantify opportunities for higher accuracy.
Note: States and territories have different requirements for energy auditor training and accreditation. Click here for a list of service providers on the Energy Efficiency Council’s website
Process: Based on the size of your building, this typically takes between four and six hours. Some commercial energy suppliers provide free energy audits as part of their business offerings. Perhaps your current supplier can provide one for you.
Tariffs are charges that are applied to your energy bill based on your usage.
Different tariffs depend on the state.
Tariffs and other fees and charges apply to your contract and are included in your energy service’s price (+GST). Some retailers with tariffs or offers are ‘regulated,’ where the government sets the price.
- ACT, Tasmania, and some of Queensland: Regulated energy contracts are available.
- New South Wales, South Australia, and Southeast Queensland: Electrical standing offers must comply with the Electricity Retail Code’s default market offers.
- Victoria: Standard retail offers in Victoria are capped; however, energy market offers, or tariffs are not capped, so each retailer sets its own prices.
Types of charges:
Your energy usage is not factored into fixed charges. This will be identified separately on your bill as a ‘service to property’ or ‘daily supply charge.’ It may appear as a daily rate or as a single figure – depending on the billing period.
Variable charges are your ‘consumption charges.’ A cents per kilowatt hour (c/kWh) charge shows up on your bill for each unit of electricity you use.
Several variable charges may apply to one bill:
How much energy is used? Many offers charge more for electricity used after the first block, with others charging more for the initial block and less for ongoing usage.
Importance of Off-peak / On-peak tariffs:
Certain appliances operating overnight, such as hot water storage systems, are metered separately. This comes under an off-peak tariff on your bill, and rates are usually lower overnight when electricity demand is low.
You can get a clear picture of appliances that can be used at off-peak times to reduce your variable charge on your tariff by keeping track of your energy usage by month, week, and hour. Using seasonal energy consumption data, you can also optimise appliances to make them more efficient depending on different months, thus reducing energy consumption.
Types of tariffs:
Single rates: By adding green power to your electricity or gas bill, it may be possible to pay a higher variable usage fee or a fixed fee (per week or billing period). Also known as single/flat rates, you pay the same rate no matter when you use energy.
Time-of-use/flexible rates: Energy cost depends on when you use your electricity. Energy costs are lower when there is less demand on the grid during ‘off-peak’ hours. For example, the electricity meter may register when you use electricity (and not just the total amount), so you pay different prices for electricity consumed during the day, at night, and on weekends.
Depending on when you consume the most energy, it may be worthwhile to switch tariffs. If you consume most of your energy during off-peak hours, your energy bill could be lower if you switched to a time-of-use tariff. An energy plan with a single rate might be more cost-effective if your busy period runs during the peak period.
Generally you will find that the tariffs are set by the retailers and distributors and there may not be the option to change from the tariff you are on to a different type of tariff, but it does pay to shop around and compare the rates for your supply address with different retailers, as sometimes different retailers may have different tariffs available for your address and you can then choose the most suitable based on your usage patterns.
Clean and Maintain Your Equipment
According to the Victorian government, appliances account for up to 30% of your energy consumption. You can add as much as 7% or $170 to your electricity bill by leaving appliances on standby (when the lights are on). Turning off your equipment when it’s not in use is the first thing you should do if you want to save energy. However, we often forget to also clean and maintain our electrical and mechanical equipment.
Take a look at air conditioning and how you can save hundreds of dollars by cleaning and maintaining it periodically. Your heating and cooling system can consume up to 30% more energy if you don’t clean and maintain it regularly. Taking regular care of your system will not only reduce your energy bills but also extend its lifespan.
With a view to maximising energy efficiency and reducing energy costs, the Victorian government worked with more than 300 businesses. Here are some statistics from the program for boosting business productivity.
Here is a regular check that helps you discover many issues and resolve them on time:
- Valve operation is correct
- There is no damage to the insulation
- There is no obstruction to outside grills
- Lubricated fan belts
- Check refrigerant levels and gas leaks
- Check your ducting for air leaks.
Regular maintenance and repair of a company’s system helped companies save more than $40,000 annually. They could also rescue 150 tonnes of greenhouse gas emissions per year.
Older equipment consumes more energy as it struggles to maintain constant use. You may also want to try regular cleaning and maintenance of your machines or replace them if necessary. A new energy-efficient model, instead of old, inefficient ones, can save you hundreds or thousands of dollars.
Apart from cleaning, you can also optimise appliances:
These days, almost all of our appliances, from desktop computers to refrigerators, have settings to help us increase our energy savings. This might seem like a small saving but remember, small leaks often sink great ships. The same logic applies in terms of your energy as well.
Motion detection and set timers:
Up to 50% of your energy bill can be attributed to lighting. Instead of requiring your staff to do so, consider installing a system that automatically switches off lights.
The implementation cost for installing motion detectors and timers is likely to be less than your estimated annual savings of up to $1500. Also, these can contribute to reducing and saving greenhouse gas emissions by more than 5 tonnes.
Temperature and timers on display cabinets and fridges
Whenever equipment is empty or not being used, make it a point to turn it off. Ensure that your equipment is set to the right temperature based on the manufacturer’s instructions. Keep the door seals clean to prevent air from escaping.
Generally, retail businesses installing refrigeration timers had an implementation cost of less than $2500. While the annual savings was more than $5800, and the reduction in greenhouse gas emissions was more than 30 tonnes.
You could be spending a fortune on electrical appliances with poor energy ratings. Ideally, electrical goods don’t need to be replaced right away. The efficiency of electrical appliances is determined by how much energy they consume per hour. Hence, once their time is up, it’s worth replacing them with more efficient models.
In Australia, an energy rating label can display a 6-star rating, a 10-star rating for appliances rated seven or higher, and a ‘super efficiency’ label.
A 7-star TV will cost $60 to operate each year, with a consumption of 213 kWh and a cost per kWh of $0.28. Alternatively, since consumption is 520 kWh per year x $0.28, a 3-star TV can cost around $146 a year to operate.
A high-efficiency appliance typically costs more upfront. Even so, you should soon see a return on your investment with the additional energy savings. Some of the basic upgrades are:
When compared with fluorescent and halogen lighting, LED lighting requires less maintenance. The benefits of upgrading to LED lighting can cost less than $7500 on implementation. In contrast, the annual savings average is estimated at $5000 with greenhouse gas emissions reduced by more than 25 tonnes.
Using programmable thermostat:
You can reduce your heating and cooling bills by adjusting your thermostat while working, or when away from the office. A programmable thermostat or temperature setback mode on your heating and cooling system will allow you to do this without sacrificing comfort.
One of the most effective tips for saving energy in the office is to use the following trick during the 9-5 hours. No heat or air conditioning is needed in the workplace once everyone has gone home. It makes a big difference to control the temperature during “off” hours, even if your team’s hours vary.
As much as 10% can be saved on heating and cooling by turning the temperature down by 7-10 degrees for 8 hours a day. In terms of buildings in milder climates, the setback savings are greater than those in more severe climates. The temperature can be set to around 20 degrees in the winter while you have employees and lower when they are away.
You can follow the same strategy by keeping your office warmer than normal when your employees are away during the summer. When they are working in the office and need cooling, you can set the thermostat as high as you find comfortable for you and make sure that humidity is controlled.
Take Advantage Of Nature
Before you rely on artificial lights and heating systems, think about how you can use natural light, air, and heat. To reduce the cost of energy, consider generating solar energy. You may have to make an initial investment for installation, but it has a good return on investment.
Switch Retailers if required:
Comparing energy companies is crucial to realise your energy bill is unreasonably high. If you find a better option, feel free to switch energy companies. A company’s energy expenses can account for a significant portion of its income. Ensuring you get the maximum value from your current energy contract can help you minimise these costs. You can save money by negotiating with your existing energy provider or with a new one.
You can choose from different types of energy contracts based on the size and location of your business:
● Standard retail offers:
Contract terms and conditions are minimal for standard retail offers on an external site. Usually, these are suitable for small energy users.
● Market retail contracts:
Agreements you have with your energy retailer. Businesses with low energy consumption are most likely to benefit from these contracts.
● Market contracts (negotiated):
Large energy consumers may choose contracts with the market in which all the terms of the contract are negotiated. Market prices are usually used, so your exposure to price changes may be elevated. If you manage your energy use effectively and understand your energy needs, you can save money on these contracts.
Do collect some reliable data about your energy usage before you begin negotiating your contract. You are less likely to be charged a premium if your energy provider knows your current usage. If possible, submit data for every half-hour period of the past 12 months. Your current energy provider can provide you with this information.
If you have a tough time dealing with your energy provider, you can always get professional help from an organisation like Select and Switch.
Select and Switch have an extensive network of partners from various industries, including energy. By comparing, negotiating, and switching you to a better energy retailer, they do all the work on your behalf to find the best energy deal for you.
Select and Switch offers a 100% free energy comparison service with no hidden charges whatsoever. You can contact them and get a no-obligation free quote, and they will help you find the right offer for you.
Take a step towards saving on your commercial energy bill by contacting Select and Switch today!