How to Make a Commercial Building More Energy Efficient

November 3rd, 2021
How to Make a Commercial Building More Energy Efficient

Unlike households, commercial customers aren’t protected by the energy price cap, so many business owners are left wondering how to make their commercial building more energy efficient.

In general, there are two strategies: reducing your energy consumption at your workplace and making your remaining energy consumption more efficient. The former ensures you only pay for the energy you need, while the latter helps you maximise the value you get out of it.

We’ll walk you through this two-pronged approach so you can find simple ways to save and make it through the winter that bit warmer. We’ll also discuss ways you can find cheap deals on your business energy tariffs, so you’re able to make savings across the board.

  • How to reduce energy consumption in commercial buildings
  • How to make a commercial building more energy efficient
  • How to find a good business energy tariff

How to reduce energy consumption in commercial buildings

Unsurprisingly, reducing energy consumption at the workplace is one of the easiest ways to lower your bill. If you don’t use it, you don’t pay. Unfortunately, reducing your energy consumption in commercial buildings is easier said than done. We’ve compiled a rundown of some quick steps you can take to reduce the energy consumption in your workplace below.

Monitor your usage with a smart meter

Save time from scouring sockets and install a smart meter in your building. With a live feed of your energy usage, you can spot points where it peaks across the day and take action. You’ll be able to see your total spend in real-time and can switch off the excess appliances that are dragging your bills up, whether it’s a light on in an unused room or a hot tap left dripping.

You can even go one step further by planning energy-intensive tasks like manufacturing or charging devices when it’s cheaper to perform them (earlier in the morning or later in the evening), reducing your bills.

A 2020 survey revealed 48% of businesses haven’t been offered a smart meter by their energy supplier. If you’re among them, you’re missing vital insight into your energy usage, so book an installation as soon as possible.

Appliances to turn off when they’re not in use

You’re probably across the idea of ‘turning lights off at the end of the day’, but what other appliances should you watch out for?

This list isn’t exhaustive, as you’ll probably have dedicated industry equipment depending on the sector you work in. Nonetheless, here are some common appliances you’ll have that may be costing you.

Televisions and computing equipment

TVs/monitors, laptops and other office appliances like printers and phones are all great examples of devices you can switch off at the end of the day. If you work within normal business hours, these devices won’t be used when you’re not in, yet they continuously draw power (albeit small amounts each) when not in use. Collectively and across the year, these watts all add up and needlessly add to your bill.

Luckily, they’re also easy to boot back up in a pinch, so consider switching them off when you don’t need them. Make sure to turn them off at the wall and avoid specialised bits of IT like servers you may keep on site. They’re meant to run continuously, and you may lose data if you switch them off unexpectedly.

Heating equipment

Boilers and central heating systems are going to be an important part of your energy bill as the weather gets colder. If you’re able to, consider changing the times you use them to save money.

Switching your heating off a little earlier (or on a little later) can help stretch the heat your building has (if even by a degree or two). For example, it wouldn’t make sense to heat your building in the last hour of your trading since customers and staff will be leaving soon.

Changing your heating timers may also let you pay for it at a slightly cheaper rate by using off-peak energy prices. These rates are accessible between the hours of 10 pm and 8 am. However, small dips within peak time occur around noon – just before and after lunch breaks.

Close seals and stop draughts

Leaky windows and doors are a critical source of lost energy. Adding silicone caulk to brickwork or windows and placing draught excluders to doors can help you avoid losing the heat you’ve already paid for.

You can further improve the airflow in your building by rearranging your furniture to let radiators heat air next to them more effectively and stop draughts from entering.

Get staff on board too

You can’t expect to do it all yourself. Informing staff that you’re trying to save money by reducing your energy consumption can help you be more frugal.

They’ll likely be working closely with the equipment you’re typing to save on, so having an extra set of hands to turn off appliances you’re not using can help reduce your bill even more.

How to make a commercial building more energy efficient

Reducing your workplace’s energy consumption is a crucial way to lower your energy costs. Unfortunately, it’s of limited use. Whether it’s simply keeping the lights on to let customers know you’re open or performing core business tasks like manufacturing or cooking, there’s going to be a minimum level of energy you’re going to use. That’s why it’s vital to also consider how to make your commercial building more energy-efficient at the same time.

We’ve split workplace energy-efficiency measures into three main categories: heating, lighting and equipment. These categories should help you identify gaps in your commercial building’s existing energy consumption and where you can address it to achieve cheaper bills.

Energy-efficient heating solutions for commercial buildings

We’ve already touched on steps like addressing draughts to stop the heat from getting out, but what about how it gets there in the first place?

Commercial buildings like office spaces, shopfronts and other small spaces can rely on standard central heating systems. However, larger commercial buildings like warehouses require a different approach to cope with the larger space.

Heating appliances

Warm air heaters, like the name suggests, involve commercial heating units similar to electric fan heaters. As long as the airflow is clear, they’re an efficient way to heat larger commercial buildings. Warm air heaters are especially effective in smaller areas, so consider where you can subdivide spaces within your commercial building with simple barriers to trap warm airflows.

Alternatively, radiant heaters are suspended (or wall-mounted) radiant tubes or plaque heaters that use infrared radiation to heat objects. The radiation provides direct heat to the objects that can also generate a secondary warming effect as the objects heat the air surrounding them.

Unlike warm air heaters, radiant heaters can only warm objects in their ‘line of sight’, so if something blocks the space in between, it will remain cold. Warm air heaters are typically better suited to indoor spaces and are especially useful near doors and windows where cool air interacts with your workplace. Radiant heaters are the perfect solution for loading bays and outdoor terraces where draughts and breezes are common.

Ensuring circulation

A gentle fan can help circulate warm air more effectively and improve the time it takes for your building to heat up – particularly if you have higher ceilings where warm air could get trapped or escape. Forcing it down with a fan can help you and your staff feel the heat and not the roof.

Alternatively, if you need to maintain a cooler environment, faster fans have the opposite effect, helping cooler air to circulate.

Energy-efficient lighting for commercial buildings

It’s rare for modern commercial buildings to use incandescent light bulbs as they’re incredibly inefficient and prone to breakages. Instead, LED (light-emitting diodes) and linear fluorescent bulbs are both popular energy-efficient light bulbs. But which is better for your bills?

A key consideration is the ratio of lumens (the light produced) to watts (the amount of energy used to create the light). Check out the graphic below to compare different commercial lighting technologies currently available:

As you can see, LEDs tend to come out on top as they’re more efficient. They also have a higher average lifespan, ranging from 30,000 to 50,000 hours of run time. Linear fluorescent bulbs are dimmer in comparison and have a lower average lifespan of just 20,000. Therefore, the savings are clear, even if LEDs have a higher up-front cost.

That’s not to say fluorescent bulbs are all bad. With the right care and ballast combination, some fluorescent bulbs can last up to 90,000 hours which is much better than some budget-end LEDs offering 20,000 hours over their life.

However, fluorescent bulbs contain mercury as standard, making disposal tricky — especially with tighter environmental restrictions surrounding toxic metals.

Motion-activated lighting usage

If your commercial building is big enough, you could benefit from using motion-activated lighting solutions. Sensors can replace switches within certain building spaces and help you light areas as and when you require them – instead of lighting entire sections all at once.

Motion-activated lighting is often used in warehouse areas hosting slower-moving inventory but are also useful in larger office spaces and can be cheap to install.

Energy-efficient equipment for commercial buildings

New equipment comes to market every so often, allowing businesses to operate more efficiently by maximising their output or minimising their running costs.

If you’ve been considering making a switch in your commercial equipment, now may be the best time to do so. The savings you’ll gain over the coming months could help offset the increased energy costs.

The UK government has an Energy Technology List that provides independently verified energy-efficiency ratings on products like boilers, lighting, air conditioning and refrigeration equipment. You can use some of the tips above to identify the most efficient method to heat or light your commercial building, find the best products to do so, and reduce energy consumption at your workplace.

Did you know that the energy-efficiency ratings (the stickers with As, Bs and Cs you see on appliances) have recently changed? Since March 2021, new ratings affecting refrigerators and freezers, dishwashers and televisions have been in place, with further changes to air conditioners and water heaters expected in 2022?

As you’re looking to upgrade, consider appliances in the A and B bands where relevant so you can make your commercial building more energy efficient.

How to find a good business energy tariff

Reducing your energy consumption and making your workplace more efficient is all well and good, but if you’re on a premium energy bill, you likely won’t notice much of a dent in your spending. Switching suppliers could be the key to reducing your bills effectively.

Ofgem data shows that business switches can take up to 21 days to complete. You should aim to change your supplier within your existing contract’s cancellation period. If you’re not already eligible to switch, you may be charged exit fees so make sure you avoid unnecessary fees.

When comparing different suppliers, consider the following:

  • Does a flexible tariff exist? Being able to switch deals later down the line means you control your energy costs better and can avoid further price hikes.
  • Can you use a green tariff? Some suppliers offer zero or net carbon tariffs that help to limit extreme weather conditions in the future and give you peace of mind.
  • Who’s cheap and reliable? Balancing cheap rates versus reliable energy supply is extremely difficult of late. Energy providers are struggling to stay afloat as they’re forced to sell energy at below-market rates, meaning that the cheapest rate may be unsustainable. Paying slightly more for a larger supplier or fixed tariff may mean you can lock in your plan for the foreseeable future and stabilise your budget.

As you’re looking to make the switch, use FreePriceCompare.com. We’re a UK-based comparison service providing price comparison solutions for the home and business energy market. We’re completely FREE, INDEPENDENT and IMPARTIAL, ensuring you find a lower price no matter what you’re searching for.

Right now, we’re offering a price guarantee for businesses — we’ll beat your initial renewal energy quote or give you £1000 cashback.

Compare your options today and see how much you can save on your home or business energy bills with Free Price Compare.

Read more from Free Price Compare on similar topics and find a good deal this winter.

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