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How to make your business more energy efficient... and save money!

When times get tough, ‘being green’ often takes a back seat for many small businesses. But, with energy prices reaching ever-higher levels and hitting your bottom line, it is worth looking at how becoming more energy-efficient could actually provide you with a boost.

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According to npower, reducing energy bills by a fifth could actually save your business the equivalent of a 5% increase in sales!

But as well as helping you to save money on essential business costs, going green can actually lead to sales as, increasingly, customers and supplier pre-qualification questionnaires not only look at your company ethics but also your green credentials.

Here are some simple, practical steps that small firms can take to cut costs and also be kinder to the environment.

Measure your energy use

Heating, lighting and energy consumption are three of the biggest costs for small businesses, but do you know exactly how much energy you're using? There is an old adage that ‘you can't manage what you can't measure'.

Understanding how much energy a particular process, department or piece of equipment consumes is a major step towards reducing consumption.

Use a smart meter

While meters can help us understand how much energy we're using, traditional meters give a lump sum reading, not a breakdown of usage. Smart meters provide precise, real-time measurements of your energy usage, so you know exactly what you're spending on a day-to-day basis.

Use of smart meters isn't widespread yet, though they are available from energy providers offering so-called ‘green' energy packages.

The Government expects suppliers to provide smart meters to businesses of all sizes by 2017.

Identify where you can make savings

Walk around your business and make a note of all the rooms and equipment where energy is being used. Is office equipment being turned off when people go home? By turning off computers and monitors, you could save £35 a year per computer.

Use energy saving light bulbs where possible. They use up to 80% less electricity than standard bulbs and last around ten times longer. Light emitting diode (LED) lighting is also a more energy efficient alternatives to traditional halogen and tungsten filament strip lighting.

Natural light should be encouraged, as people generally prefer to work in it and it is free. Set security lights to default to off, so that they only come on when sensors are triggered.

Turn the thermostat down – every 1°C you take off the temperature reduces your heating bill by a reported 8%.

Remind staff to switch lights off when they're not in use. This can save you up to 15% on your electricity bill. Don't heat unused spaces such as storerooms and corridors.

Check that radiator valves are working and remove furniture from covering radiators as this will significantly reduce their effectiveness. Insulate pipes and check doors and windows for draughts to ensure that you're not losing valuable energy.

Reduce and reuse waste

Reducing waste means you create less pollution, but it can also boost your profits as you save on waste disposal costs and landfill taxes.

One way of reducing waste is not using so many resources in the first place, i.e. double-sided printing uses half the paper. When you do produce waste, try to reuse or recycle it if possible, i.e. re-using waste paper and refilling inkjet cartridges rather than buying new ones (this saves you approximately half the cost too).

Your waste might not be much use to you, but consider if you're creating a by-product that can be used in other industries. If it could be then there may be someone willing to buy it from you.

Save money on water

Dripping taps can cost a business an average of £400 a year and leaks up to £900. Ensure that you're not literally letting water go down the drain by checking for leaking pipes, taps and over-flushing toilets. You can also install a water meter to control water usage.

Plan your transport

Whether you run a couple of vehicles or a fleet of vans, transport represents a significant financial cost – often up to 30% of overheads.

You can save money by planning the most efficient route beforehand and, if you're out of the office a lot, plan meetings in one area on the same day to avoid numerous trips.

Or consider if you need to travel at all – could appointments be carried out over the telephone or internet using video conferencing?

If travel is essential, use cleaner fuels to cut costs by up to a third and save tax.

How the Forum can help you to be more efficient and save money

We provide a range of money-saving member benefits, which can help you to be greener and more efficient, including a utilities brokerage service to find you the best, most efficient deal from energy suppliers. Call us on 0845 130 1722 to find out how much we can save you.