If you are like me, you know exactly when the postman is due to deliver that feared energy bill. You hear the screeching sound of his bike´s tires speed off your driveway and reluctantly, you run to the mail box, take a deep breath and slowly begin to open the envelope, a speck of hope still visible in your eyes. And then it hits you – another heart-wrenching amount that is going to set you back considerably.
So, for your health´s sake and the sake of your business, we need to find ways to help you minimize the stress induced by this dreaded moment you are subjected to on a monthly basis, because the sad truth is, energy prices continue to show the same soaring trend than in the last six years in most countries (despite the ironic fact that consumer demand has been falling for a long time now).
Most of the suggestions we offer below are probably not new nor too drastic. What we want to instil though, is a sense of urgency to ensure that small businesses and consumers are no longer taken for a ride by energy companies. So, please read these tips carefully and, if you haven´t yet, try to find a way to get them established in your business´ routine activities.
1. Do you have a contract?
Many businesses moving into new premises mistakenly start paying the bills they receive without signing a contract first. Don´t fall into that trap. Make sure you take out a contract with an electricity company in order to get all the benefits that come with signing an agreement.
Remember, all the big players want your business so make sure you do your homework and shop around to get the provider that best suits your needs – big or small. The supplier you choose will ultimately have the biggest overall impact on your energy bills. And don’t assume you have to remain with that one supplier. If you are not happy with their prices and services, you are entitled to re-negotiate your deal on an annual basis or switch to another supplier.
Some providers offer fixed rates. Since it is unlikely that gas or electricity prices will come tumbling down in the near future, it might be a good option to lock yourself to a fixed amount for a two or three year deal – that way, you will know exactly what your bills are going to be and help you plan your financial forecasts.
2. Understanding your meter
Familiarizing yourself with your electricity and gas meters can help you understand whether you are being billed correctly or whether you are on the best possible tariff. Try to give your supplier your own regular meter readings so that your bills are based on how much you really used, not an estimate. This will reduce your chances of paying too much (or too little).
Remember to bring a technician at least once a year to verify whether your own readings continue to be correct.
3. Change those deep-seated habits
No one likes it but we are given no choice. Prices are forcing consumers to think outside the square and change deep-seated habits.
Traditionally, many offices have used far too many lights and left them on all the time. That´s no longer an option if you want to remain competitive. So, you and your employees need to change your habits and adapt to new alternatives. It might take some time to get everyone on board but you can help them transition into more cost and environmentally saving practices.
How? Talk to them and make them see the importance that being responsible with their energy habits has not only for the business´ coffers but also, potentially, for their jobs and ultimately, for the environment. If staff appreciate that finances are tight then they will be more amenable to saving money, especially when jobs are on the line. To remind them, place signs around your building and office that prompt everyone to switch off lights and computers when leaving a room or not to charge personal devices in the workplace. Rewarding those who develop energy efficient practices is also a good option.
Once everyone is in the same frame of mind, there are other measures you can take to help reduce the cost of your energy in the office:
- Install timed light switches for communal areas that aren’t in constant use, for example hallways, corridors and stairwells.
- Don´t keep lights blaring in the office overnight. Even if you have security issues that require certain lights to stay on you can switch them to a ‘dim’ setting, or pick out specific lights to keep on.
- Use energy efficient light bulbs, they could save you hundreds of dollars on your energy bills, with little effort required for installation.
- Introduce a simple office-wide policy that makes all employees switch off their computers at night, rather than leaving them on, or putting them in ‘sleep’ mode.
- Printers or other electrical equipment can also be switched off when not in use.
- If you suspect equipment is malfunctioning, running too long, or not operating properly, get it fixed quickly.
- Invest in systems or appliances with high energy efficiency ratings.
- If you lease equipment, insist on energy efficient models to lower your operating costs.
- Install light emitting diode (L.E.D.) exit signs in place of incandescent signs. L.E.D. signs last up to 15 times longer, and use much less energy.
- Install photocells in outdoor entry, and security lighting to automatically sense outdoor lighting levels which turn on and off automatically.
- Install automatic, programmable, set-back thermostats to control both heating and cooling. Most offer flexible options that enable you to change settings for different days of the week, weekends and holidays.
4. Call on an energy adviser
Finally, a simple call to an energy advisor may be all it takes to reduce your business electricity bill.