Top tips for saving energy during a cold snap

James Murray

As the UK shivers, we take a look at how to achieve green gains during the cold weather

In around a month's time, finance directors across the UK will find themselves staring at an unexpected spike in their facilities' costs as the full financial impact of the UK's unseasonal sub zero temperatures filters its way down through the accounts towards the bottom line.

It may provide ill-informed climate sceptics with an opportunity to mock warnings of global warming, but cold snaps also provide a real opportunity for businesses to maximise the energy and carbon emission savings delivered through efficiency measures - savings that are about to become even more attractive, given the UK's largest energy suppliers are engaged in one of their periodic flurry of price hikes.

There are a large number of very simple steps businesses can take today to enhance their energy efficiency and insulate themselves against the kind of unexpected spikes in energy bills that inevitable result from unseasonably cold weather.

Here are BusinessGreen's top tips for coping with the cold snap:

Turn the temperature down

How many times have you seen colleagues come into the office wrapped up like they have just finished an expedition to the South Pole to see half an hour later stripped down to their shirt sleeves?

Average indoor temperatures have steadily increased over the years to a point where most offices are claustrophically hot and a cold snap provides the perfect opportunity to rectify the problem given most people will be wearing warm clothes.

According to the Carbon Trust, your energy bill goes up eight per cent every time indoor temperatures rise by one degree, so set the thermostat at 19 degrees Centigrade and resist the temptation to turn it up.

Shut that door

Retailers are the arch-offenders, but other businesses can be guilty of operating the wrong kind of open door policy. It costs firms a fortune in energy and carbon if they keep their doors open and as recent research from Cambridge University has shown so-called air curtains have little impact on energy use.

The same study suggests that shops could save up to 10 tonnes of CO2 and cut their energy bills in half by shutting doors during cold weather, while the UK as a whole could reduce its energy use by a whopping 2.5 per cent if retailers followed simple energy saving techniques.

Similarly, you would be surprised how many people in over heated offices prefer to open a window rather than turn down the heating, even when temperatures are sub zero. Make sure windows remain closed and well insulated.

Clear out the clutter

Putting furniture and assorted office paraphernalia in front of radiators means they have to work harder, so make sure that you are not blocking heat flows. By the same reckoning do not put heat generating equipment, like photocopiers, near cooling vents as it makes the air conditioning units work harder.

Don't heat what you don't need

It is obvious really, but there is no point cranking up the temperature in parts of a building that are rarely used. Do you really need a super heated stair well, corridor, or empty floor where the heating is still working at full tilt.

Get your equipment serviced

According to the Carbon Trust, a poorly maintained boiler can add up to 10 per cent to your energy bill all by itself. The start of the winter is a perfect time to give all your heating and air conditioning equipment a service to make sure you do not end up paying far moiré than you need.

Is home-working for you?

The country-wide snow and ice has resulted in what newspaper convention dictates we must refer to as "travel chaos". As a result tens of thousands of people up and down the country have been forced to work from home, providing businesses with the perfect opportunity to see if more flexible and potentially lower carbon home-working practices can work for them.

Home-working is effective for some firms and inappropriate for others so it is always worth periodically assessing whether people can be as productive without coming into the office. If so, then maybe it is worth turning working practices brought about by an exceptional weather event into a formal flexible working strategy that helps you cut carbon and office costs.

Seize the opportunity

As mentioned, monthly energy bills for November and December will serve to highlight precisely how high fuel costs can get if you do not embrace energy saving techniques and technologies. This provides the perfect opportunity for green executives to grab the attention of the board and the finance department and explain how a relatively small investment in a formal energy efficiency improvement programme can deliver significant long term returns. It is an opportunity that should not be missed.

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Credit: schroders

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