How to cut energy costs

By Ken Warner, Managing Director, Energy Renewals

Landlords, property managers and residents management committees should cut energy usage to reduce bills rather than chase cheaper tariffs.

Whilst requiring more time and effort, putting a strategy in place to reduce the carbon footprint of your apartment blocks’ communal areas will pay higher dividends in the long run.

Smart technology is the key to monitoring your energy consumption and the data collated provides the starting point for an energy reduction programme. However, monitoring alone will not lead to reduced energy usage and ultimately cost savings, the information has to be analysed and practical solutions identified and implemented if a result is to be delivered. On-going measurement ensures the strategy remains on track and savings continue.

The problem for those involved in flat living, particularly when residents management committees are responsible for the communal areas, is having the time, resources and expertise to devise a strategy to reduce energy consumption. Obvious solutions include replacing standard lighting with LED lighting or automated lighting which switches off when there is no one in the communal areas, although that requires investment.

In our experience, there are a number of small changes which can make all the difference; the problem for laymen and women is being able to pinpoint them. Thus, it becomes easier to fall back onto switching tariffs in the hope of achieving a cheaper deal or negotiating a fixed price tariff over a number of years. Whilst this is good practice and should form part of any energy management programme, it is only one element.

Reducing energy usage ensures on-going cost savings as well as being good for the environment. Not only that, the measures could well be adopted in the flats of tenants and owners which will reduce the energy consumption of the block all round as well as delivering savings for individuals.

Buildings are responsible for more than a third (37%) of the UK’s carbon emissions with the split between non-domestic and domestic buildings being 60/40, according to the Carbon Trust. To put that into context, it equates to around 200 million tonnes of CO2 and you may be surprised to learn those levels are around the same as the annual emissions from the United Arab Emirates or those of Greece and Chile combined (see article). The Carbon Trust estimates savings of 35% are feasible by 2020 simply by adopting cost effective measures which it says will result in savings of £4 billion to the UK economy. By 2050, the Trust is confident CO2 reductions of 75% can be achieved at no net cost to the economy.

Whilst that may all sound a little overwhelming, we advise clients to adopt a six-step energy management strategy – audit, collate data, evaluate, recommend, implement and measure. 

Our Smart Billing product has been developed by Measure My Energy and provides the information needed to develop a workable strategy.

The small and simple changes can have the biggest impact. To give you an example, the Measure My Energy technology is already being utilised in the retail sector and one chain found staff were using both the heating and air conditioning functions at the same time thereby placing both units under pressure to compensate for the other. When addressed, cost savings of more than 40% were realised across its stores although later analysis also found new staff members were often not made aware of the issue so some stores quickly fell back into bad habits highlighting the need for both continual measurement and training requirements.

We have found similar examples when we visit clients, one of our team members found an air conditioning system in a school was overworking because classrooms looked onto a south facing courtyard which acted as a sun trap. Simply placing solar film, which absorbs the heat, onto the windows meant demand on the air conditioning system was alleviated resulting in reduced consumption and therefore a lower bill. 

As energy consultants, you would expect us to both notice such issues at 20 paces and immediately have a solution to hand (which, of course, we do!), but if you don’t happen to be a specialist it becomes practically impossible to develop an effective course of action. 

Smart technology is just the start, interpreting the data and implementing an energy management programme is the next step. Asking the experts will undoubtedly save you time, hassle and money as well as ensuring a long term strategy continues to achieve energy savings.

This was highlighted at the 11th Facilities Management and Property event at Cambridge University on the 6th October 2016. With the Energy Renewals team giving a talk on the role of smart technology and how the data it gathers forms the basis of a strategy to reduce energy consumption and save costs.

Energy Renewals are specialists in energy management for blocks of flats and apartments, as well as small and medium businesses, large corporations, and multi-site companies. 

Contact them on 01753 208 125 or follow them on Twitter to stay up to date with energy news.