Time flies. It feels like just a few weeks ago that we were battling freezing temperatures and digging our cars out of the snow. And now, here we are with a record-breaking, balmy bank holiday already behind us, and further heatwaves predicted in the next few weeks that promise to really get the mercury rising.
While that’s great news for lazy lunchbreaks in the sun, barbecue dinners and after-work sorties to enjoy our great outdoors, the longer, brighter, warmer days are great news for your business too.
Just follow these five simple tips, and you’ll find that the summer is a great time to reduce your workplace’s environmental impact, cut energy bills and hold onto much more of your hard-earned profits.
We are lucky that most workplaces have access to air-conditioning these days. But air-conditioning uses energy, and that costs your business money. And, air-conditioning is often used badly, sending bills sky high – out of control faster than a rocket full of monkeys.
So, before you rush for the air-conditioning controls this summer, here’s a simple tip to start with – ask yourself, do you really need the air-conditioning on in the first place? Chances are, for much of the day at least, opening a few windows could provide all the cooling you need, completely free of charge.
If you have tried that, and still find it’s too warm, take note, this tip comes in two parts – remember to close your windows before you switch on your air-conditioning. If you don’t, and like we’ve witnessed so many times before, you’ll be paying to cool down the entire world outside your window – and that isn’t going to be cheap.
The dress codes in our workplaces have changed a fair bit in recent years, with ties and suit jackets now often being reserved for days with important meetings (or at least when senior management is in town). Many of us also have dress down Fridays – an entire day when we can come to work as we please, within reason.
Having the freedom to dress appropriately when the weather warms up (e.g. ditching the suit for a linen shirt or dress) can have a big impact on the amount of cool air your air-conditioning unit has to pump into to your workplace to keep staff comfortable. So, it can pay to relax your dress code on hot days too and allow staff to dress more appropriately. Perhaps you can extend your dress down Fridays to Sun-days too, as it were.
Not so easy if staff wear a uniform, but perhaps the same principle could be adopted to ensure the uniform can be varied to suit different weather conditions.
Is there that one person in your office who likes the temperature to be cooler than everyone else – and is complaining about being too hot when the temperature tiptoes over 10 degrees? Do you have another that needs to wear three cardigans and a scarf under the same, ‘unbearably cold’, conditions? You’re not alone (although we might have exaggerated about the scarf).
Setting an ‘ideal’ temperature that will keep everyone happy can be a cause not just for office unrest (and lost productivity), but it can really crank up energy bills. All too often, we see offices where the air-con is switched on one minute, quickly followed by someone else firing up the heating because ‘it got too cold’.
To help you avoid this situation in your business – here are two tips for the price of one.
First, allow staff to hot desk. Believe it or not, people are different and no one temperature is right for everyone. At the same time, as luck would have it, most buildings have warmer areas (next to server rooms, equipment, etc) and cooler areas (near the doors and windows, and away from equipment). So, if you can, let your staff take advantage of these temperature differences and sit where they feel most comfortable. You never know, by doing this, you might not even need to use your air-con or heating at all.
Second, if you have automated heating and cooling system, maximise the deadband on your controls. The deadband is the gap between the temperature at which heating stops and cooling starts. If this is set as wide as possible (a minimum of 4°C is good practice), it will prevent the simultaneous operation of heating and cooling systems in neighbouring areas and maximise the time when neither system is operating.
‘Insulation – isn’t that for keeping warm in winter?’ you might ask. And you’d be right. Except, good insulation actually works all year round. In the summer it’s magnificent at keeping your precious, air-conditioned cool air indoors and the heat outside.
That makes for two great reasons to make sure your workplace is properly insulated – it saves you money on your heating in the winter AND it saves you money again in the summer when you’re trying to stay cool.
What’s more, because it has such a positive impact on reducing your energy use all year round, there’s government financial support to help you insulate your workplace – such as the Scottish Government’s interest-free SME loan, which currently has a cashback incentive of up to £10,000, while funds last.
The warmer weather is the ideal time to have your boiler serviced or, if it’s getting old, to consider making an upgrade to a more energy efficient model.
As your boiler’s not going to be in such high demand, taking it offline for a while is going to cause minimal disruption, if any. Plus, it can pay financially to have the work done now, rather than waiting until winter when heating engineers are flat out on call-outs and you can expect to pay a premium for their services.
If your boiler is old, upgrading to a newer, energy efficient boiler could not only save you on maintenance costs, but it will also undoubtedly reduce your energy bills. Typically, boilers over 10 years old will start to become less efficient and can be attractive candidates for an upgrade. We recommend replacing a boiler with efficiencies of less than 80%. Many SMEs use smaller, domestic-sized boilers and their efficiency can be determined by visiting the Product Characteristic Database.
Alternatively, you can just give our friendly advisers a call and they’ll be happy to help you. Boiler upgrades are also covered by the Government’s SME loan, so if you act now, you might be able to take advantage of the cashback incentive too.
Let’s keep our fingers crossed for the sunshine that’s been forecast to arrive soon – and good luck implementing these common-sense ideas in your business when it does. Don’t forget, if you’d like more energy-saving tips and further advice on how to save your business money, all you have to do is call our helpline on 0808 808 2268.