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Electricity has become a necessary part of our everyday lives. Without it, we would struggle to carry out our work and other activities. In fact, it would be virtually impossible to run office operations, as most day-to-day tasks require electrical equipment.
Even though electricity is necessary, it does not mean it should be wasted or taken for granted. Not only is it costly, it uses up natural resources and can also negatively impact the environment.
According to an IEA Report:
- Energy-related CO2 emissions from buildings have risen in recent years.
- Direct and indirect emissions from electricity and commercial heat used in buildings rose to 10 GtCO2 (Gigatonnes) in 2019, the highest ever recorded.
- Several factors have contributed to this rise, including growing energy demand for heating and cooling with rising air-conditioner ownership and extreme weather events.
Some businesses are completely office-based. Others will have small office areas in addition to their main business activities. Therefore, there is a significant number of offices in the UK and considerable electricity savings to be made in these types of premises. According to British Gas, an energy-efficient office can save 65% on its energy bills. Higher energy efficiency saves businesses money and also helps the environment.
How much electricity a business will use and the costs will depend on its size and the energy use within the premises. If an office is large, it is likely to use more energy. Regardless of its size and nature, there are some things businesses can do to save electricity, and you will look at some tips specific to offices in this article.
Electricity is a form of energy created by charged particles known as electrons that flow through a circuit made up of a conductive material such as metal.
It is generated from two main primary sources:
- Non-renewable energy sources, e.g. fossil fuels (gas, oil and coal) and nuclear power.
- Renewable energy sources, e.g. bioenergy, wind, solar and tidal power.
These energy sources are processed and turned into electricity in power plants. Once produced, the electricity is transmitted to substations via overhead lines and underground cables. From there, it is distributed to homes and businesses. Electricity generation requires a significant amount of energy, and usage is measured in kilowatt-hours (kWh).There is more information about electricity generation on the website endesa.
According to the UK Government electricity statistics (Digest of UK Energy Statistics (DUKES): electricity) in 2020:
- Electricity consumption accounted for 17% of the UK’s final consumption. This proportion has been relatively stable in recent years.
- Natural gas was the fuel most used in electricity generation, followed by nuclear.
- 37% of the electricity supply within the UK was produced by renewables. This is the first time they have accounted for more than one-third of the total generation.
- Commercial and industrial sectors accounted for nearly 50% of the total electricity demand.
Even though electricity generation from renewable sources is increasing, the majority is still currently produced from non-renewables. These natural energy sources are finite, which means the natural resource is formed much slower than the consumption rate. Therefore, all businesses should do what they can to save electricity and overall energy usage.
Tips for saving electricity in offices
There are many ways in which offices can reduce usage and save electricity. Here are some top tips on saving electricity in some key areas in and around the office.
Office building alterations
It might not be possible to make energy-efficient alterations to the entire office building, but some improvements can save electricity.
Office owners and employers could:
- Improve insulation
– Improving roof insulation can retain up to 25% more heat in the building. This will keep the building warmer in winter and avoids the over-use of heating.
- Install thermal strips
– Reduce draughts and heat loss by installing thermal strips around windows and doors. In many buildings, draughts account for up to 10% of heat loss (British Gas).
- Install double glazing
– Double glazing helps prevent heat from escaping the building, which will save on heating costs.
- Install a smart meter
– Monitor the amount of electricity used by installing a smart meter within the building. This will show the electrical equipment that is using the most energy.
Lighting is often left on in workplaces and rarely seen as a problem. However, it unnecessarily wastes a significant amount of electricity and, therefore, money. According to the Energy Saving Trust, the UK wastes £170 million a year by leaving lights on unnecessarily.
Office lighting has also been known to be left on overnight and even over weekends.
This wastes a significant amount of energy, for example:
- Lighting a typical office overnight wastes enough energy to heat water for 1,000 cups of tea (Carbon Trust).
- Office lights left on overnight use enough energy in a year to heat a home for almost five months (Energy Saving Trust).
- Turning off unneeded lights could remove 171 kg (376 lb) of CO2 emissions per year (Energy Saving Trust).
It is within a business’s interest to use office lighting efficiently and sensibly, and it is one of the easiest ways to save energy.
To save electricity, office owners and employers could:
- Install energy-efficient lighting
– Install LED lights and compact fluorescent products, as they use 80% less electricity than conventional light bulbs.
– According to British Gas, installing the correct office lights can reduce energy costs by up to 15%.
- Install automated lighting
– Install movement detectors, time switches or daylight sensors that automatically switch off lighting when rooms are unoccupied or when daylight is sufficient.
- Reduce artificial light use
– Where possible, use natural daylight instead of lighting, e.g. by rearranging workstations close to windows. Not only is it free, but it can also reduce eye strain and have other health benefits.
- Switch off
– Staff should be encouraged to turn the lights off when they leave a room and at the end of the working day. Why have lights on if no one is there? Place stickers and posters around the office as a reminder.
- Keep lights free of dust
– If lights are dusty, they can lower the brightness. If an office has dimmer switches, staff may turn up the lighting brighter than is required if fixtures are dusty. Also, if light bulbs are dusty and not clean, higher wattages may be purchased to make the lighting brighter.
Heating and cooling
Heating and cooling offices can use up a considerable amount of energy. Therefore, there are significant savings to be made in this particular area.
To save electricity on heating and cooling, office owners and employers could:
- Close windows and doors
– Encourage staff to keep windows and doors closed when the heating or air conditioning are on.
- Not rely on air conditioning
– If it gets too warm or stuffy, encourage staff to open windows and/or doors for natural ventilation without relying on the air conditioning. Having the air conditioning on too much can also have negative impacts on people’s health.
– Air conditioning an office for one extra hour a day uses enough energy in a month to power a TV for over a year (The Carbon Trust).
- Dress appropriately
– Encourage staff to dress appropriately for the season, e.g. not wearing a T-shirt in winter and then turning the heating on high or wearing a jumper in summer and turning the air conditioning on full.
- Turn the heating down
– Turn the thermostat down and keep internal temperatures at a comfortable level, e.g. between 20-23°C.
– Reducing heating temperatures by 1°C can save enough energy to print over 40 million sheets of A4 paper. It can also cut up to 10% off heating costs.
- Avoid electric heaters
– Portable electric heaters are expensive to run and use more electricity. They may be cheaper to buy but should be avoided where possible as they can significantly increase the electricity bill.
- Have an energy management system in place
– Having a system that can be programmed to turn on when people get to work and off when they leave can save energy.
Office and kitchen equipment
There are many different types of office electrical equipment, such as desktop computers, printers, laptops, photocopiers, shredders, chargers etc. There are also many types of kitchen appliances, e.g. kettles, toasters, fridges, dishwashers and microwaves.
If equipment is not efficient or is unnecessarily left on, it can waste a significant amount of electricity. This is particularly true in larger office buildings where there are hundreds of computers and associated IT equipment.
To save electricity when using office and kitchen equipment, office owners and employers could:
- Replace and maintain older equipment
– Older equipment tends to be less efficient. Replace it with newer energy-efficient models. It will reduce energy consumption and save money in the long run.
– Equipment must be maintained so that it is operating optimally. If it is not, it can use more energy.
- Switch off electrical equipment and appliances
– Switch off all non-essential equipment when it is not in use and at the end of the working day.
– Switch off appliances at the plug where possible, so they do not drain electricity whilst not in use.
– A master switch can be installed, which turns everything off instead of leaving it on standby.
– According to British Gas, turning computers and monitors off at night can save £35 a year per desk. In large offices, this can be a substantial saving.
– A PC monitor left on overnight can waste enough electricity to laser print over 500 pages (Energy Saving Trust).
- Change the mode
– If equipment cannot be switched off, it should be set to energy-saving mode when this function is available.
– If the equipment is not going to be used for a short period, use sleep mode. Do not use sleep mode or standby for long periods or overnight.
– Encourage staff to reduce their PC monitor brightness. A reduction in brightness from 100% to 70% can save up to 20% of the energy the monitor uses (Harvard).
- Print less or double-sided
– Avoid printing where possible by using electronic means and go paperless.
– If printing is necessary, ensure that it is double-sided.
- Do not overfill the kettle
– Boiling a larger quantity of water requires more energy. Staff should be encouraged to only boil what they need when making hot drinks.
– Kettles should also be cleaned and descaled regularly, so they operate as efficiently as possible.
– If everyone boiled only the water they needed every time they used the kettle, we could save enough electricity in a year to power the UK’s street lights for nearly seven months (Energy Saving Trust).
- Mind the gap between fridges and walls
– If the office kitchen has a fridge, it should not be situated close to the wall, as heat can build up and affect the flow. The fridge then has to work harder and uses more energy. There should be at least a 10cm gap.
To save electricity in other ways, office owners and employers could:
- Use the stairs
– If the office has a lift, workers could be encouraged to use the stairs. Using the stairs will save energy and also improve staff fitness levels and wellbeing.
- Introduce incentives
– Having incentives and rewards for employees or teams can encourage them to save electricity in the office.
– Providing employees with tips on saving electricity at home may also encourage them to do the same in the office.
- Take note of the times electricity is more expensive
– There are times where electricity is more expensive (peak times). Businesses could try to carry out tasks involving higher electricity usage at times when it is cheaper.
These are just some tips that can help businesses save electricity in their offices. Even a change in habits can make a huge difference and save a substantial amount of money.
Advantages of saving electricity in offices
There are many advantages of saving electricity in the office, for example:
– The biggest incentive for most businesses is that saving electricity reduces energy bills and costs. Use less = pay less. This is especially true if electricity is saved over months and years.
– If there is a higher electricity demand, then prices can escalate, which can increase bills significantly. A demand reduction can push down prices. Therefore, all businesses can make substantial savings by reducing electricity consumption.
– As you have seen, most electricity is generated from non-renewable energy sources, such as coal, oil and gas, which are not clean or green. These energy sources produce carbon dioxide (CO2), which contributes to global warming and climate change. Saving electricity can reduce greenhouse gas emissions, pollution and ultimately help in saving the planet.
– Using less electricity also helps conserve non-renewable fuel reserves so that they can last longer. It also helps preserve ecosystems from being disrupted and damaged by extraction.
– Burning fossil fuels can have negative impacts on people’s health due to exposure to environmental pollutants. Where nuclear energy is used to produce electricity, there is a risk of radioactive pollution, which can have devastating impacts on humans, flora and fauna. Using renewable sources to produce electricity and reducing consumption can reduce the risk of ill health amongst the population and dangers associated with nuclear power.
- Enhanced reputation
– There is an increased awareness regarding climate change and environmental issues. If a business has green credentials and illustrates it follows good practices to save energy, it is likely to enhance its reputation and make it more competitive.
By saving electricity, businesses will save money and help the environment at the same time. This is crucial for a sustainable future.
Taking electricity for granted and being wasteful can mean increased costs for businesses and individuals. It also negatively impacts the environment, which will harm everyone in the long run.
All businesses and individuals have a responsibility to save energy wherever possible to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. It is not just about saving the planet. It is also about helping ourselves and mitigating the impact of climate change. A significant part of this is moving away from non-renewable sources such as coal and gas to produce electricity. However, our own actions can make a huge difference, whether it is at work or home.
The risks associated with climate change and natural disasters are reported widely in the media, yet people still do not appreciate that their actions can contribute massively to the problem. We all have our part to play in protecting the environment.
People are in business to make money, and wasting electricity can cost. Implementing energy-saving measures and initiatives can save money and can even have a positive impact on their reputation. It is also within employees’ interest to also do their part in saving electricity. If employers are paying more for wasted electricity, they may not be able to pay wage rises and bonuses.
Saving electricity is an easy thing to do, and some measures cost very little to implement. By following good practices in offices, businesses and individuals can make a difference. The costs (financial and environmental) are too significant to do nothing.