running a green office

how to use bill and meter readings to save money

Many businesses pay too much for their electricity and gas. To identify savings start by taking regular meter readings to establish a pattern of energy consumption.

Meters can be either digital display or analogue dial (these need to be read manually) or the newer type which feeds information to the supplier on a very regular basis, sometimes every half hour or so. Once you start recording the readings regularly you can plot usage and identify trends. Fluctuations in energy use are varied and will depend on the ebb and flow of your business, but you should be able to identify peak periods, holidays, seasonal changes etc.

To pay less for each unit of electricity, make maximum use of cheaper electricity rates (especially at night) and minimise use of peak rate and winter units. If possible reschedule work activity so that your maximum daily demand for electricity does not fall in peak periods and check tariffs to ensure you are paying the minimum amount. It is also worth checking with your supplier that your load (the amount you draw from the supply) has no unusual characteristics that may affect the unit price.

If your maximum demand is greater that 100kW you should be able to negotiate a contract with a supplier to have a meter installed that records consumption every half hour. Lower prices can be obtained by minimising the maximum demand in any half-hour period during the day, and possibly minimising demand during the peak times of 4.30pm and 7.30pm weekdays in the bleak winter months of November to February. It will depend on the details of the contract.

Companies with a maximum demand less than 100kW are normally on a standard tariff which varies greatly. Check the tariff is the most economical for your consumption pattern and discuss the most appropriate tariffs with the supplier.

Also you may wish to check your Power Factor (some electrical equipment such as motors and fluorescent lighting can have an effect known as a power reactance-commonly described as similar to driving a car with the breaks on) and if necessary obtain Power Factor Correction (PCF) equipment to correct the problem. However, although significant cost savings can be made it is not applicable to many businesses and you would need to approach an independent consultant.

You must know what your maximum demand limit is - it should be on the bill, but check immediately with your supplier if it isn’t - because this can have a big impact on what you pay, particularly if you exceed it.

Once you are familiar with your meters and bills and have carried out energy audit it is much easier to make changes and save money. Staff need to know where energy is wasted, how to save it, and why it is important to do so.

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