Understanding your energy habits

How to conduct your own business energy audit in four easy steps

Understanding your energy use is an important way to make sure your business is running effectively. This is where an energy audit comes in, and it's something you're able to do yourself. From a physical inspection of your lighting and ventilation systems to getting your employees involved in the effort, an audit of your energy usage can affect both your finances and your energy efficiency.

On the long list of business to-dos, conducting a business energy audit may not seem a priority, but it should be. Understanding and managing your energy use can cut your operational expenses so it might just be the most important action you take this year.

Curious or confused about how to get started? We've pulled together a simple guide on energy audits and how you can conduct one for your organisation. 

What is a business energy audit?

An energy audit is a detailed assessment of your business' energy use. That includes examining how and where (and when) your company uses gas and power, as well as how much money you spend on each.

Why does my business need an energy audit?

If you're an SME there is no obligation to undergo a business energy audit but it is a helpful way of understanding your energy bills and business footprint.

Similar to a financial or operational audit, the purpose of an energy audit is to help your company to run more effectively. An energy audit gives you a better understanding of how your company's energy usage affects your finances and your carbon footprint, and the results can help you increase energy efficiency.

How can I conduct a business energy audit?

While you can pay an expert to conduct an on-site audit, much of the benefit can still be gained by carrying one out for yourself.

1. Assess your current energy use

The first step is to look at the data. Gather your energy bills from the past couple of years and open a new spreadsheet on your computer. If the data is available, break down your energy use into categories like heating, cooling and operations, otherwise just look at gas and power use per month, per quarter and per year.

Reviewing the numbers can help you identify patterns and flag potential issues. If your heating and cooling bills are consistently high year-round for instance, you may benefit from better insulation or window treatments. Or perhaps you noticed that your business electricity bills have increased by 15% over the past year. It could be because staff are working longer hours in the office, or maybe some of your equipment is running less efficiently.

Understanding the reasons for energy use is the first step to making effective changes.

2. Conduct a site walk-around

Once you understand your overall energy use on paper, the next step is a physical inspection. Walking around your premises can help you spot problems and identify areas where you can save energy.

To make your site walk-around thorough and effective, it's worth considering the following:

  • Lighting
  • Heating
  • Air conditioning/ventilation
  • Equipment and machinery
  • The building itself

As you check out each area, look for any obvious problems, like equipment or lights being left on overnight, as well as opportunities to reduce your energy use. For example, do the overhead lights have CFL or LED bulbs? Are the thermostatic controls set at the right temperature and scheduled to turn off after business hours?

3. Create a plan of action

Armed with a better understanding of how, where and when you're using energy, it's time to make a plan to reduce it. Start by focusing on using less energy in the first place - insulation, timer switches, correct settings etc before moving on to office upgrades including switching to energy-efficient lighting, checking your boiler and replacing elderly windows. Once you've covered your bases, consider the areas where you may need to make a long-term investment.

Could you install solar panels, for example? Do you need to renovate your business space to allow more natural light to come in? Would it make sense to install electric vehicle charging posts for employees and customers? Compile a list of the changes to consider, noting the upfront cost as well as how much money you'd save year on year.

Clarifying your goals won't just serve as a road map for taking action, it can also help you stay accountable as you make changes to your energy use.

4. Get your employees involved

Making upgrades to your premises can significantly improve your business' carbon footprint, but those steps only go so far. To create lasting change, it's crucial to involve your employees or colleagues in the effort.

Start by hosting an energy training session for staff. Go over the changes you want to make to the business, explain why and encourage employees to help meet these goals. When employees understand the benefits of saving energy—both to the environment and the company's finances—they may be more inclined to pitch in with the effort.

You can also take steps to nudge employees in the right direction. This can be as simple as placing labels above light switches to remind employees to turn off the lights when they leave a room and putting a sign next to the heating control that suggests appropriate temperatures.

Once you've done that, you could even start to share the good news with your clients, your customers, or your supply chain - your success can be their good news as well. Our own research revealed around a quarter of people in the UK believe it's the responsibility of business to take a lead on driving change to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and tackle our impact on the planet.

Conducting a business energy audit yourself may seem overwhelming, but broken down into a series of steps it needn't be, and the results can help your bottom line and the planet.