When thinking about how to reduce our carbon footprint and save on energy costs, most people seem to only focus on their homes. Around 2,000 hours of the average person’s year is spent at work, which is around 23% of your time. As such, it is just as important to make an effort towards reducing our environmental impact through energy usage at work.
In the UK, an average, medium sized business is said to use anything between around 30,000 - 50,000 kWh of electricity per year, which is up to 16 times more than the average household. Although this would mean that there is a large number of people working in the office, there is nothing to stop you from doing your bit towards reducing the company’s carbon footprint. Hopefully if you can show the benefits, others will follow suit, whilst also saving the company some money in the process. Here’s 6 tips on how you can do that:
#1 - Keep printing to a minimum
This may not seem like much of a tip for reducing your energy usage, but you’d be surprised at home much energy a printer actually uses, especially the type found in most office buildings. Here’s an example:
Energy usage for the average printer
When printing - 2.4 kW
Standby - 0.31 kW
Sleep mode - 0.2 kW
Monthly volume - 100,000 pages
Average hours printing per month = 22
Average hours in standby = 138
Average hours in sleep mode = 560
Average annual printer cost = £312
Annual price for 20 average printers in the office = £6,240
This is the cost for an average printer's energy usage in an average office, without paper and ink costs, which means yours could definitely be much higher. The more time you can keep your printer off, or at least in the sleep mode, the less electricity you’ll use and the more money you’ll save. This will also save on your printer paper and toner, which will be a huge saving for the company’s bank balance and the environment.
#2 - Optimise your lighting
In a typical office, lighting will usually make up around a quarter of all electricity used. This tip is more than just switching off lights when nobody is in the room, although that is very important too. Just like at home, many people are yet to take advantage of new technologies developed within lighting, namely LED and CFL bulb types. Just by switching the type of bulb that you use in your lighting fixtures, offices typically reduce the amount of electricity used through lighting by up to 75%, all for such little work.
Another idea, relating to switching lights off when no-one is present, would be to install motion sensor technology into your frequently unoccupied spaces, such as conference and meeting rooms. This sort of technology will take the pressure away from workers to turn off lights when they leave the room, all for as little as £10 per fixture.
The final tip on this subject would be to always take advantage of natural light when possible. We’re always searching for the optimal lighting conditions for our optical health; however, a lot of the time, unless someone is in direct contact with sun glare, this type of light can work better for everyone and can give the office a nicer vibe. This will also save the office a considerable amount of money on lighting costs.
#3 - Other idle appliances
It is not just the office printer that uses a considerable amount of needless energy whilst in standby and sleep mode. If you’re the sort of person that can make a habit of switching off appliances when they are not in use, then that’s great. Perhaps some creative signage may encourage people to take part in this too. However, if you don’t think it is going to be viable, it’s likely that some timer switches are your best bet. Timer switches are cheap and will automatically switch off your chosen appliance during certain hours, which will eliminate all costs within that time frame.
#4 - Get the temperature right
A large percentage of offices in the UK are either too hot or too cold due to overusage of heaters and air conditioning units. This is commonly illustrated by staff wearing jumpers in summer and sweating and rolling up their sleeves in winter. You should aim to keep your room temperature between 20-21°C, which is said to be the ideal temperature for office comfort and productivity. Anything below or above this is using an unnecessary amount of energy and is creating an uncomfortable environment for everyone involved. This sort of small change can increase productivity and save the company hundreds of pounds in the process.
#5 - Get your computer settings right
Nowadays, computers are the central point of pretty much all office activity. Having an efficient computer is one of the key factors of energy saving within the office, which is why you may want to take note of these tips and implement them for yourself.
Computers spend the majority of the day in action, which is pretty impossible to change, but when they are not in action, like when we go for lunch, for example, most people just leave their computers active, using energy when it is not needed. This can be improved by adding a couple of energy saving measures, such as hibernation and sleep mode. This will usually work on a inactive timer basis, which is ideal for when you leave your desk and totally forget to switch it off. Sleep and hibernation modes use a considerably less amount of energy than when the computer is fully active and can be added on all operating systems extremely easily.
If your office uses laptop computers, you’re already one step ahead of the game: Desktop computers use much more energy than laptop computers, some up to 80% more. Laptops are optimised to use as little energy as possible for portability and battery life, but nobody ever said they can’t be used on a desk. Here is a few things to bear in mind if you do use a laptop at work or at home:
- Laptops will tend to use less energy when they are not connected to a charging point. This is because performance drivers will generally reduce in order to conserve battery life.
- According to HP, if you only use your laptop when it is connecting to a mains source, you should remove the battery pack from your computer, as this will prevent needless battery charging.
- According to Apple, you should run your laptop on battery power from time to time to use less electricity.
#6 - Get the latest office equipment
It is likely that if you have an old office or your business has been in operation for a large amount of time, your office will still be installed with quite a lot of non energy efficient equipment, meaning you’re losing money on your energy bills for a needless cause. The two main examples of this will be your heating and air conditioning units, which are commonly not optimised for energy efficiency. This is not only using more energy than needs to be, but it is damaging the environment and adding to your carbon footprint.
Now that we are more aware of our carbon impact, more attention is given to the efficiency level of the appliances we buy. A company that is dedicated to the verification of this, ‘Energy Star’, is an international seal of approval for product consumers. If a product carries this mark, you can be sure that it will use between 20-30% less energy than what is required by US federal standards. As such, if you are thinking about replacing your office installations and appliances, you should think about buying things with the Energy Star seal of approval.