Ask the Expert: Reducing jewellers’ utility bills

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Ecotec Global’s Graeme Robertson on new attitudes in the workplace.

Addressing the type of lighting you use or tuning down your air conditioning by a degree can make a big difference, not only to your utility bills but to your emploeyees’ attitude to energy wastage. Graeme Robertson of energy consulting and supply company Ecotec Global offers his advice on reducing energy usage in the workplace.

With continued fuel price rises, increases in government taxation, talk of energy and generation shortages, together with an increased public awareness of carbon issues, the incentives for retailers to reduce their energy usage have never been greater.

But how exactly do they go about this, and what are the cost implications for a business, whether a sole unit or an estate of shops or offices?

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BEHAVIOURAL CHANGE
Low cost and simple to implement, changing the behaviour of staff to eliminate wastage is as good a place as any to start. You will need to win interest from your staff to ensure that they are motivated and this can be done by producing league tables across stores where there are more than one, or simply highlighting the cost of equipment that is left running unnecessarily.

A typical one desk office, left on for four hours per day more than required will waste something in the order of £50 per annum.
Typically, within a retail environment, back offices and stock rooms are areas of concern, for both heating and lighting. Stickers placed above light switches or heating and ventilation units (available from associations such as the Carbon Trust) can work surprisingly well, and are a free way to start reducing consumption.

INVEST IN LED LIGHTING
Outside of changing behaviour, the next course is to look into structural change, or in other words, spending money to make money. Where to start will depend on the particular business, but the one area always worth considering first is lighting.

Up to 50% of a business’ electricity costs are likely to be lighting– something jewellers will recognise. With the new breed of ultra-efficient LED lamps coming onto the market, costs could be reduced by as much as 80%, and in almost all cases, new bulbs can be fitted into your existing fittings.

Whilst LED bulbs are extremely efficient, they are nonetheless more expensive than traditional incandescent bulbs, which means you need to be careful about which lamps you replace and the order in which you replace them.

Any reputable LED supplier should be able to provide you with a brief report, detailing the paybacks of each type of fitting within your premises, from which you can make a decision on the best way to proceed. If a supplier is not willing to provide this, then you might want to ask yourself why.

LED lights can be manufactured in any colour temperature you require, so you should be able to find a range of colours to suit the jewellery within a retail window display or to add warmth or coolness to certain cabinets.

A seven watt LED spotlight can provide the same light as a 50 watt standard spotlight, with an expected lifespan of up to 30 times the average life of a standard bulb, meaning the savings can be spectacular.

It is estimated that even a small jewellery retailer could save in excess of £600 per annum by installing LED lighting; however, how quickly each shop records a return will vary from business to business. Be sure to include all lighting, including signage, as this can be a significant portion of the overall lighting cost.

HEATING AND HOT WATER
Reducing thermostat temperatures by just one degree can save up to 8% on heating costs, so a business should consider its heating requirements within a store or workspace and set a policy around this.

Many retailers crank up the heating to during winter, however as most customers will already be wearing warm clothing, this can make the shopping experience uncomfortable, as well as wasting your business money.

AIR CONDITIONING
If you have air conditioning units to provide cooling or heating to a shop, office or studio, consider increasing the ‘dead band’ settings. Most units are set to operate in a narrow dead band window of a couple of degrees or so, outside of which they will either be trying to cool or trying to heat the premises.

Increasing the dead band settings by one degree each way will realise substantial savings, and the impact is unlikely to be noticed by customers or staff. You should also ensure that you have a stringent maintenance regime for your air conditioning. A blocked or dirty filter could mean wastage of up to 33%, as the unit has to work harder to compensate.

TIMERS AND CONTROLS
In something like 30% of retail outlets that Ecotec Global has surveyed, heating and lighting controls are not set correctly and operate outside of core opening hours. Remember to set timers and change these when the clocks change.

If timers are not set correctly the temptation is for staff to simply override them, and in our experience it is rarely the case that they are re-set at the end of the day.

GET SOME ADVICE
The Carbon Trust is a good source of free information for businesses seeking to cut energy bills, but if you are still not sure get some expert advice. Whilst this may involve some cost, many energy consultancies operate in the same way and will rebate any audit and survey fees from the cost of an order for lighting or other products.

For simple solutions such as LED replacements, you should ensure that each type of fitting is looked at separately, and progressed on merit, rather than looking at an installation as a whole. This will ensure that you are always maximising return on investment.

BE PROUD
The PR value of reducing energy consumption cannot be overestimated. The public today are increasingly aware of global warming and the need to reduce carbon emissions, so if you have done something about it, shout about it in the local or business press.

Get some validated information on how much you have saved and display it prominently. Anything that differentiates you from your competitors, as well as improving margins in a tough climate, has to be good for business.

And it’s a case of sooner rather than later. No one is talking the price of energy down, so the time to look at efficiency is now. We estimate that most retailers could save up to 30% of their running costs at a time when high street margins are being squeezed relentlessly, and whilst it may involve some initial expense, the rewards are far greater.

Ecotec Global is an energy consulting and supply company that works to reduce electricity costs for businesses.

This Ask the Expert was taken from the April issue of Professional Jeweller. To read the issue in full online, click here

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