Starting your own business and working from home can be an incredibly liberating experience. When working from home, you get to create your own schedule, develop a unique work pattern and do everything your way. On the flipside, you can also enjoy working in the comfort of your own office. But once you’ve started working regularly from a home office, you also need to be aware of the cost implications of your new homeworking lifestyle.
The UK Government’s energy industry watchdog ofgem estimates approximately 4% of all household expenditure goes directly towards energy spend – and between the UK’s so-called ‘Big Six’ domestic energy suppliers, the average household energy bill is currently sitting at over £1,100 per year. If you’re working at home every day, that number is bound to rise dramatically due to the increased use of electrical devices, lighting, heating and more.
As a result, energy overheads can start to add up incredibly quickly, and have the potential to put a serious dent in your home-based company. Fortunately, there are plenty of simple ways you can drastically reduce your home office energy consumption to lower your energy bills.
To help you get started, here are 10 of the fastest and cheapest ways to save energy in your home office:
1. Replace your lightbulbs
According to the Energy Saving Trust, lighting accounts for around 15% of the typical household’s electricity bill – and a very simple way to reduce the amount of energy being consumed by your lighting is to replace your old-fashioned lightbulbs with one of two modern, energy-efficient alternatives.
In the UK, business owners looking to improve the energy efficiency of their lighting should look to Compact Fluorescent Lamps (CFLs) and Light Emitting Diodes (LEDs). CFL and LED-powered lightbulbs can reduce your home office energy consumption by as much as 75%. Better yet, these bulbs last two-to-three times longer than traditional bulbs.
By replacing one traditional lightbulb with an LED or FCL bulb of the same brightness level, you can expect to save approximately £6 per year on your home energy bills. That doesn’t sound like a lot – but if you swap out every bulb in your property, you could easily be looking at more than £50 per year in savings.
Every little bit helps, right?
2. Make sure unused devices are switched off
One of the most obvious solutions to keep your energy bills down is to make sure everything in your office is switched off when you’re not using it.
Researchers at Optimal Monitoring estimate that a single desktop computer and monitor will cost you around £45 per year in energy bills, if it’s left on 24 hours a day. Yet if business owners simply switch their computer off when they finish up for the day, that bill would drop to less than £10.
It’s also worth looking into activating hibernation features on your computer, laptop or other devices. Hibernation functionality typically enables you to automatically save your existing work before the device goes into a sleep mode – before allowing you to pick up precisely where you left off when you’re ready to pick things back up the following day.
Another useful way to make sure all your unnecessary electrical devices are turned off in your office is to plug multiple items into a single power strip. That way, you’ll be able to turn everything off with one flick of a switch.
Finally, you should be extremely wary of the use of so-called ‘vampire electronics’. These are devices like mobile phones or tablets that need to be plugged into an electrical outlet to charge – but continue to draw small amounts of electricity from your mains supply even after they’re fully charged. Always be sure to turn sockets off or unplug these items as soon as they’re fully charged.
3. Embrace IoT devices
Are you familiar with the ‘Internet of things’ (IoT)? If not, don’t worry. IoT is essentially just a fancy word to describe physical devices that are constantly plugged into the web. Examples range from Apple’s HomePod to Samsung’s smart microwave. Some are admittedly more useful than others – but how can IoT devices save you money?
Because they’re fitted with sensors, IoT devices are intrinsically designed to learn from the ways in which you’re using them and adapt to increase their own efficiency and power down whenever possible. In the case of energy efficiency, your first port of call for an office IoT device is a smart meter.
Smart meters are electronic devices that are designed to automatically measure your energy consumption and report it back to your supplier on a regular basis. Most smart meters also come with analytics features that will enable you to monitor which appliances are consuming the most energy and track your daily spend.
Some smart meters will also allow you to adjust the temperature of your office and turn certain electrical items on and off remotely using an associated smartphone app.
The UK Government has put a lot of resource and funding into the widespread rollout of smart meters, and so most UK energy suppliers will install a smart meter in your home free of charge. All you should have to do is get in touch and request one.
4. Invest in renewable energy
If you’d like to make a long-term investment in lowering your energy consumption, you should also investigate domestic renewable energy – and there are plenty of avenues you can explore.
If you’d like to install solar panels in your home, the Energy Saving Trust estimates you can expect to save more than £200 per year if you’re working from home most of the day. The UK Government will even pay you generation and export tariffs for pumping excess electricity you aren’t using onto the national grid.
How much does it take to install solar panels? An average 4kWp solar PV system costs between £5,000 and £8,000, including VAT of 5%.
You can also look into a small domestic wind turbine for your home. These are normally a little bit cheaper, with a roof-mounted 1kW micro-wind system typically running in the region of £3,000 to install. On the flipside, with government Feed-in Tariffs (FiTS), payments and electricity savings, a large 6kW domestic wind turbine could generate around £1,500 per year in income for you – simultaneously savings 3.8 tonnes of carbon dioxide every year.
Other renewable home improvements that could cut your office bills include Micro-CHP, biomass boilers, ground source heat pumps and more. For additional information, you should check out the Energy Saving Trust website.
5. Keep control of the thermostat
Another simple way to slash your home energy spend is to turn down your thermostat. If you’re constantly working from home, you’ll no doubt want to be comfortable – which could mean a toasty office. But a warm home office could also mean sky-high gas bills.
According to research conducted by Energy UK, you could save around £85 per year and reduce your heating spend by some 10% just by turning your thermostat down a single degree. Bearing in mind the average UK household temperature is around 20°C in winter time, that means you could save big time just by turning the temperature in your office down to 19°C.
6. Recycle everything you can
If you want to save energy in your home and reduce your company’s carbon footprint, you should be recycling absolutely everything. Every domestic property will be obliged to separate their waste into a few different recycling bins – but you can take that a step further in your office.
First and foremost, you should have a devoted recycling bin in your office, alongside a typical wastepaper basket to make sure you aren’t tossing away recyclable materials, just because you don’t want to leave your office.
Likewise, you should always be thinking about how you can take unused items or electrical devices and repurpose them, so that you don’t have to buy new items. That will reduce your outgoing spending dramatically.
7. Be mindful in the kitchen
Because you’re spending most of your day running your company from your home office, it’s easy to forget the other ways you could be reducing your energy consumption. But if you’re serious about slashing your energy spend to benefit your company, then you’ve got to step out of your office and into the kitchen.
You can save on gas by ensuring hot water taps are only used when necessary and are never left dripping. You should also make sure there is a minimum 10-centimetre gap between the back of your fridge and your kitchen wall. This will not only ensure its coils have space to operate, maximising its lifespan and saving you money – but it will also allow heat from the fridge to flow into the room, making it slightly warmer, so you’re less reliant on kitchen heating.
Believe it or not, you could also be wasting a whole lot of money every time you take a break from your work to make tea. One recent study found that 75% of UK homes are overfilling their kettles on a regular basis – needlessly using an extra £68m worth of collective electricity each year. By making sure you’re only boiling the amount of water you need in your kettle, you could save an extra £5 per year.
8. Prevent air from leaking
If your home office is in an older property, you might also be able to save on your energy bills by acting to ensure air isn’t escaping through doors and windows. By keeping warm air in – and making sure cold air stays out – you can turn your heating down and make big savings.
So, how do you prevent air escaping from your office?
The quickest way is to install weather strips around your doors and windows. It’s also worth making sure that doors are firmly shut to prevent drafts. Likewise, a healthy flow of air is also reliant on regular cleaning of your home’s heating or ventilation system. Make sure all vents are clear and free-flowing and filters are changed often to maximise efficiency.
9. Get rid of your desktop computer
A lot of business owners who run their companies from home like the idea of a desktop computer. Desktops look imposing and professional if you’ve got somebody visiting your home office. But to be honest, they’re energy guzzlers that are often less powerful than smaller and more energy-efficient laptops.
According to the Houston Chronicle, laptops consume around 80% less electricity than the average desktop computer. That’s because laptops are designed to use only about 60W of energy at any given time, while desktops often need to draw 300W or more just to get up and running. Better yet, if you’ve got your laptop plugged in with an AC adapter while in use, your device will become 20% more efficient.
Bearing in mind the faster speed and lower price of many laptops on the market, it makes perfect sense to recycle your desktop in favour of a faster and more efficient laptop. Not only will you get more work done in the office, but you’ll save more money.
10. Switch energy suppliers
Finally, the easiest way to reduce your home office energy bills is to switch your energy supplier.
According to researchers at Energylinx for Business, the UK’s “Big Six” energy suppliers overcharge small businesses by around £500m a year. How? Because one in ten small business owners don’t bother shopping around. Those individuals are often rolled onto products with higher tariffs at the end of their fixed price deals – often costing up to 100% more than their initial spend.
By using comparison sites like Energylinx, GoCompare or uSwitch, you could be saving more than £350 on your annual home energy bill. It only takes a few minutes, but it could mean reducing the energy spend of your home-run business by almost a third.
The bottom line
If you’re worried about the amount of energy you are using by running your business from home, there are plenty of ways to lower your bills and reduce consumption. Even just replacing lightbulbs and using less water in the kettle can save you money, while bigger investments like solar panels or an energy-efficient laptop are fantastic long-term solutions to keep your bills down.
But no two businesses are alike, and so your home-run business might have different energy needs than other companies. That’s why you should be conducting a regular energy audit of your business processes and functions to think about the unique ways in which you could change your energy habits to save money.
Want more advice on how to make your business more efficient? Check out the Rapid Formations Blog, where you’ll find essential resources on company formation, how to reduce your company’s carbon footprint, digital advertising and much more.