It is estimated that most of the UK’s businesses are energy inefficient; recent studies show that some businesses are squandering 50% of their electrical energy usage. Not only is this bad for business as it drives overhead costs up and, therefore, profits down, it also results in unnecessary greenhouse gas emissions. The damaging economic impacts and positive environmental side effects of the COVID-19 pandemic mean it has never been more important to monitor energy usage. PELs (portable energy loggers), such as the Chauvin Arnoux PEL103, provide a compact, convenient, and clever solution to monitoring, optimising, and subsequently reducing energy consumption.
- Why Should Businesses Be More Energy Efficient?
- Eights Steps Towards Energy Efficiency
- Further Information
Why Should Businesses Be More Energy Efficient?
Improving energy efficiency through optimising energy usage and identifying sources of waste or overconsumption will lead to smaller utility bills resulting in greater overall profits. The Carbon Trust estimates that energy savings of up to 20% can be made by improving the efficiency of equipment and applying energy-conservation measures. Additionally, monitoring energy and power enables the identification of hidden operational and environmental problems. For instance, implementing energy monitoring may reveal faulty equipment and/or reasons for machine failure; these instruments can then be replaced or fixed, limiting the likelihood of costly downtime or further repair expenditure.
As mentioned above, optimising and reducing energy consumption decreases both energy bills and greenhouse gas emissions. This is both good for business and good for the environment. Furthermore, administering effective environmental measures could be imperative to landing lucrative contracts. Increased focus on sustainability and climate change has made it commonplace for tenders to request evidence of successful eco policies. Failure to produce these details could result in loss of business; therefore, it pays to be environmentally friendly in more ways than one.
Additionally, in 2019 the UK government enacted Streamlined Energy and Carbon Reporting (SECR) regulations. These directives require qualifying UK businesses to disclose their energy use, carbon emissions, and energy efficiency actions alongside reference comparison metrics. It is hoped that the SECR requirements will encourage energy efficiency and result in both economical and environmental benefits. For more information, please see our blog post about Ways Businesses Can Save Energy.
Eight Steps Towards Achieving Energy Efficiency
As proven, there are multiple benefits derived from enhancing energy efficiency. So how should businesses go about deciding on and implementing the most effective measures?
The following steps will guide companies through establishing effective, economical, and eco-friendly energy policies.
Step 1: Invest in a PEL
PELs, or portable energy loggers, monitor and log power consumption, harmonics levels, voltage imbalance, and power factor. Their capacity to store thousands of readings over the course of days, weeks, and, in some cases, months will ensure you have comprehensive and reliable data about your energy usage and wastage.
Without investing in a PEL meaningful changes cannot be enforced. It is advisable to purchase a PEL, such as the PEL103, rather than hire one. This is because once baseline values have been ascertained and corrective action has been taken, further monitoring will be required to verify whether these measures have been effective. In the long-term, purchasing a portable energy logger will be more economical than repeatedly hiring one. For advice on choosing a PEL, please see our blog, Introducing Portable Energy Loggers.
Step 2: Start Monitoring
PELs are usually installed on distribution boards. From here you can measure the circuits that have the greatest impact on your business, for instance, lighting, HVAC, and computer systems. As mentioned in our Introducing Portable Energy Loggers blog, when choosing a PEL you should consider its versatility: can it measure single-phase, spilt-phase, and three-phase systems? Some three-phase PELs, like Chauvin Arnoux’s PEL103, can measure three separate single-phase circuits simultaneously, saving businesses a lot of time. To get the most out of your portable energy logger, it should be left in place to monitor parameters over prolonged periods of time. A day is good, but a week or more is better as often surprising findings occur after hours and at weekends.
Step 3: Analyse Out-of-Hours Energy Usage
Once you’ve gathered enough data, the first sets of measurements that should be analysed are the ones taken outside of your business’ operating hours. A British Gas survey of 6000 SMEs found that 46% of their electricity usage happened outside of work hours. The electricity consumption was attributed to leaving car park lighting, office lighting, heating, and IT equipment constantly switched on. Armed with this information, inexpensive solutions, such as timed switches, can be implemented, saving companies thousands of pounds. Enforcing policies such as powering down office equipment over weekends and bank holidays could save SMEs up to £6000 a year; while ensuring all non-essential equipment is switched off at the end of the day could result in energy savings of 12%.
Step 4: Consider Changes to Lighting
Lighting is responsible for approximately 40% of all the energy used in a building. If installing a timed switch has not achieved the desired saving, consider switching to low-energy, LED luminaries, many of which consume 80% less power compared to their incandescent bulb equivalents. Other measures to contemplate include:
- Occupancy sensors: these can reduce electricity consumption by up to 30%
- Photocells or light sensors: these sensors adjust the level of artificial light according to the amount of natural light in the room; they can offer a 40% reduction in electricity usage.
Step 5: Check Your Power Factor
All loads (lights, computers, heaters, etc) draw active and reactive power. Active power is useful, for example, it illuminates lights; however, reactive power is not useful. Appliances with a power factor of 1.0 do not consume reactive power; if this drops to 0.9 or 0.8 it means your company is paying for reactive power that is not serving any useful purpose. Fortunately, poor power factor can be corrected via the addition of capacitors near the distribution board. Please be aware that capacitors do degrade over time which can negatively affect power factor, as can changes to the circuit’s load. This makes investing in a PEL even more important. Portable energy loggers enable both initial indication of poor power factor as well as subsequent identification of declining power factor, allowing businesses to take the necessary corrective actions before energy consumption becomes too great or too costly.
Step 6: Measure Your Harmonics
Commonplace office equipment, such as computers, LED lighting, and variable speed drives, generate harmonics (currents at multiples of the supply frequency). PELs measure the size and order of harmonics allowing you to ascertain the level of risk to your equipment. Harmonics can cause overheated neutral conductors, malfunctioning IT equipment, and excessive vibration of motors. Monitoring harmonics will help to prevent unnecessary and expensive downtime due to machine failures, as well as steep replacement or repair costs.
Step 7: Verify Phase Balance
Checking that the voltage is consistently the same for each phase in a three-phase power supply is important when verifying whether there is an issue with your power supply or a piece of equipment. Poorly distributed single-phase loads may be caused by a piece of machinery; portable energy loggers, like the Chauvin Arnoux PEL103, can help you to identify the problem instrument. Similarly, excessive heat build-up in three-phase motors could be the result of modest supply imbalance, which, again, can be identified using a PEL.
Step 8: Gather Expert Advice
Energy efficiency is more than just monitoring electrical usage and detecting waste; issues with building insulation can also contribute to inefficiency. It is estimated that 60% of office heat is lost through the fabric of the building. In our blog, Build Back Greener After Coronavirus, we detail the government’s billion-pound Public Sector Decarbonisation Scheme which is intended to help public sector organisations reduce carbon emissions and conserve energy through condition improvement and rebuilding. For information regarding this scheme please visit the UK government’s website.
Chauvin Arnoux’s technical team also offer expert advice on energy monitoring and energy efficiency. Please don't hesitate to contact them or our Sales team if you require further guidance regarding energy monitoring strategies and equipment.
For more information regarding energy efficiency measures, the Chauvin Arnoux PEL103 Power/ Energy Logger, and any of our Chauvin Arnoux Power Quality Analysers, please contact our Sales team on 01642 931 329 or via our online form.
 Most of the information in this article was gathered using the following sources:
- Chauvin Arnoux, Monitoring Your Way to Higher Profits, last accessed 14 May 2021
- Chauvin Arnoux, The Importance of Metering and Monitoring Energy Consumption, last accessed 14 May 2021
- Chauvin Arnoux, Step by Step to Energy Efficiency, last accessed 14 May 2021
Where additional sources have been used, separate references have been added.
 Qualifying businesses must meet two of the following three conditions:
- Have at least 250 employees
- Have an annual turnover in excess of £36 million
- Have an annual balance sheet turnover of £18 million or more
Energy Management Briefing, Realise Your Net Zero Ambitions Through SECR Compliance, last accessed 14 May 2021 <https://energymanagementsummit.co.uk/briefing/realise-your-net-zero-ambitions-through-secr-compliance/>
 Carbon Trust, SECR explained: Streamlined Energy & Carbon Reporting framework for UK business, last accessed 14 May 2021 <https://www.carbontrust.com/news-and-events/insights/secr-explained-streamlined-energy-carbon-reporting-framework-for-uk>