There are a number of opportunities to reduce energy use in your business. Selecting the right appliances and equipment for the business and using them more efficiently will save you money.
Once you’ve gained an understanding of your energy use through an energy assessment, you should look to implement the most-cost effective upgrades and operational changes.
Heating and cooling
Heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) systems can account for as much as 50% of energy use in an office space or building. Here are some ideas to improve the efficiency of your heating and cooling.
Reduce heat escaping with better window efficiency and wall insulation. Prevent heat loss or gain with natural ventilation, window shading, and properly fitted window coverings. Double glazing is an effective means to reduce your energy use but may be an unnecessary expense when energy-efficient reverse-cycle air conditioning is installed, so should be assessed carefully for savings against initial cost.
Reduce draughts by sealing doors and windows. Sealing gaps and cracks to stop airflow is a cheap way to cut your energy bill. Use a draught stopper to prevent airflow under doors. Apply weather seals to windows, skirting boards, skylights and cornices.
Automate temperatures and optimise existing HVAC systems. Minor adjustments to thermostat set points can achieve significant energy savings. HVAC optimisation may involve the use of improved control systems, modifications to ventilation and distribution, relocation of HVAC units, and simple good maintenance.
Consider upgrading to more efficient HVAC systems. Rooftop packaged air conditioners incorporate advanced features that improve efficiency, control and reliability. Thermal energy storage technologies store heat or cold for use during later applications. Upgrading to a more efficient HVAC system can significantly reduce your annual heating and cooling costs.
See the HVAC page for more information.
Lighting can use up to 40% of energy in commercial premises, depending on the nature of the business and type of lighting used. Low cost changes can achieve big results.
Maximise natural lighting. Take advantage of outside light with open windows and blinds rather than switching on a light. Other measures to maximise natural lighting include the use of light-coloured furnishings and reflective surfaces, skylights, shading device control, glare reduction and electrochromic glazing.
Use lights efficiently. Many lighting efficiency opportunities can be easily implemented with little or no capital investment or need to redesign a lighting system. These include turning lights off manually or automatically when not needed, or removing excess lamps from over-lit areas.
Switch to energy-efficient lighting. Options for upgrading energy-efficient lighting include replacing light fittings and lamps, optimising lighting layout, and adding more circuits and switches for greater control. Light emitting diodes (LEDs) use up to 75% less energy than halogens. LEDs also emit less heat and last up to 10 times longer than halogens, which greatly reduces the need for changing or maintenance.
See the Lighting page for more information.
Office appliances and equipment
Small changes in the way you use common appliances can result in significant savings over time. Consider making some of these improvements in your business.
Move from desktop to laptop. Standard laptops consume up to 90% less energy than desktop computers. Make the switch to this energy-saving technology while providing more work flexibility. If you need a larger screen, connect your laptop to an Energy-Star certified monitor.
Keep fridges working efficiently. Keep the freezer full but give the fridge some breathing space. A full freezer will keep food frozen if a blackout occurs, and keeping the fridge about 70% full allows air to circulate and reduces air leaks when the door opens. Fix the seal if you are noticing condensation outside of the fridge. Doors not properly sealed are the most common energy drain for fridges.
Use timers on equipment. A single computer and monitor left on 24 hours a day can cost over $200 a year. Set computers and other equipment to automatically turn off at the end of the day and use ‘energy-saving’ modes for photocopiers and printers. Timers on equipment such as boiling-water taps can ensure they’re off overnight and ready to use in the morning. All these processes can be automated with a building management system.
Switch to smart power strips. ‘Phantom loads’, or the electricity used by electronics when they are turned off or in standby mode, are a major source of energy waste. Smart power strips eliminate the problem of phantom loads by shutting off the power to electronics when they are not in use. Smart power strips can be set to turn off at an assigned time through remote switches or based on the status of a ‘master’ device.
Get in the habit of shutting down and switching off. Overnight and holiday shutdown means just that -- shut down electrical appliances and lights. Develop a system to ensure this happens. It can be as simple as having the last person to leave turn off the lights and other equipment.
Service your equipment regularly. Regularly cleaned and serviced equipment operates more efficiently. For example, refrigerated display cabinets that are not regularly cleaned can use up to 10% more energy.
Power outside of peak demand. If your business needs to run on heavy equipment or your operations can run at different times, consider changing up work hours for machine operation to make the most of lower rate off-peak hours.
Energy ratings and labelling requirements
Energy ratings are an important tool for comparing the energy efficiency of appliances. They set out minimum energy performance standards (MEPS) and labelling for common appliances in Australia, to help reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
The Energy Rating Label includes a star rating to compare different models of common appliance types. The more stars a product has, the greater its efficiency rating.
Finance your opportunities
There are various government programs and rebates available to assist with financing your energy savings opportunities.
The Victorian Energy Upgrades program provides Victorian small businesses with access to rebates and discounts on energy and water-efficient products and services through accredited service providers.
See the Grants and funding page for more information on how to access funding for your energy savings opportunities.
See also the Business support and advice page for information on programs to support businesses to better understand their energy use and implement energy efficient practices, systems and technologies.
Generate your own energy
Many businesses are implementing ‘behind the meter’ energy solutions to produce their own energy on-site to meet some of their needs. Government incentives are available for investments in energy-efficiency upgrades and for onsite renewable energy installations.
A popular option to generate your own energy is a rooftop or ground-mounted solar PV system. Solar panels may work for you depending on when you use electricity and the structure of your electricity tariff.
Installations may require a large up-front investment with a payback period of around 5 to 7 years, although loans can usually be met from the savings in energy bills. Rebates and incentives may also be available in your area.
To understand if solar panels are right for your business, you'll need to understand your energy use through an energy assessment. The Energy Efficiency Council has a list of experienced and independent energy consultants to help you get the best option for your needs.
See the Clean Energy Council (CEC)'s guide to installing solar panels for business for more information.
If your business uses more power at night, you could install solar panels and store the excess power in batteries. Battery storage allows for an increase in the capacity of onsite renewables for use at times when grid electricity would otherwise need to be purchased.
See the CEC’s guide to installing a battery storage system for more information.
Other technology options
Generating energy onsite can also involve other technologies, including solar thermal (concentrated solar power), co-generation (combined heat and power), waste to energy and biomass (organic matter used as fuel).
The best combination of these technologies will depend on your site and energy profile, including when you use energy and what combinations of heat, gas and electricity are required.
See the Renewables page for more information on energy generation options.
Green buildings attract tenants more quickly, have lower tenant turnover, command higher rents and gain reputational benefits.
When building new premises, incorporate energy-efficiency measures at the design stage. Consideration of materials, passive design, orientation and location of a building ensures taking advantage of natural surroundings and relying less on heating and cooling systems.
New buildings should comply with government standards and regulations. The National Construction Code and the Australian Building Codes Board include their handbooks and energy-efficiency requirements to help improve the standard of commercial buildings.
The National Australian Built Environment Rating System (NABERS) is a voluntary rating system with design standards that measure the energy efficiency of new buildings. Find out how to improve the energy-efficiency of building and achieve a higher rating.
See the Business Victoria website for energy-efficiency design tips and resources.
Switching to a fuel-efficient or an alternate-fuel vehicle or truck can save thousands of dollars in running costs and reduce greenhouse and air pollution emissions.
Fuel-efficient cars also have a higher threshold for the luxury car tax and some insurers may offer discounts. Although fuel-efficient vehicles may cost more upfront, choosing a cheaper and less efficient model could end up costing more in the long term.
You can compare the fuel economy, greenhouse and emissions of different cars (including 4-wheel drives and light commercial vehicles) by using the GreenVehicleGuide.
The Truck Buyers Guide has useful information on choosing a cost-efficient commercial vehicle or truck. Sometimes the cheaper option truck can result in the highest long-term cost due to fuel and ongoing maintenance.
Electric vehicles (EVs) use a lithium-ion battery-powered electric motor and produce zero tailpipe CO2 emissions. EVs recharge from home-based power outlets and external charging stations. Maintenance needs are low, given that EVs have fewer parts and less mechanical complexity than combustion-engine vehicles.
Hybrid vehicles use a combination of petrol engine, electric motor and battery to power the vehicle. A hybrid can use 40 to 60% less fuel and emits around 30% less CO2 than a conventional vehicle.
EVs and plug-in hybrids are required to display a Fuel Consumption Label. This label shows the vehicle’s energy consumption in watt hours/km, the expected range when fully charged, and fuel consumption in L/100km and CO2 emissions in g/km.
Government assistance and services
Australian Business Licence and Information Service (ABLIS) Australian Government
Business Portal (ATO) Australian Government
Business.gov.au Australian Government
Grants & programs Australian Government
GrantCONNECT Australian Government
Instant Asset Write-Off Australian Government