Governments worldwide are encouraging businesses to implement remote working wherever possible due to the COVID-19 outbreak. As a result, people all over the world are working from home, and many workplaces are now completely empty. In a time of such uncertainty, it will be difficult for businesses to maintain revenues and cost-cutting measures will undoubtedly be considered. For many companies, such as those in the hospitality sector, energy is the second highest controllable cost, only behind salaries. This means that energy managers still have a critical role to play in keeping business costs to a minimum and managing energy remotely will be more important than ever.
We don't know how long this will go on for, but early predictions suggest it could be months in a best-case scenario. We, at Surple, want to see as many businesses get through this time of uncertainty as possible. That's why we've compiled this guide to managing energy remotely for businesses to help them keep costs to a minimum.
A Practical Guide To Managing Energy Remotely
To effectively manage energy remotely, you must first implement your shutdown procedure. It's essential to have a robust shutdown procedure as it will ensure that your workplace uses as little energy as possible, for however long it remains closed. Shutdown procedures will vary from business to business. Still, there is some best-practice advice that applies to most organisations. Here are some general steps you can follow when leaving work for the last time:
Switch appliances off at the plug
Almost all electrical appliances, including computer monitors and printers, still consume energy when they're in standby mode. Therefore, it's vital to ensure that all electrical appliances are switched off at the plug when everyone leaves the office for the last time.
Turn off the lights
Make sure all of the lights in your workplace get turned off. Lighting, particularly in large buildings, can consume a lot of energy, especially if they're not LEDs. On average, it consumes 20% of the overall electricity used in commercial and industrial buildings. Even leaving a few lights on for a few months would have a significant impact on your businesses energy costs.
Review heating controls
Whether your workplace temperature gets set by a programmable thermostat or a building management system, it's essential to review the controls to ensure you're not wasting money. If you're building is going to be empty, it may be worth turning the heating off completely. Or, if your building is open for key workers only, make sure you're only heating rooms that are in use. For example, if key workers are only in the building on Fridays, there is no need to heat the building for the rest of the week.
Monitoring Energy Remotely With Energy Management Software
So now you've implemented your shutdown procedure, and your workplace is closed. What next? Well, to monitor the energy consumption of your business from home, you will need some software. Energy management software allows you to do a variety of things such as visualise your energy consumption and set alarms on your usage. If your business already has a solution, you'll already have everything you need to monitor your consumption remotely. If you don't, there's no need to panic! Most energy management solutions access your data directly from your supplier or data collector, so it's not too late to get some. We've written about the array of advantages that come with energy management software if you'd like to find out more.
At Surple, we specialise in energy management software.
Read more: Surple DEE Product Features »
When you've got your software sorted, here are some things that you can do to keep costs under control.
1. Determine your baseload energy consumption
After your company has put its remote working strategy in place, and you're confident that everyone has left the building, dig into the energy data. The goal here is to identify how much energy the building is using when it is in it’s lowest functioning state. This is known as your baseload. For businesses that have closed entirely, this value could be really low. If you have sub-metering, you could identify the baseload of relevant sub-meters. But don't worry if you don't, finding the baseload of your mains meter, will still be valuable. With Surple, you can find this information by using the Analytics page.
2. Create a new set of alarms
After you've identified the baseload energy consumption of your buildings, you can use this value to create a set of alarms that will notify you when usage exceeds the threshold. In Surple, there are two different types of Alarms that you can create. If you want to receive notifications when your usage in any half-hour period exceeds the baseload, then you'll need to create Single-interval Alarms. Alternatively, if you'd like to receive warnings when your total consumption in any given day or week exceeds a threshold, you'll want to create an Aggregate Alarm. Create as many alarms as you'd like for your meters. When you're done, you can rest a bit easier knowing that you'll get email notifications when unexpected energy consumption is detected.
3. Assign alarms to relevant individuals
If there is still going to be someone responsible in your workplace or nearby, you could assign them as a contact for the alarms. Doing this means they will also receive notifications when alarms are triggered. Most of the time, issues will be related to something not being switched off, such as the lights or an electrical appliance, and correcting the problem should be simple. To assign an individual to an alarm in Surple, you will first need to create a Contact. You can do this on the Preferences page. You can create as many contacts as like in Surple, and it won't cost you a penny.
4. Communicate effectively with your team
If you're part of an energy management team, then you will not be the only person responsible for energy use. If this is the case, it's essential to communicate effectively with your colleagues. You won't be able to do this in person and will have to utilise digital tools. Daily meetings using video conferencing software such as Zoom can help to organise work and introduce transparency. When you find something you need to discuss with your team, try to use images to make sure you're all on the same page. Within Surple, you can share charts with your colleagues easily by downloading it as an image or pressing the share button. Keeping a record of conversations and completed work is also essential. You could use Slack for this. Or, if you're a Surple customer, you could utilise the in-built messaging tool on the Communications page.
COVID-19 is having a massive impact on businesses. Some will struggle, and many will be forced to stop trading. During times when it's challenging to bring in revenue, ensuring costs are as low as possible is vital to business survival. Energy is one of the highest costs for businesses and will still need monitoring. Fortunately, energy management software has a variety of tools that can help with this. We sincerely hope this guide to managing energy remotely helps you control your energy costs over the next few months.
Further reading: Full guide to business energy management »
If you're responsible for energy in a UK-based business, you may be worried that you can't do your job effectively from home. If this is the case, book in for a Surple demo using the link below and we'll be able to help you.