Replacing old, energy-hungry equipment with new, more efficient models is a simple way to lower your energy bills and carbon footprint – but when you need to keep a tight control of your business capital you’ll want to ensure you get the biggest ‘bang for your buck’. So where do you start? David Richardson from the University of Central Lancashire’s Making Carbon Work (MaCaW) project, has some suggestions.

You can’t know how you’re improving your carbon footprint unless you have a baseline from which to work. So our first recommendation for every Lancashire SME that works us is to let us carry out a free carbon assessment that looks at 12 months of energy, water, transport and waste data to measure your carbon output. The assessment also identifies opportunities for improvement and these typically break down into two distinct (yet often complexly intertwined) categories: equipment and behaviour. In this post we’ll focus on equipment.

Taking a fresh look at your business’ equipment

There’s some equipment that’s common to every business. Every SME will use lighting. Almost every business will use some form of heating and many have mechanical ventilation or air conditioning systems to manage ventilation requirements and deliver comfort cooling. All of these will have an operational cost and a corresponding carbon impact.

Every carbon assessment report we produce will scrutinise these elements and will suggest improvements for each of them where appropriate. The report will also explain what effect these improvements will have on your energy costs and carbon impact. Tackling the lighting is frequently a quick win as many businesses are yet to fully embrace LED technology and automated lighting controls. Often, upgrading the lighting does not cause major disruption, generates good savings and with payback starting immediately often has a short return on investment.

HVAC improvements can vary significantly, from replacing an aging boiler to installing low and zero carbon technologies such as biomass boilers and heat pumps. Implementing wider changes can be more involved than making lighting improvements, although solar panel installation remains one of the more simple and popular renewable energy technologies.

Next, there’s the business specific equipment. Depending on which sector an SWE operates in, the MaCaW audit will address all key areas. These might typically include – compressed air usage in manufacturing, motor driven equipment such as conveyors or mixing equipment in heavy processing applications or industrial chillers and freezers used in food storage operations. We’ll assess the energy consumption of these and, often, we’ll identify improvements either by replacing aging equipment with newer models, suggesting changes to the way the equipment is controlled (see below), or, recognising the high level of control that employees often exert on key equipment, suggesting adjustments to site operational protocol with a formal energy policy (the behavioural change mentioned earlier which we explore further here).

Sub-metering can play a part in an effective energy strategy too. Whilst the act of sub-metering different departments within a site (or sub-metering specific high energy pieces of equipment) will not generate energy savings alone, understanding how, when and where energy is being used can be very effective in enabling an SME to identify faulty equipment or the areas the need to prioritise their energy reduction initiatives.

Staying in control

Getting more efficient performance from your equipment isn’t always a matter of switching out old for new. Even relatively new equipment won’t deliver optimal performance if its controls aren’t optimised for efficient running.

Just one example of that is the compressor used in refrigeration equipment. The main method of reducing temperature lift is to lower the temperature at which heat is discharged in the condenser (condensing temperature). Typically, condenser controls are programmed to run all year round at a condensing temperature designed for summer conditions. Changing the control allows the condensing temperature to reduce in cooler weather and can provide large savings.

By optimising controls used in equipment across your business can make significant savings with minimal outlay.

Help with the cost of new and replacement equipment

The cost of improvements don’t always have to be high but major changes will require businesses to dip into their capital. Fortunately, that outlay can be much reduced with a matched grant from the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF), accessed via MaCaW.

The grant can provide up to 50% funding for eligible carbon-reducing capital projects – especially projects which replace fossil fuel with renewable energy systems – and it’s available until 2023.

We’ve helped Lancashire SMEs secure grants for a wide range of projects but by far the most common are LED lighting and solar PV projects.

Let a MaCaW carbon audit point you in the right direction

Enquire about a free carbon audit now. It will help you reduce your energy costs and carbon footprint – and it could open the door to grant funding for improvement projects. To get started contact us.

MaCaW is a University of Central Lancashire (UCLan) project, an industry and academic collaboration funded by the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) and supported by Boost, Lancashire’s business growth hub.

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