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Top ways to cut down on energy costs

Julian Tyndale-Biscoe lists five of the best ways to reduce your surgery's energy consumption

‘We’re saving the planet by going green,’ sounds over the top for GP practices. However, every practice can do its bit to cut greenhouse gas emissions and the best thing about being green is that it can save significant amounts of money.

So we have come up with five ways you can cut energy costs.

We have ranked the measures in the order in which they are likely to be most effective at cutting CO2 output (so number 1 is the best).

However, which cuts most CO2 at your practice, may vary according to the building type, and how energy efficient your premises already is.

1 Generate heat more efficiently
Old boilers are notoriously inefficient and a more efficient replacement will save money over time.

If you are looking to replace the practice boiler, Which? magazine (www.which.co.uk) has some useful free advice on what to consider. Modern heating systems fuelled by wood from renewable sources are now replacing ageing oil-fired boilers in schools and other public buildings.

They are billed as being carbon neutral and could be an option for the larger practice (www.usewoodfuel.co.uk or www.est.org.uk).

If you are keeping the existing boiler, a programmable timer will make sure the heating is off when the practice is closed and thermostatic radiator valves will make the system more efficient. If you have a hot water tank, adjusting the cylinder thermostat to 60° will also reduce the heating bill.

2 Keep the heat in 
Ensuring the surgery is well insulated is important for cutting heating bills.

Double or secondary glazing will keep windows draft free though curtains and draft excluders around windows and under doors are less expensive.
Make sure the hot water tank is insulated.

British Standard cylinder jacket (75mm thick) will cut heat loss by 70 per cent yet only costs about £10.

If you have loft space, make sure that this has insulation because this can cut energy bills by 20 per cent.

For tips on making the most of your energy visit the www.puretrust.org.uk or www. carbontrust.co.uk.

3 Switch it off
Having a ‘switch it off’ policy is simple in theory but making sure the whole team complies can be tricky. It means ensuring that lights are switched off in unused rooms and that computers and their monitors are not left on standby overnight.

In Britain, electrical equipment in sleep mode uses roughly seven terawatt–hours of energy and emits around 800,000 tonnes of carbon per year: the same amount of energy as 1.8 million householders.

If practice staff forget to turn off IT peripherals such as printers and monitors, there are gadgets that can help. A good example is the one click plug such as the Intelliplug.

By plugging everything into the Intelliplug, when the computer is turned off everything else is switched off too (www. oneclickpower.co.uk).

4 Use efficient appliances
If you are buying of appliances for the practice such as a fridge for vaccines look out for the EU rating — it is a good guide to the energy efficiency of the product.

An ‘A’ rating is the most efficient and ‘G’, the least.

Do not overfill kettles or leave fridge doors open. A fridge can use more energy than any other appliance and can account for up to 20 per cent of the electricity bill. Every time you open the fridge door it takes three to four minutes to regain its previous temperature.

For more on efficient appliances go to www.whatyoucando.co.uk.

5 Use low-energy lights
Traditional light bulbs use 90 per cent of their energy emitting heat and the remaining 10 per cent providing light.

Although more expensive, low-energy light bulbs use up to 70 per cent less electricity than traditional types, last around 10 times longer, emit far less heat and will save money over time.

Try making the most of natural light by keeping windows clean and window sills clear.

See the Green Consumer Guide (www.greenconsumerguide.com) or the Energy Saving Trust (www.est.org.uk).

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