How To Reduce Your Utility Costs

Electricity, Gas and Water are huge expenses for any pub so you need to control how and when these resources are used. Your aim should be to limit, absolutely, the amount of electricity used and one way is to always ask is the task being powered by electricity able to be done by gas (or oil if you use it) or by cutting out the need for electricity in any situation? Electricity will be the most expensive utility you use.

Hot Water and Heating

  1. Set the hot water thermostats to 60°C this will be hot enough to discourage washing under running taps whilst not being too hot or wasteful and the heating boiler to 76°C (if combined then you have not option but the latter, however, consult with you boiler engineer and if necessary before the annual service date).
  1. Use your boiler for hot water all year round and only use an immersion heater in emergencies, use your boiler to produce hot water it’s far cheaper; if you do use one then make sure the cylinder is well lagged with no gaps in the jacket.
  1. Your hot water is only needed at specific times so set the time switch to control boiler (and immersion heater) to produce it at these times: a) early morning for the cleaners (if they are morning cleaners), b) over lunch-time and c) for the evening.
  1. The system should be programmed to close down at the end of the night. (Don’t forget to adjust the system for changes to and from BST/GMT and in the event of any power outage.)
  1. Maintain your water system, repair dripping taps and replace missing sink plugs to avoid running taps.
  1. When you buy glass/dishwashers, or a washing machine for your laundry room or private accommodation make sure they are hot water fed. (If you haven’t got existing machines fitted that way get them changed over if possible.)
  1. Heating works best when the heating device (radiator or heater) is heating and re-heating the air in the room and not colder air from outside; so make sure windows and doors fit snugly (door closers working properly); curtains and blinds are used if fitted (if not then fit some) and most importantly don’t heat areas you don’t need to (passageways, spare rooms in your flat, function rooms when not in use etc). Fitting reflective panels between radiators and walls will also reduce your heating bill.
  1. Electric fires or other individual heaters should only be used in an emergency, if you find yourself having to regularly use these somewhere in your pub then get a quote to extend your main system to cover that area (over the long run it will be cheaper than spot heating).
  1. Instead of cooling rooms by opening windows or doors, experiment with the settings of individual radiators and if you must then use your extractor fans (which you need to keep serviced regularly). Getting the balance right is essential (too hot or too cold and your customers will complain) but once you do you’ll see for every 1°C you can reduce the temperature you could be saving 10% off your heating bill.


(If your pub uses heating oil then joining a local heating oil buying club can save you significant amounts for more details click here.)

My top tip for dealing with customer complaints or concerns over the level of heating is to listen to them initially but refer them to a room thermometer in the bar area, ideally you will have got the ambient room temperature to between 18°C and 21°C. Why should you keep your pub any warmer than they keep their own homes? Remember the old and those with children will feel the cold more than others, so suggest they move to a spot closer to a radiator.

Internal and External Lighting

Getting the lighting levels in your pub (both front of house and back of house) right will not only create a better customer experience but also ensure health and safety is maximised. The key point to remember is, that if you don’t need a light on then turn it off! The best way of dealing with this is to do a room by room (don’t forget outside), hour by hour audit of how you use lighting.

Front of House Lighting

  1. Front of house lighting needs to be sufficient to ensure public safety and satisfy customer needs (for instance reading a newspaper) and the balance you strike between comfort and necessity will also drive your electricity consumption down.
  2. First thing in the morning make sure that your cleaners only have those lights turned on that they need to do their job properly (label all light switches and put a red sticky dot on those that they need). Make sure all blinds and curtains are open and make sure your cleaners are regularly cleaning lamps and shades.
  3. Take the time to work out which lights you actually need on during daylight hours and turn off those you don’t need. (A yellow sticky dot will indicate to everyone the daylight switches).
  4. Once you have lost the free lighting resource of daylight work out which lights you need for your afternoon/evening trade. This is when the majority of your outside lights will go on and not before. (green dots for those)
  5. Train your staff on which lights at what times and get them to use your colour coding to check the correct lights are on. It should be part of their opening up/coming on shift procedure.
  6. End of the night (or if you have an emergency) lighting where all your overhead lights etc get turned on to encourage customers to leave should only be left on for absolutely as long as necessary. For instance there’s no point sat having a quiet drink with staff in one corner of the bar with every light in the building on until the wee small hours.
  7. Consider turning off those chandeliers and putting a few strategically placed standard lamps around the room.

As with all lighting, wherever possible, ensure you are using low energy bulbs (we all know that in some instances the light they give is too harsh but mostly they provide a warm enough light – besides which, as more and more customers use low energy bulbs at home the more they are becoming acclimatised to the light they give off). By switching to LED light bulbs (replace them as the go)  you can save approximately £3.00 per bulb per year, which an on averagely sized pub with just 50 light fittings would be £150.

Top Tip from Geoff Smyth (head of technology and delivery at Carbon Trust), an organisation which helps businesses accelerate the move to a sustainable, low carbon economy, has this to say about LED lighting:

“These have improved significantly in recent years and are now suitable for most standard business applications. However, not all LED lamps are equal so ensure you procure from quality suppliers and that their product is compliant with Energy Technology List criteria (& claim the associated Enhanced Capital Allowance!!) and is backed-up with a significant (at least 3 year) UK-based warranty. We have funded thousands of LED installations across the UK with savings typically in the range of 60-80% and payback periods under 3-years. For quality suppliers visit the Carbon Trust’s Green Business Directory on our website.”

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