My father could ‘smell electricity burning’, always on the nightly rounds, shutting-off lights wherever we callow youths had had the exuberance to leave them unthinkingly on.
As a country Ireland relies on imported energy to too great-an-extent which can lead to volatility in oil prices as events unfold around the globe. But Ireland has now set itself a goal to increase the amount of electricity obtained from renewable resources from 30% to 70% by 2030.
When running a pub, trying to keep the energy costs to a minimum forms part of the effort to boost that bottom line.
Energy forms a significant component of pub costings so how can pubs, hotels, nightclubs and other outlets bring their costs down in this area?
Some might be surprised at the list of items that run quietly in the background in a typical pub: lights, heating, TVs, computers, cooler cabinets, freezers, night-lights etc so reducing the amount of electricity used in your pub is a worthwhile mission to set out on, especially if you consider that in cutting your energy usage, you’re also helping in the fight against climate change.
Even when you have cut back, all the energy brokers advocate shopping around to find who’ll give you the best deal because any reduction in your bill has got to increase your profit margin.
And the time to do this is now in the warm weather, not at the end of the Winter when you might only be shocked into action by the size of the bill.
Lighting accounts for around 25% of the energy used in a typical pub according to Carbon Trust. As such, switching off lighting when it’s no longer needed should be an active policy pursued by all staff.
It’s worth considering sitting down with your employees and explaining to them the importance of cutting back on electricity costs. One energy broker even suggests that you show them your pub electricity bill and explain to them that you would like them to help lower the amount of electricity wasted by the pub.
Remind them of this via posters etc in staff areas or stickers next to light switches. Alternatively, make use of timer switches set to ‘on’ around your pub’s trading hours.
In the kitchen and bar, have them check that seals on doors haven’t deteriorated.
VFI Secretary for County Monaghan Sean Redmond has been studying energy costs in the pub for some time now. He reckons that the overnight energy used should represent some 17% of the total electric bill.
“If you’re using more than this at night then you’re leaving some stuff on unnecessarily,” he says, “You don’t need to heat the building at night and some lights could be turned off.”
And if you’re one of those that turns the cooler off at night, you’ll be using twice as much electricity to turn it on again during the day.
“It’s better to close the door and cool the fridge on half-price power at night when the coolness can be stored in the product the following day,” he advises.
It’s also a good idea to keep the chiller cabinets full to give substance to temperature retention and once a month scrub the condensers (which fill up with dirt and dust and which negatively affect their ability to act as an insulator).
“The first thing I’d do if my fridge breaks down is to clean the condenser,” Sean says, “That’s the first thing an engineer would do at €100 a callout.”
Of course pub coolers are not known for being easy to pull out from the wall and maintain, so Sean also suggests that if you’ve a cooler that’s more than 10 years old it should be replaced with a new one.
“They only use half the power,” he says, “The new generation of components in today’s coolers have double gaskets for improved airtightness.
“The glass might also go from single-glazed to double-glazed and they’re generally better insulated.”
So instead of spending €300 to have it fixed, for another €500 you could get a fridge that would also be guaranteed for two years.
“You’d want to buy the best appliance that you can as you need to think of the lifecycle cost – does it use more power if it’s a cheaper model?”
All standard lightbulbs (of the old variety) should be upgraded to LED ones. While they cost more than the tungsten ones you might have been used to, they’ll still reduce your electricity bill for the pub as they use up to 80% less energy and you’ll get a much longer life from them.
To this can be added occupancy or motion sensors that only activate the electricity when someone enters the space, whether it be the office upstairs, the cellar downstairs, the function room, the toilets – or anywhere in between.
Sean suggests that if you’re changing your bar lighting to LED, then you’d want to have the same brand of bulb in the same style in order to keep the conformity of décor.
He adds, “When considering replacing lighting it’s worth noting that LED fittings can now be sourced for anything from decorative lighting to fluorescent tubes, emergency lighting and outdoor applications. The technology has advanced in the last few years. Savings in power consumption of up to 80% and a lifespan of 50,000 hours under optimum conditions mean LED units are quickly becoming industry norm.
“When replacing fittings it’s important to consider Colour Temperature; this refers to the appearance of light and is measured in Kelvins. Based on the Kelvin numbered scale the higher the colour temperature the cooler the light appearance.
“For most common applications the scale goes from 2,000K to 6,500K.
“In LED lighting there are three main choices: warm white ranges from 2,000K to 3,000k – perfect for creating a warm relaxing lighting effect in a bar or restaurant.
“Cool white ranges from 3,000K to 4,500K and is a much brighter and more vibrant hue, suitable for task lighting such as an office.
“Daylight ranges from 4,500K to 6,000K. Mimicking natural daylight it can often appear quite harsh and is usually best-suited for use in laundries, kitchens, butchers shops or for intricate tasks.
“Ask your electrical supplier to loan you a sample bulb to determine if the light emitted is suitable for your chosen application,” he advises, “It’s best then to buy in bulk the exact model and brand. A warm white bulb, for example, from two different manufacturers could emit noticeably different colour hues and this can ruin the relaxing effect you’ve tried to create!”