Mark Sait, CEO SaveMoneyCutCarbon.com
Care homes are currently caught in a vicious vice and being squeezed by ever increasing costs while feeling the full effects of shrinking government support.
This is compelling care home owners, managers and operators to find ways to cut costs in ways that deliver business benefits over many years and take action to help maintain commercial margins.
The main challenge remains finding ways to do this without affecting quality of service and delivery. But there is one area where it will clearly pay to take swift action.
Energy and water efficiency is an often overlooked element of business strategy in the care home sector. Yet it is the simplest, most effective way to make an impact on costs that is both immediate and long-term.
Rising utility prices
It is certain, and confirmed by government, that we no longer have access to cheap energy. That time is past and all the forecasts point to utility prices rising over the next decade, in the same way that they have doubled in the past 10 years.
Add to this the pressure on energy prices from the Government’s green levies to support renewable sources like wind and solar power. The spending target has been breached, with the National Audit Office issuing a reprimand but the effect is that bills will rise even further by 2020.
More pain is being added through the need to spend heavily to ensure gas and coal power stations are prepared for adequate standby power during winter, which will add to overall energy costs.
Big demands on energy and water
Care homes share some similar financial issues to hospital and hotels in that they are 24/7 operations, with continual big demands on energy and water. Clearly there are differences but I think that there are positive lessons to draw from the sustainability strategies in these sectors.
Care homes will benefit from the adoption of energy-saving and water management processes that have proved so successful in hospitals and hotels. We can also reference what is happening in education, another sector being hard hit by cuts.
In all these sectors, there are excellent examples of large and small operations where decisive action to reduce pressure on costs has delivered savings that run into the thousands of pounds annually.
This has been my company’s direct experience, working with a wide range of clients from independent owners of small hotels to large groups, hospitals and schools.
Ways to save
The solutions to rising costs do not have to be complex and over-expensive but it does pay to plan carefully, ensuring that all the relevant information is gathered before making the move.
An energy and water audit is strongly advised, not least because the information will be relevant and useful over the long period. This information will pinpoint where the greatest savings can be made and prioritised.
Lighting – Lighting is a prime candidate for action, with LED the favoured solution and being rapidly adopted in hospitality, health, education and wider afield. Choosing the right type of LED and ensuring a quality product should reduce lighting bills by up to 85%. Recent EU regulations also mean that directional halogen bulbs can no longer be sold so there a further reason to upgrade to LED.
Allied to this, the use of smart lighting controls that ensure no area is lit when not needed, can help to further reduce energy consumption by 40-50%.
Water and heating – Reducing water consumption is a priority and if metering is in place the need is even more pressing. Again, simple effective solutions include eco taps that cut consumption by 60%, eco shower heads that reduce water use by up to 50% and tap aerators for current fittings, reducing consumption by 60%.
These reductions also reduce heating costs substantially as less fuel is burned in heating the water, and less energy used to pump it around the system.
Associated with that, the installation of Variable Speed Drives on pumps ensures maximum efficiency, reducing costs by half in most cases with rapid return on outlay.
There are understandable concerns about the deregulation of the water market next April in England. Wales will continue to be a monopoly service under Dwr Cymru (Welsh Water). Pressure on pricing does not to be a major focus with the major suppliers or the potential smaller challengers so costs should be contained.
SaveMoneyCutCarbon works closely with Anglian Water Business (AWB) as their energy efficiency partner and the focus is on providing both water and energy-saving solutions for their customers who also benefit from active usage monitoring and reporting of issues.
A final piece in the water utility management puzzle is the potential for low flush toilets that may be an attractive solution for some businesses as they can deliver savings of 90% on water usage.
Hand dryers – the benefits of hand dryers can be great. Replacing expensive paper towels with an eco hand dryer can reduce costs by up to 97% a year while and improving hygiene.
An added benefit in all this is that care homes can make ongoing savings while cutting CO2 emissions at the same time, which will add to their green credentials.
Mark Sait is Chief Executive Officer of energy and water-saving specialists https://www.savemoneycutcarbon.com/learn-save/carehomes/