Note: The information in this section is provided as a general guide only. Always consult with your power provider and landlord on the electricity needs specific to your business.
It’s worth taking a moment to consider what power requirements your business actually has. If you’ve not yet moved into a space, you might wish to factor in your needs to both business budget and the fit-out plans.
On this page, you'll learn things like:
- the common parts of a business premises that demand power
- why you need to think about power needs before a fit-out starts, and
- what may impact office heating and cooling costs.
If you still have questions about what electricity needs you should expect to have when starting a business, give our team a call on 0800 472 952 or email firstname.lastname@example.org
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Running your business from a physical location comes with operating costs, and along with rent, power is always part of these. You can start to establish what sort of monthly budgeting will be needed for power by having a clear understanding of what your business’ daily operating requirements actually are.
The energy your business needs is going to greatly depend on the type of business you operate, the number of employees, how large the space is, and the equipment used to run your business.
It’s a good idea to start thinking about your electricity needs before you even find a premises to move into. The better you can anticipate your power consumption ahead of time, the better prepared you can be for power costs as part of your entire budget for operating costs. Knowing what energy you’ll need to use could even guide your decision-making around which space to lease.
Power for your people
One of the more logical places to start when establishing your electricity needs is knowing how many staff you’ll have
working on the premises – both at day #1, and during any projected growth in the first year or so.
Each person in your team has a baseline power usage associated with them. Usage of the staff kitchen, bathroom and
working with powered equipment like computers will ramp up the power usage. This is why many businesses assign a dollaramount per staff member in terms of their ‘overheads’ – rolling up their use of utilities and other operating costs. A common way to calculate overheads is taking the total cost of something, like power, and dividing it up amongst the number of staff.
The reality is it’s very hard to estimate exactly how much power your people will use before everyone’s in and working – while you can estimate equipment power needs, you can’t predict things like people’s usage behaviour of that equipment or external factors like cold weather requiring more heating power.
So where does most of the power usage in a business happen, and where can you focus on to keep the power bill a manageable operating cost? Read on to find out.
The cost of getting the job done
What sort of business do you run?
Are you an office that requires staff to work with computers for large chunks of the day? On top of the cost of buying and maintaining desktops, laptops and devices comes the actual daily running cost of this equipment. While most modern computers on their own are reasonably efficient, the combined draw on your power can add up. You can do an estimate by listing down all the mobile phones, computers, and tablets. Work out their wattage and combine this with the expected daily running time – start with eight hours as standard (although it could be longer).
If you run a retail business like a clothing or gift shop, your costs might be very different to a traditional office environment. Perhaps in this case you only have one or two computers to run, but may also have power needs for things like product displays or extra lighting throughout the store.
Other places where power usage occurs in a retail setting can include:
- Automatic doors
- Stereo/sound system
- In-store televisions
- Products for sale
- Steamers (for clothing)
Perhaps you operate a hospitality business like a restaurant. There’s significant power usage in these businesses due to the demands of a commercial-grade kitchen. Large ovens, stoves, rangehoods and powerful dishwashers get heavy usage, running all day long. Buying energy-efficient equipment in a hospitality business can make a noticeable improvement on a power bill. It’s also much more realistic than scaling back usage of equipment in a thriving business!
Think about any specialist electrical equipment you need in your business. Is there going to be something that needs a large draw on power? Some equipment needs its own special outlet and even additional wiring to support it. This should be discussed and agreed before a lease is signed, and in ongoing conversation with your landlord after you’re moved in should your needs change.
You can use our reference table over in the Saving Electricity section ‘How much power do appliances use?’ to help build a picture of your own equipment’s power needs.
Staff kitchen electricity usage
Speaking of kitchens, a great deal of all businesses have some form of a kitchen area for staff to take breaks, make coffee, toast a sandwich and various other power-sucking activities. You should anticipate your kitchen appliance needs before the fit-out starts so these can be worked in to the plan (see our guide on setting up a new workspace).
You may need a dishwasher if you’ve got a number of staff using the kitchen daily, or indeed if your team uses a lot of dishes and cutlery. Expect to be putting on the dishwasher daily. Your dishwasher may have its own low power usage setting to help keep the bill down, but this depends on the model you choose.
A fridge is the other staple of any good workplace, to play host to the communal milk and staff members’ lunch. If you’re a smaller business with only around five employees, you should find a standard domestic-sized fridge adequate. However for larger groups you may want to invest in a larger fridge. Just remember that the larger fridges will demand more power.
What cooking facilities do you offer? Some offices have ovens, but often the trusty microwave and sandwich press get the most action. It can be tempting to have an oven at a workplace and it can come in handy for DIY catering – just consider how much it’ll be used and whether the savings outweigh the upfront and operating costs.
Will you have a sound system and/or a TV? Even with energy-efficient technology, running TVs and music all day will still impact a power bill. It’s common for electricians to be asked about wiring to speakers and TV screens in the walls during fit-out, in order to keep cables hidden from view.
Get everyone involved
The staff kitchen’s power usage won’t be down to simply what appliances you choose to install. The power habits of your staff will play a part here too. Put a process in place for all staff to manage their power consumption at break times by avoiding overly-long cooking times and using that eco-mode on the dishwasher.
If you want to know more about saving power at work, check out our dedicated guide.
An office environment relies on its meeting areas heavily to host customers and have internal team
discussions. These rooms will often require a large display during presentations like a television or projector. You’ll want to factor in the wiring and installation of this equipment right at the start. A projector, while useful for large screen presentation, does draw significant power if on for long periods, and may require maintenance after a certain period of time.
Turning off equipment after leaving a meeting room is a habit that everyone should adopt in your business. This goes for all technology, heating and lights.
When you’re planning out your meeting rooms, don’t forget that you may have a situation where numerous staff need to work and charge computers at the same time. Which brings us nicely into our next electricity consideration:
Layout and power outlets
One of the more fundamental parts of preparing a workspace for your power needs is the placement and arrangement of power outlets. If your ideal floor plan doesn’t work with the premises’ current positioning of outlets, you will need your electrician to add in more.
It’s quite common for open plan offices to have desks that are positioned in the middle of a space, and therefore nowhere close to the standard wall outlets. In this case, the electrician may run wiring up from the ground under a path of anti-trip cable covers, or drop wiring down from the ceiling within tubes that keep the area safe and tidy.
You might have the need for direct USB chargers in your power outlets – just remember that cable standards do change over time so this may be convenient for a period of time before connectors change – such is life with technology!
Heating, cooling and ventilation
A business’ power consumption is impacted noticeably depending on the amount of heating or cooling is needed. Like residential, commercial power bills will usually get larger in the winter thanks to long periods of heating (and the general demand for power going up as a result). In the summertime, there will be some costs associated with cooling too, although these aren’t often as significant.
The building premises you occupy might have shared ventilation for all tenants via vents in the roof or walls. Often the cost of building facilities will be split between tenants, but you’ll want to check the terms of your lease to understand exactly what your responsibilities are.
If the building doesn’t have built-in heating then you’ll likely want to find a discrete system for your workspace – this is quite common in smaller commercial premises. You’ll want to think about how to heat and cool the area efficiently (and effectively). Do your homework on heat pump models and once you’ve found the right one, work with the installation technician to position the unit(s) to get maximum coverage of the space.
Importance of insulation
When you’re looking around at potential locations for your business, consider how well the temperature can be controlled or retained. Find out what materials are being used in the walls, floor and ceiling – is the space well insulated? Double-glazed windows can also dictate how quickly you can either heat or cool the place.
Poorly-insulated spaces can leave your staff freezing cold in winter or sweating in summer. On the cost front, your equipment will be working extra hard to maintain a certain temperature without good insulation, which can see your power bill skyrocket as a result.
Keeping the workplace well-lit everywhere is simply a must for health and safety. Lighting isn’t an area you want to cut corners in, but there are some power savings to be had if you choose eco-friendly LED lights over the older incandescent or fluorescent bulbs.
Estimating lighting costs
Start estimating the daily lighting cost by writing a list of all the planned lighting around the premises, along with wattage and expected average daily running time (e.g. ten hours including cleaners). If you have a large number of lights then good lighting habits will help save on power, even with the most efficient bulbs installed. Check out our guide on lighting for more information.
Getting light coverage
If you’re doing a fit-out before moving into the building, work with your electrician and designer on a lighting solution that gets maximum reach without an excessive number of individual lighting fixtures.
In order to cover a full room or part of the workplace, some businesses like to install one large lighting fixture with multiple bulbs – or simply a large bulb. This might not always be practical and individual LEDs will likely make up part of your lighting plan regardless.
If you are in a smaller building, you may also want to explore skylights and natural light solutions, too. Some products will redirect sunlight from outside into your workspace, spreading it evenly into the workspace. This saves on power but can also be better for our eyesight and concentration. We know that in many cases this won’t be an option, but if you think it is, chat with your landlord about the possibilities.