By Iain Walker, Head of SME, E.ON

Winter is upon us, and in an effort to keep the chills at bay during the colder months many businesses blast their heating to high gear without giving it a second thought. However by doing so, they could rack up astronomical energy bills, much of which could be easily avoided.

To steer clear of these energy consumption traps, businesses must make sure they’re not falling victim to common energy efficiency myths. Our analysis has shown that lots of businesses are missing the mark on managing their energy consumption – but simple steps can be taken to keep warm through the winter while paying no more than you need.

Don’t go hot and cold at the same time
One of the most common energy traps for businesses is heating and cooling at the same time. You would be alarmed at how common it is to have an air conditioner running in one part of the building while a window is left open in an adjacent room, or to have a building that is actually heating one floor while cooling another simultaneously.

The good news is this is one trap that can be easily remedied. By implementing easy to install technologies that monitor your energy system to spot these types of inefficiencies, you can keep track of what’s going on in your building and spot easy to fix errors before they cost you the earth.

Leaving it on will save me energy? Right?
Many businesses assume that leaving a heating (or cooling) system on overnight saves more energy than turning it on and off during working hours. False. To truly feel the energy savings, you need to shut down systems during inactive hours, and switch on once people are back in the office. By using technology that detects building activity, insights into energy usage can be shared and simple changes made.

Don’t rely on automatic systems
There is a danger that businesses rely on automated systems to take the work out of monitoring energy usage – a ’set it and forget it’ mentality. However, automated systems still need to be tracked for errors, such as a miscalculated base temperature or an overly-powerful fan setting. While automated systems can be great assets, you still need to watch for glitches.

Are you placing the blame on the wrong things?
We sometimes become convinced that a particular device or area of energy use is responsible for our high bills, such as a large machine that works for an hour a day and for that time uses energy intensively. However in the background there’s an inconspicuous load – like lighting or a water heater – which might operate 24 hours a day, every day. So even though this load might be rated at, say, a tenth of the big machine, it will still use more than twice as much energy.

Retrofitting isn’t the only option
One of the biggest energy traps that businesses fall victim to is thinking that retrofits are the only option for savings — such as buying LED lights or other energy-saving appliances. While retrofits can be a good option, operational changes, like turning the lights off an hour earlier, are often the easiest and most cost-effective way for you to save energy and see a difference in your business’s utility bill. By implementing technologies that provide valuable insights into opportunities for small changes, your energy provider can work with you to discuss your energy usage and help spot where quick savings can be made.

Adjust for the seasons
Buildings don’t auto-adjust to weather and seasonal shifts. An automated timer that is set to turn the lights on at 4pm in the winter won’t realise that the sun is still out at that hour in the summer. So don’t forget to dial back as the temperatures rise again.

Don’t just be tempted by ‘sexy’ solutions
Often businesses miss the obvious and plump for the most sophisticated solutions to their energy problems. Buying the best boiler or control system is all very well, but there’s little point in producing heat more efficiently if it’s just going to leak out of the walls and windows. So check out insulation or draft proofing before you put in more sophisticated tools – they might not be quite as exciting but will probably be more effective and longer lasting too.

Small business owners are busy managing lots of things - they are often the boss, sales agent, receptionist, procurement department and accountant all in one. It's safe to say that no business owner wants to waste money, yet that's what using unnecessary amounts of energy does.