By Marcus Leach

British Gas is urging businesses to prepare for a cold winter, with an estimated third of businesses being caught out by the cold weather every year.

The leading energy provider to businesses says it expects to see a 70 percent increase in the number of call outs to businesses needing emergency repair work during the winter months, often due to boiler and heating breakdowns.

Despite this, many businesses overlook the regular, preventative checks on gas and electrical equipment that can maintain effi ciency and ensure businesses safeguard their operations against these mishaps.

The following tips can help business keep the lights on even in the most severe weather:

1) Give your boiler a healthcheck: Check to make sure your boiler is working properly before winter sets in. The older your boiler the more inefficient it will be — new energy efficient boilers can help you cut your heating bill by up to 20% per year. Your heating appliances should be serviced once a year by a Gas Safe registered engineer.

2) Check your central heating: Run your central heating on full to check that your radiators heat up properly. If you can feel any cold spots, especially at the top, they may need bleeding. Bleeding your radiators is a simple task that will make your business warmer and your central heating system more efficient.

3) Prepare your business for the cold: Make sure your heating and drainage systems are in tip-top condition. Start by checking that your pipes are not too exposed to the cold. You should also lag water tanks and pipes to conserve heat and prevent freezing. Spending time to prepare your business now could prevent a crisis when temperatures plummet.

4) Make your business energy efficient: Lighting accounts for 25% of a company's total electricity bill, and energy efficient lighting can help to cut these costs by up to a third. Use standby power savers that automatically turn appliances off, such as computer equipment, when it’s not being used. Each of these will save around £30 a year on your energy bills. Also speak to your provider about getting a smart meter. This will allow you to pay accurate bills based on accurate readings and give you valuable insight into your energy use allowing you to take measures to reduce it.

5) Have a back-up plan: Make sure your business is covered by a Service & Maintenance contract. Use a trusted brand and seek assurances that engineer will be on site quickly if something does go wrong with your gas appliances or electrical installation. Putting this plan in place now can prevent a breakdown turning into a debilitating business crisis later on.

“During the winter months, thousands of businesses are hit by crises caused by the cold weather that can cost them thousands of pounds and seriously impact their daily operations," Phil Manock, British Gas Commercial Services, said.

"However, this is often caused by their failure to prepare for the cold through regular maintenance. Taking simple steps now to make sure your heating system is in top working condition and that you have a back-up plan if something does go wrong can save vital time and money in the long term.”

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