Cutting your energy bills
Sustainability in the clinic.
This module takes a general look at energy and material consumption in the clinic. Every clinic will differ so please adapt these suggestions to suit your environment.
You may also wish to use some or all of these points in your Sustainability Manual (supplied free of charge when you complete your assessment, which is also free of charge).
Insulation – Depending on the age of your property and therefore how well it is insulated, you may be allowing heat to seep out. This is costly and can be prevented. Thermal efficiency can save a small fortune! Insulation is like putting an extra layer of clothing on when it is really cold. There are three areas to be considered in every space. Think of top, middle and bottom. The roof and ceiling should be insulated, as should the floor. However, the greatest levels of seepage are usually from walls and quilts can be purchased to prevent this. There are many insulation specialists who will provide a free quote (free advice) so it is worth checking out. At the same time, contact your local council for advice and to see if there are any grants available to have work carried out.
Radiators – Thermal efficiency is not only about insulation. Depending on the age of your heating system, it may be costing a lot more than it should. The general rule is that the more modern your heating system is, the more likely that it is getting close to efficiency. The rule is to always bleed your radiators in the autumn so that there is no air being heated inside. In addition, there are monitoring tools which help with efficiency. An example of this is HydroGenie (https://www.hydro-genie.co.uk/how-it-works). This is a system that uses basic physics to generate more heat from your radiators and saves a claimed 50% off your heating bills.
Windows – It goes without saying that double glazing is more efficient than single glazing. If you have double or triple glazing, check that all seals are working properly. Remember the old double glazing advert when a feather was dropped in front of the window to prove that no cold air was getting in? If you have older single glazed windows then be prepared to chase that feather or tissue all over the room! Ask a glazier about sealants to wind-proof your windows.
Solar Panels – Some people are amazed at the cost savings of installing solar panels. There are grants still available in certain areas that will help with the cost of installation, and finance packages that spread the cost making this a really effective investment.
Teamwork – There is an educational module which goes in to greater detail about inspiring your team to engage with your energy efficiency initiatives. Energy prices are now so fierce that it is rapidly becoming a case of cutting back on energy use, or cutting back on other overheads. The team care less about the clinic’s finances than the good they can do for the environment, so this is always the best place to start.
Let’s walk through your clinic and try to identify potential “hot spots”.
Lighting – Do you have an illuminated sign that shines like the Northern Star? The chances are that this will shine all through the night? Can this be put on a timer switch so that it is not burning electricity at times that have no effect?
TV – Many clinics have a TV in the waiting room showing 24 hour news or adverts for treatments and smiling team members. The same rule applies here – the older the TV, the less efficient it is likely to be. There is another dynamic worth considering. Bigger is better, so we are told, but big plasma screens burn twice as much electricity as 32” LED screens. Consider the value derived from having the TV screen in the waiting room at all, and if you can’t live without it, make sure it gets switched off (not standby) at nights and at lunch breaks.
Radio – Some waiting rooms prefer radios as the source of distraction/entertainment. Be aware that big powerful radios burn more energy than smaller ones. Can you tune into a radio station through your TV and not have that extra electrical unit?
Heating – Cold patients become grumpy patients so globally turning down the heating system may lead to negative feedback. As with every room in the clinic, adjust the thermostat on each radiator so that there is constant warmth, rather than heat spikes. If a room feels notably colder when someone walks in, then the temperature is too high in that room. Balance it throughout the clinic.
Lighting – Some clinics take great pride in their waiting room ambience and smaller table lamps are part of this. Install a dimmer switch on the main ceiling light and be sparing with the table lamps. Golden rule – all lights should be LED and should be switch off when not in use.
Heating – Reception staff are like patients and they tend to be closest to the outside door. Cold staff members are grumpy staff members. Maintain a consistent temperature throughout the clinic then you don’t have to endure heat spikes in an effort to balance the cold dips.
Laptops – PCs at the reception are the norm, but laptops are substantially more efficient. Could your front of house staff use a laptop instead of a PC?
Heating – Keeping office doors open achieves so much. The team feel more at liberty to approach the admin team with questions, there will be lower levels of germs being built up and, most importantly, the balanced heat level within the building will flow more easily.
Lighting – Desk lamps are cute, but really inefficient. LED bulbs, as always, and turned off when not in use.
Laptops – Again, PCs are less efficient than laptops. If you are concerned about laptop theft. There are ways to secure laptops to desks and also to put identifiers on them, should they be stolen.
Internet – Denmark can now be seen on a world heat emissions map, thanks largely to Facebook who have a massive server and internet base there. Although your internet does not compare to the warehouses of energy gulping computers, you can still make savings on your IT set up. Chat with your IT provider to find solutions to wasted bandwith and wasted electricity.
Laundry – If you run your laundry in-house, then you probably have a tumble drier as well. Tumble driers were invented by Satan who was sub-contracted by your energy supplier. Yes, the biggest consumption of electricity will happen when you put your tumble drier on. Can your laundry be outsourced? Can it be dried in a room? Can you avoid using the tumble drier?
Kettle – Here’s a quick exercise – count how many times your kettle is boiled each day and multiply this by 10 pence. The answer will scare you. Is there another way that everyone can enjoy a cuppa without pushing the kettle to its limits? Some clinics boil a big kettle first thing in the morning and fill a pump thermos flask. Everyone can enjoy their favourite pick-me-up during the morning session with only one boil of that poor kettle!
Microwave – It’s lunchtime and you need your soup/sausage roll heated. If you heated it in an oven it would cost around 20pence. It costs about 3 pence in a microwave. Make sure you have a decent microwave in place – the more modern, the more efficient.
Heating – As before, keep your staff room at a consistent temperature to the rest of the clinic. A room feels colder when you come from a warmer environment, so consistency is the key.
Lighting – Do you need lights on at lunchtime? If the weather is being British, then make sure all your lights are energy efficient. Big energy bills can be avoided!
Heating – Nothing worse than walking into a freezing cold toilet, right? Well, maybe walking into a toilet that is overheated and stifling. Use the thermostats on the radiators. Remember, if you feel a temperature change when you go into the toilet, then you haven’t got the balance right.
Lighting – We all want to look good in the mirror. Sometimes, it is better to have a slightly dimmer light rather than a big bright light. If it’s not LED then it shouldn’t be in your clinic!
Air Extraction – How long does your air extraction last in the toilet? If you don’t have a window to open, then please ask if your extractor can be adjusted for time and/or ferocity.
Heating – Anoraks over scrubs in the clinic is not a good look. Avoid this. If a patient is comfortable in the waiting room, then the clinician and nurse will feel the same chairside. Consistent temperature throughout the clinic is critical. If you feel colder or hotter when the patient reclines, then the balance is not right and your energy provider is emptying your wallet.
On average, there are 17 points which use electricity in the clinical space. You may have more or fewer points in your clinic, but it is worthwhile looking at what is needed and when. It is far easier to walk into yur clinic in the morning and switch everything on in preparation for a day’s work. It is also far more costly. Look at your diary and identify what treatment are likely to present themselves in the morning and then in the afternoon. Are there some pieces of equipment that will not be needed in the morning session, but will perhaps be needed in the afternoon session (and vice versa)? Look at your processes to see if they can be consolidated or postponed, without undue interruption to your workload.
TV – There are more and more clinics offering entertainment/distraction in the chair. A TV above the patient’s head is great, but it is also consuming electricity. Switch it off after each patient and judge if your next patient would benefit from watching their choice of viewing. If you have invested in TVs above the patient, then try to use it more selectively.
Downtime Routine (Lunch, half days, end of day) – You work chairside for maybe 6 or 7 hours a day. The clinic is on full illumination and full charge for longer than that. Just 1 hour a day of no lights, no electricity in the clinic would save a potential 10% from your energy bill.
Why not take an assessment? You can find out indicative energy costs and potentially save chunks of your hard-earned cash. It is free to use and is designed to help you reduce energy use and, therefore, energy bills.
Further tips and omissions would be appreciated and appended in the comments section below. Together we can make a difference!