Energy crisis: How reducing heat loss can help coffee shops cut costs
As coffee shop owners feel the pinch from rising energy costs, Jess Palmer explores the different ways to prevent heat loss in preparation for the colder months.
Over the last few months, sky-high natural gas and oil prices have been wreaking havoc around the world.
According to National Energy Action, around 6.5 million households in the UK alone are already struggling with rising costs, with predictions that it could climb to 8 million by the autumn.
However, it’s not just households feeling the pinch – businesses in the hospitality industry have already reported cutting staff or making redundancies to counterbalance skyrocketing overheads.
Many of these businesses were only just beginning to recover from the economic consequences of Covid-19, which included closures and much uncertainty. Now, they must navigate an entirely new crisis in order to stay open.
This is particularly true of coffee shops, which use approximately five to seven times more energy per square foot than most other commercial buildings. Yet in order to continue being comfortable “third places”, it’s important they hold onto their warm, inviting atmosphere – even during the colder months.
The immediate solution might be to raise prices to cover costs. But customers are already experiencing a drastic reduction in disposable income due to soaring inflation. As a result, some businesses have gone in search of other, more creative solutions to reduce their energy costs.
Reducing heat loss from premises is a highly effective way to reduce running costs. Not only is it a smart move financially, but it is also a step towards becoming more environmentally responsible at a time when businesses are being encouraged to lower their carbon emissions.
Plugging the gaps
Preventing unnecessary heat loss is an effective way of reducing costs, while keeping both staff and customers happy.
However, a recent study suggests that diners’ perception of taste and smell is negatively affected if the room is too warm. This means there is a balance that businesses need to strike.
Auditing venues for heat loss is the best place to start. Finding the places in buildings from which heat is escaping makes it significantly easier to plug the gaps in efficiency. Although it’s easy to hire a specialised consultant, using an infrared camera to map out the problem areas is considerably cheaper.
It’s also important to take steps to ensure the building structure is fully insulated. Cavity walls, solid walls, floors, ceilings, and loft spaces can all be insulated to prevent heat loss, reducing the need for electrical heating.
The amount of insulation and installation costs vary according to the specific space and its problem areas. For example, loft or attic space insulation is easy to tackle alone, and adding just 270mm of insulating material can reduce annual heating bills.
Similarly, large windows and doors may make a coffee shop look airy and welcoming – but up to 40% of a building’s heat loss occurs through them. Depending on budgets, there are a few solutions.
The first – and most obvious – fix is installing high-performance double and triple-glazed windows. Although the upfront costs may be high, they can dramatically reduce a business’ energy loss.
Alternatively, checking and replacing the rubber sealant around the windows is a simple, cost-effective solution, while adding shutters or curtains can also help to keep in the warmth.
For coffee shops, particularly those with high footfall, doors are often the most notable source of heat loss. During the morning rush, when temperatures are at their lowest, they are opening and closing with the constant flow of customers in and out of the building.
To minimise the amount of heat escaping, it’s a good idea to ensure the door is fitted with an automatic sensor or an automatic closer to account for any customers forgetting to close it behind them. Furthermore, adding draft excluders around the perimeter of doors is a cheap and easy way to trap heat inside when they’re closed.
How else can coffee shops save energy?
The energy crisis has highlighted the need for coffee shops to think more carefully about how they set up their spaces. In particular, to identify the areas in which a simple change will lead to significant savings.
Aside from mitigating heat loss, there are several other ways to take control of energy costs.
First, businesses can consider introducing energy-efficient lighting. Blaring halogen and fluorescent bulbs waste electricity and don’t necessarily add to the ambience. These days, many businesses are shifting over to LED lighting, which is considerably more energy efficient.
Next, there’s the issue of outdated equipment. The efficiency of coffee and kitchen equipment has improved drastically over the last few years, meaning that hanging onto outdated machinery for the sake of aesthetics simply isn’t sustainable.
Some modern coffee machines are designed with programmable settings for features like lighting and temperature. The recent introduction of motion sensors in products like the Carimali Optima Ultra has also made it possible for machines to enter low-power states between uses.
In other cases, machines like the Heylo Espresso Module use induction heating to prepare the ideal water temperature for brewing.
Depending on how much the machine is used, this can save businesses up to 90% of what they’d usually spend on coffee machine energy consumption, as it “flash” heats the water rather than keeping it at a constant all day.
There are numerous ways to make coffee shops more energy efficient and they can be undertaken step by step. However, if business owners do feel overwhelmed, there are now many companies that specialise in auditing and improving the efficiency of hospitality businesses.
Alternatively, the UK Department of Energy and Climate Change has also put together a free downloadable guide for small and medium enterprises which is a great starting place for businesses tackling this issue independently.
This and other resources can help businesses become as sustainable as possible in an economic climate that rewards energy efficiency.
And, while the cost of converting to an energy-efficient setup now may seem daunting, the change could save thousands in the long run, especially with energy prices set to rise again in autumn.