Save energy, one switch at a time
In today’s world, we all understand the need to save energy. Whether you are motivated by climate change, animal welfare or the rising cost of living, you will have likely considered how to reduce your energy consumption at home. So, why should it be any different at work? It’s easy to apply simple energy saving tricks in the dental practice, which could really make a difference.
Calculating carbon footprint
The first step to reducing energy usage is better understanding of how much you currently use. In the home, estimates are based on the physical size of the building. For example, an average small house/flat with one-two occupants may have a gas output of around 8,000KWh and 2,000kWh electricity. In comparison, a large house with five or more occupants could have a gas output of approximately 18,000kWh and an electricity output of 4,6000kWh.[i]
For dental practices, a similar approach is possible based on the number of surgeries. For instance, an average 4-surgery practice might be around 15,000ft2 and from this you could predict the amount of energy it would use each year.
Gavin Moran, Head of Group Property & Facilities at Rodericks, and his team have just started a project to monitor and reduce energy use across the group.
“Due to the size of the business, we are very conscious about reducing our carbon footprint,” he says. “The first step of the process is establishing how much energy we use. The second is about reducing the numbers. So far, we have been calculating average consumptions across similar sized practices to give us a benchmark for each. We then look at those using far above the average amount of energy to see why and how we might cut down. There will always be peaks and throughs in usage, but we are focusing on minimising wasted energy.”
How to save energy in practice
It goes without saying that there are many areas in which any healthcare provider cannot influence energy use. However, there are some very simple things that the dental team can do if they work together. Gavin explains:
“Reducing energy use is only possible if everyone gets involved. It takes just one person to leave a light on unnecessarily to lose any savings from earlier in the day. The smallest changes can make a difference.
“Reducing energy consumption outside opening hours should be a priority when looking to stop unnecessary wastage. The next stage is about cutting energy use while the practice is open and operating.”
Here are some ideas to help your practice save energy:
- Switch lights off when rooms are empty
- Only switch on required equipment
- Turn off equipment like suction pumps and dental units for evenings and weekends, or in unoccupied surgeries
- Switch off kitchen appliances like kettle and toaster at plug when not in use
- Close the fridge properly
- Turn down the heating thermostat for evenings and weekends
- Close doors and windows in cold weather to conserve heat
More information on how to reduce energy usage and support the natural environment can be found in the Sustainable Dentistry: How to guide for Dental Practices (2018).