Antonia Swinson

Chief Executive, Ethical Property Foundation

Cutting your charity’s energy costs: what you need to know today 

Saving energy sounds such a dry subject, but I have found that in practice it is all about values: your charity’s values and how you manage your space and engage with everyone in your community: staff, volunteers, service-users, so that everyone feels they are playing their part.

Bear in mind that energy efficiency affects you more than quarterly bills. An energy inefficient building with a low Minimum Energy Efficiency Standard (MEES) not only means high bills but restricts your ability to rent out space, plus affects your premises’ sales value.

In brief, from April 2023, the scope of MEES extends to existing tenancies of most commercial property and will restrict a landlord's ability to continue to let property with an F or G rating. So, if you are a landlord and want to let out space for hot-desking or to subtenants you need MEES at level E or higher. The Government confirmed that the future trajectory for MEES in relation to commercial property will be EPC band B by 2030. Bear that in mind when seeking a mortgage. 

So, what is your building’s MEES? If you don’t know, ask your landlord or get an EPC inspection. Remember all lender or grant funders will ask if funding a capital project. 

Involve your finance officer. Yes, we can all switch off lights, shut windows, lag water heaters, ban the dishwasher and knit draught excluders, but long-term changes costs money, and require you to understand the payback periods when savings on utility bills exceed the cost of the improvements. 

So here are some tips for cutting energy bills: some are obvious, others may be unfamiliar but the trick is to look at everything  and start prioritising.

Top ten energy saving tips

  • Check what changes you can make: you may have restrictions depending on covenants, listed building status or whether you are a landlord or a tenant.
  • Walk around your building with a notebook and an open mind: list every element that uses energy
  • Identify the current condition of all pieces of kit that use energy and check if they need repairing, replacing, cleaning or lubricating
  • Update your record keeping with dates when each needs checking again
  • Identify who is responsible for energy efficiency and who manages them
  • Put everything in writing
  • Schedule quarterly management meetings to compare current suppliers’ charges with costs quoted from others
  • Estimate what will make the most difference to your running costs and what is most economic
  • Make a budget. Stick to it


Payback times estimates

  • Health warning: do your homework. Remember commercial property payback periods are not the same as residential property and will vary for each building. 
  • Lighting: 3-6 months. Install LEDs asap to replace tungsten lamps: most just screw in. Consider automatic lighting with movement sensors – PIRs (Passive Infra-Red). It is only human to forget to turn off lights. New buildings tend to have PIRs in the corridors, WCs and storage areas.
  • Have a single master switch by the exit door, no walking the building at the end of the day to check what has been left on. Though if yours is a big building, beware of stranding someone on the top floor in the dark. The single off switch works well for example in small shops.
  • Thermostatic radiator valves: 5 years. Get your thermostat programmed and consider thermostatic radiator valves.
  • De-stratification fans: 2-7 years depending on size and insulation. Good for premises with lofty high ceilings as they push warm air down to the occupants. A thermostat must be fitted for this.
  • Insulation loft quilts: 5 years. These are relatively cheap compared to other energy saving methods.
  • Cavity wall insulation: 3 years. This may require landlord’s consent. Always read your lease.
  • Computer controls: 2 years. Assess the best times to use your heating to reach required temperature – called optimum start/stop.
  • Weather compensation sensors: 4 years. Control the heating relevant to the weather outside.

These are quick wins compared to the payback times of air source heat pumps (9 years); solar water heating (20 years), and solar photovoltaic panels and double glazing which on commercial buildings can be 40 years. 

CAF Bank is proud to be working with the Ethical Property Foundation, a registered charity, to share knowledge and resources to support charities. From energy bills to development or purchase; property is a major item on many charity’s agendas. The EPF brings a wide range of expertise to supporting organisations in this area.

Leading property advice charity the Ethical Property Foundation runs ‘Cut Your Energy Bills’ webinars for voluntary groups and ‘Cut Your Energy Bills Audits’ for individual charities.