How Can Gyms Cut Energy Costs This Winter?

If you’re looking for good news about energy costs this winter, you may want to look away now. Analysts believe...

If you’re looking for good news about energy costs this winter, you may want to look away now. Analysts believe that electricity market prices will rise in 2024. The continuing conflict in Ukraine and the recent Israel-Hamas war are just two examples of how external events can affect prices.  

The easy answer is to use less energy. Around 47% of adults in Great Britain are now using less fuel because of rising costs, but it’s not that simple for business owners. Gyms and fitness centres run lighting, HVAC, cardiovascular exercise equipment, screens, music systems, showers, changing facilities, etc. They may also have steam rooms, Jacuzzis, and swimming pools.  

And predicting future energy prices is tricky. Brokers and analysts can make educated guesses but can’t always account for external factors influencing and impacting the market. Prices have started falling, but wholesale prices are yet to drop to pre-pandemic levels 

Analysts at Cornwall Insight have recently predicted that prices will likely remain high for the rest of the decade. And, of course, there’s no price cap on business energy. Qualifying businesses are instead encouraged to access discount schemes, the last of which, unfortunately, expires at the end of March 2024. So, how can gyms cut energy costs this winter?  


Fix Your Business Energy Prices 

Business energy prices can change quickly. Bionic reports that wholesale prices have dropped by 50% since October but that it’s not possible to ‘predict or guarantee how prices will change in the future’. 

A fixed-rate tariff locks in the current unit price for the duration of your contract. In times when the market is more volatile, it can help protect your business from future energy rises and make your costs more manageable. The downside is that if prices drop, your gym will continue paying the fixed-rate unit price you agreed to at the beginning of your contract. It makes knowing what to do more challenging, so paying attention to what’s happening within the market and considering advice by analysts and brokers (although they’re by no means always correct and may also be chasing a commission) is important.   

Check with your energy provider about the types of tariffs they’re offering, especially when approaching your contract’s end. Ask about any support available, especially if your gym is struggling. 

When deciding whether to move to a fixed tariff, EON recommends weighing how much you value the certainty of a fixed-price tariff with the affordability of your fixed tariff quote. A set unit price you know you can afford may be preferable to living with uncertainty, especially when the market is more volatile.  

An article on the This is Money website written in May 2023 highlights this perfectly. A business owner asked an expert whether to switch to a fixed-rate tariff despite falling energy prices.  

The response was, “There’s always some risk that external events will push prices higher again. An escalation in the Ukraine war, between China and Taiwan or problems in the Middle East could send wholesale prices back to their 2022 levels. But barring any such catastrophe, I can’t see any reason for prices to continue to rise until 2025/6.”  

It was good advice at the time, but the author could not have accurately predicted that ‘problems in the Middle East’ would be a factor in discussions about prices later in the year.  

If your gym is struggling to find a suitable deal, you can also look at energy procurement, which means working with a broker to find the best contract. For businesses wanting to be more sustainable, there’s also renewable procurement. Using an expert with extensive industry knowledge and experience can reduce some of the uncertainty we mentioned earlier. No one knows what will impact the market, but some people make it their business to spot the early signs and make predictions based on available information.  

 Tablet on a table next to a round plant pot

Get an Energy Audit

Sometimes, you’ve got to spend money to save money, and according to Advantage Utilities, an energy audit can reduce a business’s costs between 10 and 40%.  

An energy audit tells you how much energy your gym uses and then recommends ways to be more efficient. It’s a great way to see where the business is losing energy (and money). Audits often split recommendations into high and low-cost measures. Replacing fluorescent bulbs with LEDs is a low-cost suggestion. Solar panels would be an example of a high-cost suggestion. More expensive upgrades may not be financially feasible in the short term. Still, they should be considered as part of a long-term investment.  

An energy audit is also helpful because it gives a gym a baseline number to work from and helps track progress over time.  


Check Your Lighting 

LED lighting uses around half the energy of traditional fluorescent lighting while achieving a high-lumen output. LEDs also last longer, up to 25 times longer than traditional bulbs. Health Club chain David Lloyd has spent £20 million on LED lighting as part of broader energy-efficiency plans to be net zero by 2030. Low-traffic areas of your gym would also benefit from occupancy sensors. These lights activate when someone walks into a specific area and, crucially, turn off when the person leaves. Sensors like these could be used in changing rooms, corridors, toilets, etc.  


Check the Building’s Temperature 

Heating accounts for much of a gym’s energy usage. Sport England provides helpful information to ensure you’re not wasting money on heating inefficiency. They suggest that if your gym’s heating is on a timer, you check the anticipated occupancy times so you’re not warming or cooling a room for longer than necessary. 

You should also maintain a temperature gap between the air conditioning and heating so they’re not running simultaneously and competing against each other. Gyms can also make small changes to temperature settings, as even a 1-degree reduction can reduce energy bills by 8%.  

The Carbon Trust suggests that gyms should alternate temperatures depending on the specific area. It suggests that it should be warmer in the changing rooms but cooler in areas where people exercise on cardio machines or use weights. Of course, ensuring that HVAC units and boilers are well maintained can also keep them running more efficiently for longer.  

 Woman in coral sports leggings and top standing next to a RE:GEN bike

Energy-Efficient or Energy-Generating Equipment  

Gym equipment can use electricity even when a client isn’t using it. Always turn off equipment overnight and, if possible, ensure unused equipment enters sleep mode when it's not in use. During quieter periods, turning off some of the equipment can be helpful, but this shouldn’t affect the customer experience, especially if the equipment takes several minutes to turn on.  

Installing energy-generating indoor bikes like the RE:GEN Studio can help, too. It captures human power generated during exercise and converts it into usable electricity.  

Turning off screens or putting them into sleep mode can also reduce the electricity used.  

You can also extend energy efficiency to the changing rooms. We’ve mentioned lighting sensors that can help make low-traffic areas more energy efficient, but you can also look at appliances in the toilets and changing rooms. Hand dryers have a vast range of efficiencies, with some high-speed models being much more energy efficient. As with many of the suggestions in this post, replacing perfectly good hand dryers with new eco-friendly ones may not be very efficient right now, but it is worth considering when you come to replace your existing ones.  


Water Efficiency 

Installing water-saving shower heads in changing rooms can reduce water usage by 50% without the person using it noticing any difference. The shower head does this by restricting how much water flows through it or by mixing air and water to maintain water pressure.  

Push button taps and showers can also help reduce the amount of heated water wasted.  


Talk to Your Employees  

Involving staff in your gym’s energy efficiency measures will help, too. Explaining why sustainability is important for the business and the wider community can help employees feel part of the process. Often, it’s helping people form better habits: reminding them to turn lights out in rooms and areas they’re not using and paying attention to wasted energy.  

Heat Pumps and Solar Panels 

Of course, there are bigger projects you can undertake.  Heat pumps and solar panels are two examples. They may not be ideal for cutting energy costs this winter, but you could consider part of future investments or upgrades.  

David Lloyd is installing heat pumps at its Lichfield health club. It plans to roll them out across the entire company, too. Chief Executive Russell Barnes told The Telegraph, ‘We want to obviously control our own supply to take ourselves away from the volatility of the markets.’ 

Heat pumps transfer heat from one place to another. The National Grid describes them as a means of extracting heat from outside a building and moving it inside. In the summer, they provide cooling by transferring heat from indoors to the outside. Still confused? The Conversation helpfully points out that heat pumps use the same technology as refrigerators and in Norway, provide heat for 6 in 10 homes.   

Gyms and leisure centres may also consider the long-term benefits of solar panels. It’s important to remember that excess power can be stored and used later in the day when the gym is busier at peak energy times. One council-run leisure centre in Leicester is installing 800 photovoltaic (PVT) panels to make the building more energy-efficient and cheaper. The centre will generate around 270 MWh of clean energy. The issue that many gyms face is that they don’t own the buildings they operate from. They lease it, making it difficult to install the types of equipment that can make a meaningful impact on energy generation.

Energy-generating equipment may be more suitable as it works directly from your gym or studio floor. We'd love to tell you about the RE:GEN Studio and the benefits of turning human power on at our facility. 

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