Lifting the weight of energy bills for gyms

Words by Zembl

For gym owners, the rising cost of energy is weighing heavily on bottom lines. With numerous machines running, lights, air conditioning, and more, gyms can pump through more power than your average business, leading to ever heftier business energy bills eating into profits. However, there are ways to minimise these costs, and Zembl is here to help!

The impact of rising energy costs on the gym industry

The fitness industry has been hit hard by increasing energy prices. Higher costs mean lower profit margins, which can make it challenging for gyms to stay competitive and maintain high-quality services.

Like any business facing an increase in the cost of doing business, the conundrums are real: do you offset the costs by increasing membership fees at the risk of annoying and losing members, or do you continue to absorb the costs and make sacrifices in other areas – also a risk to member satisfaction that could lead them to go elsewhere. It’s not surprising that in extreme cases, the pressures have led to gyms even being forced to close, or at least downscale their premises and operating models.

4 key energy costs for gyms

Gyms have several areas where they power through energy consumption at a greater rate than your average business.

  1. Fitness equipment
    From treadmills to cross-trainers, while members are grunting out their workouts, those machines are pumping through the power – all day and potentially all night depending on gym opening hours.
  1. Heating & cooling
    Gym members need comfortable temperatures, whether they’re sweating it out in summer or showering off on a chilly winter’s morning, which is why heating and cooling are such a big energy guzzler for gyms.
  1. Lighting
    Depending on the size of your gym, lighting can represent a significant portion of your business electricity bill, especially if your gym doesn’t have natural lighting or is open all hours.
  1. Water heating
    A shower is never more essential than after a workout (especially if you’re heading back to the office or on a date!) so it’s no surprise that water heating in gym change rooms also contributes to high energy usage.

Energy saving tips for gyms

Whilst some energy saving tips are obvious, there are less obvious ones that can be pivotal in terms of saving energy – such as knowing your meter so you can see specifically where most of your energy is being used.

“Simple things like ensuring you turn everything on gradually over a 30-minute period rather than all at once can significantly reduce demand costs.”  
Xavier Winston Smith, Zembl Energy Expert

Know your meter

For example, is your gym on a ‘Time-of-Use meter’ or a ‘Demand meter’?

Says Zembl Energy Expert Xavier, “Understanding your meter type can help significantly, for example, some operators will be on a Time-of-Use meter, meaning the time of day they use the power can significantly impact its cost, as depending on the time of day you will receive a peak, off-peak and shoulder rate.”

He added “Alternatively, more and more businesses are being moved to Demand meters by their distributor, which adds a charge that can make up 5 to 25% of your bill, depending on how you use your power. Simple things like ensuring you turn everything on gradually over a 30-minute period as opposed to all at once can significantly reduce demand costs.”

Both meter types monitor and measure electrical energy, but each serve a different purposes and provides a different type of data. Here’s a quick overview of how they work.

  • Time-of-Use Meter - sometimes called TOU meters, their function is to measure the total amount of energy consumed over a specific period in kilo-watt hours (kWh), the industry standard metric for energy billing. They record how much electricity is consumed at certain times of the day, which you will see on your bill as peak and/or off-peak and sometimes shoulder. What Time-of-Use meters can’t do, however, is measure the intensity of electricity used.
  • Demand Meter - like it sounds, the role of a Demand meter, unlike a Time-of-Use meter, is to measure the peak demand of a business’s energy usage during a specific interval. The meter records demand, typically within 15-30-minute slots, and expresses the reading in kilowatts (kW). Demand meters are important for big commercial and industrial businesses where the peak demand can significantly impact the cost of energy – including many of the larger gyms. This demand charge is added on top of your electricity usage.

In a nutshell, the difference between the two types of meters is simple: Time-of-Use meters measure the cumulative amount of energy used over certain periods; Demand meters measure the highest rate of energy consumption at a given moment which is then added on top of your regular use.

When looking for quick wins for the business bottom line by reducing energy bills, understanding both your energy use and what type of meter you are on is a great place to start. By tracking these charges, businesses will be in the best position to implement strategies to lower the intensity of electricity used, thereby reducing demand charges.

Tips to lower peak demand

1. Switch things on in batches – with a 15-20 minute interval between.

2. Re-look at schedules – can class times be tweaked to spread out demand?

3. Spread out energy consumption – what else can be done to avoid the peaks?

4. Upgrade to energy-efficient equipment - while the initial cost might be high, they’re nothing compared to the big bucks a fleet of inefficient machines will cost your gym over time.  

Fitness machines aren’t the only energy cost centre to focus on, and in fact any energy audit should look at the whole business, because the savings all add up. For gyms, there are energy efficiencies to be found across lighting, heating and cooling systems, all of which can be optimised for better energy use. Did you know, for example that replacing conventional lights with LED bulbs can reduce energy consumption by up to 80%? Better still, in some parts of Australia the state government will help you do it – in NSW, for example, the NSW Energy Savings Scheme (ESS) offers any eligible business needing from 2 lights to 200 or more replaced a one-off upgrade for just $33. Since July 2023 the Albanese Government in Australia is getting behind energy efficient businesses with the Energy Efficiency Grant Program, pledging $16 million worth of grants up to $25,000 each for businesses that make every watt count by investing in energy performance technology.

When it comes to heating and cooling, the key is to ensure that no device is running when it doesn’t need to be. To avoid the full-time job of turning things off and on, it pays to install a programmable thermostat that you can set up centrally, then have it do the job for you, ensuring heating and cooling appliances only run when necessary.

5. Monitor and make strategies - we’ve already looked at the insight your meter can provide, however there are ways to take monitoring your energy usage next level. A wide range of energy management software options are now available that collect, store and visualise energy usage across multiple sites in real-time, providing dashboards rich in insights to help you make strategies to manage energy consumption, and share them quickly and powerfully with others in the business.

Some of these systems can even integrate with your gym hardware, such as fans, heaters or smart thermostats, and adjust them remotely based on the data they are processing. Even without an advanced system however, staying strategic about usage patterns and what you can do to minimise energy waste is all an important part of getting your ‘bang for watt’.

6. Educate staff - teams need more than just instructions to get behind any change in behaviour – they need a why. If you align energy efficiency not just to your bottom line but to your business values, it will be more likely to resonate with staff (rather than being perceived as just the big bosses trying to make a buck).

Educate staff on the importance of energy conservation and how it contributes to your gym’s sustainability goals, then you can mobilise everyone around a set of actions that your gym can uphold and stand for.

7. Equipment etiquette – clearly communicate guidelines for turning off machines when not in use and ensure everyone is across them.

8. Periodic efficiency reviews – by continuously auditing energy usage and sharing the results you can motivate your team about the positive impact they’re having, gamify shared achievements and spur everyone on to achieve more.

9. Signs and sound-bites – humans need reminders so keep your energy usage guidelines top of mind by using signage, newsletters, emails and social media consistently. Keep the tone positive and eco-friendly, not threatening.

10. Holistic sustainability – remember, while the bottom line may be paramount to the business, wide and holistic sustainability goals are generally the more motivating and collectively relatable for teams.

For example, energy efficient behaviour could include related actions like using towels sparingly, giving everyone keep cups or re-usable water bottles and other actions that send a consistent message about being an energy-efficient organisation, in amongst your energy usage saving initiatives.

How Zembl can help gym owners

At Zembl, we understand the challenges gym owners face when it comes to managing energy costs. That's why we offer a free business energy bill review from one of our Energy Experts.

We’re not an online comparison platform – our team looks at each bill as an individual case to solve, depending on your meter data and type, business preferences and other factors.

By filling out our contact form and uploading your bill, our team will get in touch with you and present the most competitive business energy plans available from our panel of leading Aussie retailers.

In our experience, sitting on rising costs and doing nothing could lead to energy costs up to 25% more expensive than they need to be, so why wait? Take control of your energy costs today.

Fill in the form below for your free business energy bill review and start saving money now.

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