How to quickly benefit from sustainability investments
- Margot Bogers
- 24 May 2023
- Edited 18 Oct 2022
- 4 min
- Managing and growing
Today’s high energy prices make investing in renewable energy even more rewarding. Did you know that you can make up for the cost of LED lighting in as little as two and a half years? And in most cases, investing in solar panels, better insulation, or a heat pump will also be worth the time and money. This article is all about how long it takes to earn back sustainable investments.
Are sustainability investments right for your business?
Since the summer of 2021, gas prices have increased a lot, and electricity has also become more expensive than it used to be. As a result, saving energy has clear and quick benefits. "Unfortunately, there is also a downside," says Sven Ringelberg, an energy expert at simpelsubsidie.nl. He helps municipalities and housing associations save energy. "In today's market, energy-saving products such as insulation and heat pumps are in high demand, resulting in shortages. This has made products more expensive and has caused waiting times of up to 12 months in some cases.
Sustainability investments are still interesting despite higher material costs and longer waiting times because you benefit from lower energy costs throughout the life cycle of your investment.
Energy-saving measures for self-employed professionals
Certain grants and tax benefits apply only to business owners with their own commercial premises. If you are self-employed and work from home, you may be able to take advantage of consumer subsidies (in Dutch).
Investing in LED lighting pays off because although the initial price of LED lighting is much higher than old-fashioned light bulbs, it consumes a lot less energy. After about 2.5 years, LED becomes a cheaper alternative overall. Besides, you do not have to call in expert help: you can usually replace your lighting yourself. Make the switch to LED lighting to start saving money now (in Dutch).
Moreover, LED lighting tends to last a lot longer than traditional alternatives. On average, an LED bulb will last about 15 years. Typically you will have to replace incandescent bulbs after 9 years and halogen bulbs after 5. In other words, LED will not just help you keep more cash in your wallet, but is also great for the environment.
Saving energy for tenants
Are you renting? The law does not specify whether tenants or landlords are responsible for implementing energy-saving measures. Talk to your landlord about making the property more sustainable and find out what you can do together.
Solar panels are becoming increasingly popular, and for good reason. Now that energy prices are rising rapidly, Ringelberg thinks that it will take only 7 to 10 years to recover your investment in commercial solar panels. Solar panels last for 20 to 25 years, so you can keep enjoying the benefits for years after you break even. It is important to take a careful look at your building’s state of repair first. In Ringelberg’s experience, roofs are a common source of problems. "Many roofs cannot support the extra weight of solar panels. If that applies to you, see if you can optimise the roof insulation first. This also has the effect of improving the structural stability of the roof as a whole."
The government encourages companies to invest in solar panels with various subsidies and tax breaks. For example, the Sustainable energy investment subsidy (Investeringssubsidie duurzame energie, ISDE), which gets you €125 per kW of peak power. By mixing and matching subsidies, you can save a lot of money. If you are interested, consider reaching out to an energy adviser.
If your property is well insulated, a heat pump may be an interesting investment and a sustainable alternative to a traditional central heating boiler. "If your office building does not have a class-A energy label, opt for a hybrid heat pump to cut back on your gas consumption," Ringelberg recommends. “You will see your energy use change right away. And it generally takes 8 to 10 years to get back your investment."
Anyone looking to buy a new heat pump faces a long wait: "If you order a heat pump now, you have to expect a waiting time of 12 months. Some companies have even stopped taking new orders altogether.”
It is important to make sure that commercial buildings are properly insulated. The better you are able to trap heat or cold air in your building, the lower your energy bill will be. Did you know that energy costs can be up to 30% lower in a well-insulated building?
Warm air rises and if your roof insulation is poor, heat will easily dissipate through your roof. Insulating your roof properly can cut lost energy by up to 30%. You will recover your investment within 5 to 10 years (in Dutch). There are many different insulation materials to choose from, such as PIR, PUR, and glass wool. Insulating your roof costs anywhere from €80 to €240 per m2. Consult an energy adviser to discover the best option for you.
Cavity wall insulation
If your commercial building was built before 1980, the cavity walls may not be insulated. In this case, 25% of all energy is lost through the walls. Having a cavity wall insulated is a relatively simple procedure. A specialist injects insulation material into the wall through small holes in the outer wall, which are then filled. When complete, you will have a well-insulated outer wall within a few hours and with minimal inconvenience.
The costs for cavity wall insulation average between €15 and €25 per m2, depending on the materials. You will reclaim this investment within five years.
13% of the heat in your building is lost through your windows. To change this, replace your double glazing with high-efficiency glazing. HR++ glazing, for instance, performs a lot better than standard double glazing. And it can even be installed in the same window frames. HR++ glass costs on average €125 per m2, and will lower your overall gas use by 25 m3/m2/year.
If your window frames are also in need of replacement, you can choose to have HR+++ glazing installed. This triple glazing is an even better insulator than HR++ glass, but can only be installed in new window frames. At €190 per m2, HR++ glazing is considerably more expensive than HR++ glazing, but it will help you save 29 m3 of gas per m2 of glazing. On average, it takes 7 years (in Dutch) to recoup an investment in high-efficiency glazing.
A well-insulated floor will make your workplace more comfortable and can reduce energy loss by up to 10%. Insulation is most effective when installed directly under the floor. If this is not possible, you can also have the insulation installed at the bottom of the crawl space. Although this is less efficient and will save less energy. Floor insulation costs €25 per m2 on average and has a payback period of between 5 to 8 years (in Dutch).