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No-cost changes bring instant savings for Mull B&B

Making changes to save money needn’t be expensive. In fact, sometimes you can make instant savings without it costing you a penny.

The owners of Staffa House B&B on the beautiful Isle of Mull will be for ever grateful that one of our advisors chose to stay with them while he was carrying out independent assessments on nearby businesses.

A chance conversation over breakfast led to Janice and Chris Hall asking for their own unbiased report and it didn’t take our advisor long to see how the couple could make some quick and easy savings.

Janice and Chris had bought the four-bedroom bed and breakfast in Fionnphort at the west end of the island 12 months previously and they had been shocked at their heating costs.

In their first year in business, the electricity bill had been a whopping £5,100. Our advisor quickly figured out why – and where savings could be made.

The property, which also has accommodation for the owners, was being heated by a combination of new, good quality storage heaters and, in the guest bedrooms, instant electric heaters, which visitors had a tendency to leave on during the day when they were out.

The advisor recommended that the first step should be to turn the heaters in unoccupied rooms off. It was a change that would cost nothing to implement but there would be immediate rewards.

It was also important to look at not just how much electricity was being used, but how much the couple was paying for it. Staffa House was on a Total Heat and Total Control tariff for the storage heaters, which gave them no control over when they were on or off… and the instant heaters were being charged on a different, more expensive rate.

The solution was to change to one single-rate tariff and then shop around different suppliers for the best deal. Although they had to pay to have the meter changed, it was a small price given the savings that followed. 

But Janice and Chris didn't stop there. Like many businesses that start to make energy savings, they were keen to explore bigger opportunities at the 1920s property. Given that the electric heaters were not as efficient as they could be, leaving several cold spots around the house, they applied for an interest-free loan to enable them to upgrade to a more efficient oil heating system that worked alongside their existing solar thermal set-up.

It was important they chose a system that would not only save them money and cut their carbon emissions, but was also easily maintained and repaired, which ruled out a heat pump as there are no MCS-accredited installers on their island. In the event of a breakdown, guests could have been left with no heating or hot water until an engineer had travelled from the mainland.

Two years after buying the property, the tradesmen moved in and completed the heating upgrade, ready for the new season. Sadly, the Coronavirus (COVID-19) lockdown prevented reopening, but the couple have been enjoying their cosy new home as well as reduced energy bills. From paying more than £300 a month all year round, they are now paying just £80 a month during the summer.

The heating has been installed on two systems, one for the guests and one for the owners. During winter, when the B&B is predominantly closed, no energy is wasted heating rooms that are not being used. And they have also been able to cut their carbon emissions by more than five tonnes a year.

Janice said that even though they are repaying the £14,000 loan, their monthly outgoings are no more expensive than they were previously, plus they have a much warmer and more energy efficient home.

While it is difficult to calculate the exact savings on energy costs as they have been unable to reopen since lockdown, the former local government worker believes the savings will amount to around £2,000 a year.

Our service receives a big thumbs up from Janice, who said:


“I would say to anyone ‘do it’. It’s one of the best things we have done. The change has been transformational. We have not only saved money, but the changes have added value to the house as well.”


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Our free service for Scottish businesses is funded by the Scottish Government and by the European Regional Development Fund through the £73 million Resource Efficiency Circular Economy Accelerator Programme. The support provided to this organisation was delivered by Zero Waste Scotland’s Resource Efficient Scotland programme, which has been relaunched as Zero Waste Scotland’s Energy Efficiency Business Support Service as of 1 April 2020.

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