By Traci Dawn Carneal, Contributing Editor
Efforts to reduce energy consumption can reap significant benefits for any retail operation, especially in convenience stores where even small cutbacks can mean big cost savings.
The sliding scale of options, ranging from replacing regular light bulbs with LED versions to installing automatic switches to turn lights off when not in use, can lower energy bills significantly. Implementing a company-wide energy management program can take such savings to the next level.
C-stores have some of the highest energy-use-per-square-foot among retail facilities, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) Energy Star data. Also, refrigeration can consume up to 40% of a c-store’s total energy.
With that in mind, the EPA urges retailers to maintain refrigeration systems and learn about the various energy efficiency options available today for all types of refrigeration equipment such as reach-in, walk-in and under the counter refrigerators/freezers, as well as a multitude of food/drink storage units and display cases.
While some stores and chains are experimenting more broadly with energy reduction solutions, lighting management strategies are a logical first step for any retailer seeking to reduce energy costs—whether it’s the smallest or the biggest.
Walmart recently announced plans to purchase energy-efficient LED ceiling lighting fixtures for new supercenters in the U.S., Asia, Latin America and locations in the United Kingdom. The new fixtures will use 40% less energy than lighting sources historically used in stores, and will help further the retailer’s goal to reduce the kilowatt hour (kWh) per square foot of energy required to power Walmart’s buildings globally 20% by 2020.
The move to LED ceiling lighting in the U.S. is expected to produce an energy savings of 340,000 kWh per store, equating to more than $34,000 in savings per year in each store (figured at 10.13 cents per kWh). With 200 new Walmart stores adopting the new GE LED ceiling lighting over the next two years, this amounts to a total energy savings of 620 million kWh over the next 10 years.
Kristie Bell, communications director for West Des Moines, Iowa-based Kum & Go, said the chain’s energy drainers came as a surprise.
“Through energy monitoring, we discovered our refrigeration and HVAC equipment is incredibly efficient,” Bell said. “It is plug loads for equipment like ovens, and beverageheating and cooling, where we see the biggest energy drain.”
Lighting and air compressors are the two biggest energy drains for Tony Castrilli, president of the Holmdel Village Exxon in New Jersey. Although he hopes to upgrade to all LED lighting, right now he uses interior fluorescent and outside halogen lights to cut down on energy usage.
“All compressors and electronic tools are off when not in use. They don’t just sit in sleep mode. They are 100% off. As with all new technology, there is a cost involved,” Castrilli said. “A small station can spend $4,000 or more on some basic lighting upgrades.”
According to Bell, Kum & Go installed anti-sweat controllers to reduce the energy used to heat the glass cooler doors and frames to prevent condensation. “That has been the best return on investment as a low-cost, high-impact project.”
The Iowa chain, which operates 432 stores in 11 states, installed state-of-the-art HVAC equipment to reduce energy usage, but the biggest overall impact on energy savings comes from use of the Hussmann Protocol System for high-efficiency refrigeration.
“We have converted to coffee brewing/dispensing systems that are less energy intensive and we have preventive maintenance processes that reduce energy consumption,” said Bell. “We use air curtains on entry doors of many of our stores for energy savings, as well as insect and dust control.”
New stores built in the past five years are primarily using LED lighting, and the chain continues to work to convert older stores to LED inside and outside.
“We’re continuously looking for new ways to reduce energy consumption, as well as educate our associates on ways to reduce energy consumption,” Bell said. “We’re running a test on pleotint in some stores right now, and if it goes well, we’ll integrate it into new builds and rebuilds.”
Pleotint produces Suntuitive glass technology that uses heat from sunlight to tint windows.
Kum & Go plans to be more aggressive in 2016 and implement additional energy efficient initiatives. At the same time, Bell said company executives also would like to see the bigger picture of sustainability, as well as increased focus on recycling efforts, water usage and smart construction.
HEATING AND COOLING
Heating and cooling systems account for a significant portion of a building’s energy use. Here are some tips for convenience stores from the EPA’s ENERGY STAR program:
• Change your air filter regularly. Check your filter every month, especially during heavy use months (winter and summer). If the filter looks dirty after a month, change it. At a minimum, change the filter every three months. A dirty filter will slow down air flow and make the system work harder to keep you warm or cool—wasting energy.
• Tune up your HVAC equipment yearly. Just as a tune-up for your car can improve your gas mileage, a yearly tune-up of your heating and cooling system can improve efficiency and comfort.
• Install a programmable thermostat. A programmable thermostat is ideal for areas that are unoccupied during set periods of time throughout the week. Rooms that have minimal traffic (such as stock rooms and warehouses) should be kept cooler in the winter and warmer in the summer.
• Seal your heating and cooling ducts. Ducts that move air to-and-from a forced air furnace, central air conditioner, or heat pump are often big energy wasters. Sealing and insulating ducts can improve the efficiency of your heating and cooling system by as much as 20% and sometimes much more.