Part 1: Quick Fixes
Although energy expenditures represent a relatively small fraction of a convenience store’s total operational costs, improving efficiency and reducing energy costs can increase its profits by as much as 10 percent.
The typical convenience store in the U.S. includes several energy-heavy features: multiple refrigerated and lighted coolers, interior and exterior lighting (including gas station canopies), hot food warmers, and other appliances such as cappuccino machines, slushie makers, soda fountains/dispensers, and sometimes fryers. Combined, this can lead to large energy consumption – an average of 52.5 kilowatt-hours (kWh) and 38.2 cubic feet of natural gas per square foot per year.
Refrigeration and lighting collectively account for more than 75% of total electricity use in the average grocery or convenience store.
Let’s go over a few solutions with fairly reasonable paybacks that can help you better manage your store’s energy costs and money.
Check the temperature settings.
Temperatures that drop below recommended levels in your refrigerators and freezers can be wasting energy and costing you money. The most common settings are between -14° and –8° F for freezers, and between 35° and 38° F for refrigerators.
Check for leaks.
Leaks allow warmer air to enter the cooling space, thus increasing the energy required to cool the unit. Inspect and repair cracked seals and gaskets on the doors. Also, ensure that the doors close all the way. You can install automatic door closers to prevent doors from accidentally not being shut completely.
Check the refrigerant charge.
Incorrect refrigerant charge can reduce equipment efficiency by 5% to 20% and raise the risk of early component failure. Have a licensed technician check the refrigerant charge annually.
Clean evaporator coils.
Dirty or icey evaporator coils slows down the rate of heat transfer causing the whole system to work harder to maintain the same temperature.
Replace incandescent lightbulbs with fluorescent or LEDs.
Lamps that are on for more than 2 hours a day should at the very least be compact fluorescent bulbs or fluorescent tubes.
They are much more efficient, and last longer, too!
LEDs should be used in exit, pylon, and open signs. It is also becoming increasingly more efficient to replace the canopy and parking lot fixtures with LEDs. As an extra benefit to that, your store feels much safer at night because of the brighter lighting.
For example, a typical incandescent exit sign uses around 40 watts vs. 3 watts with an LED sign. And for gas canopy fixtures, a typical metal halide used in the canopies are 400 watt
Occupancy sensors are another beneficial feature to incorporate into your lighting system. They can save 30 – 75% in electrical usage when installed in back office, storage rooms, or restrooms.
For stores that are open all day, consider installing dual level switching to allow only some fixtures to be turned off at night or during low-traffic hours. In fact, studies have shown that shoppers prefer lower light levels inside stores at night.
Keep on top of those filters.
Follow the requirements of your HVAC unit, and replace the filters when needed.
Adjust thermostat settings.
Even just adjusting the thermostat an additional 2 degrees F (raise for air conditioning and lower for heating) can make for significant long term energy savings. 7-11 made this change and estimates that the company will save more than $5 million across its 6,300 chain stores across the nation. Source: E Source Customer Direct pamphlet.
Check the economizer.
Many HVAC systems use a damper vent called an economizer to draw in cool outside air when it is available to reduce the need for mechanically cooled air. An economizer that is stuck open can let in too much outside air and ones that are stuck closed will not function like it’s supposed to. If you’re suspicious that something’s wrong with yours, have a licensed technician calibrate the controls and check, clean & lubricate the economizer’s linkage.
Check cabinet panels.
On a quarterly basis, make sure that the panels to your rooftop air-conditioning unit are fully attached and that the gaskets are intact so no chilled air leaks out of the cabinet. Leaks in this area can cost up to $100/year, per rooftop unit in wasted energy.
Clean condenser coils.
Dirty coils can hamper heat transfer. Check coils quarterly for debris that can accumulate, and wash coils at the beginning and end of the cooling season.
Next, check out Energy Efficiency at Gas Stations and Convenience Stores pt.2: Long-Term Solutions (coming soon)