Maximizing Energy Use

Are retailers ignoring the low-hanging fruit when it comes to saving energy? While many chains tend to focus their conservation efforts on new construction, they sometimes overlook opportunities for efficiencies in their existing buildings. In doing so, they may be missing out on a significant way to boost profitability.

“The median age for all commercial buildings is 30.5 years, and now is the time to focus on what can be done in these buildings to capture efficiencies,” said Brian Ricci, director of sales, TAC, Strategic Accounts–Retail, an affiliate of Schneider Electric, in a presentation at Schneider’s Retail Energy Seminar, which was held in September.

The opportunities abound. For example, only 45% of existing retail and service buildings have pro-active heating- and ventilation-maintenance programs, Ricci said, and only 28% have installed energy-efficient lighting ballasts. Less than 5% have implemented variable air-volume HVAC systems.

Among the energy-saving options to be considered, according to Ricci, are demand limiting, daylight harvesting or dimming, HVAC economizer controls, exhaust-fan controls and shift-off balers.

“Retailers can also reduce energy use in existing buildings with O&M [operations and maintenance] and recommissioning,” Ricci said. Specific measures to be taken in this area include:

  • Optimize temperature setpoints;

  • Utilize demand control ventilation;

  • Use an economizer operation;

  • Optimize lighting and HVAC scheduling;

  • Employ power-management enabling for PCs, printers and copiers;

  • Turn off registers and other plug loads at night; and

  • Specify ENERGY STAR equipment.

Energy use can also be reduced via various lighting measures, including retrofits to more efficient lamps (high performance T8/T5, compact fluorescents and LED exit signs), and by the use of occupancy sensors in backrooms, restrooms and refrigerated cases.

“Daylight harvesting with skylights is another measure to consider,” Ricci added.

With energy costs accounting for up to 8% of a company’s operating costs, it is in a retailer’s best interest to make the most of its energy, Ricci advised.

“Be conscious of the interaction of energy-conservation measures, note the cost of different energy sources and partner with suppliers to address energy challenges,” he added.

Equally important, retailers need a better understanding of their unique energy profile, which will allow them a more realistic assessment of the opportunities for savings.