Grocery Stores Look for Ways to Save Energy, The MDC Group

Grocery Stores Look for Ways to Save Energy

Increased Operating Costs

Many businesses, including grocery stores saw a unanimous increase in operating costs due to the pandemic. Stores have been forced to make expensive changes to fight the COVID virus and provide services to meet their worried customers demand. As a result, grocery stores are seeking for ways to improve their energy efficiency to increase profits.

They have added hand cleaning stations, additional cleaning and disinfecting routines for keypads, cash registers, scanners, food preparing surfaces, and carts. The more stringent cleaning and infection prevention protocols have increased the time and money spent. Some stores have added UV light and sophisticated filtration systems to help kill germs in their facilities. All of these add to the already high energy bills for grocery stores.

Many stores have made the biggest change to their internal layout, to add grocery delivery and pickup areas. On-the-fly plans were made to provide customers with shop-for-you, delivery, and pickup services. Since these services seem here to stay, stores should look at the energy efficiency of their present delivery and pickup facilities.

Supermarkets use more energy than any other commercial building, including hospitals, primarily because of refrigeration needs. Perishables must be kept cool in storage areas and display cases. According to Energy Star, an average supermarket uses about 50 kilowatt-hours of electricity and 50 cubic feet of natural gas per square foot per year. At $4 per square foot, a 50,000 square foot supermarket can spend $200,000 per year, and half of that is from lighting and refrigeration.

Stores need energy-saving strategies. According to a report by the EPA, when the average grocery store reduces energy costs by 10 percent, profit margins increase by 16%.

Energy-saving strategies should include building improvements and redesigns, measuring and managing present lighting and refrigeration systems, and installing more energy-efficient equipment.

Building Improvements and Redesigns

Adding Windows and Skylights

Add additional windows and skylights to cut down on lighting use during daylight hours. In architecture, daylighting means using natural light and reflective surfaces to illuminate a building. By adding windows, skylights, and reflective surfaces in a grocery store and installing sensors to regulate the use of artificial lighting, a store can save on energy bills. Lighting systems can dim or turn light fixtures off when there’s enough sunlight. A store redesign might be needed to take full advantage of new skylights.

Grocery Shop for You and Pickup Area Redesigns

Since grocery pickup and shop-for-you services are here to stay, designing facilities for these should include energy efficiency considerations. Building-out well-designed facilities with efficient shelving and spaces designed for carts, within cool storage areas can improve delivery efficiency, boost employee morale, and save on energy. Autonomous doors at grocery pickup locations and insulating plastic curtain strips prevent heat and refrigeration loss, saving energy as employees enter and leave. In addition, stores should invest in energy-efficient refrigeration and freezer units for these spaces.

Tracking and Managing Energy Performance

Equipment Maintenance Programs- establish scheduled maintenance checks to catch problems before they become energy drains:

  • Keep units clean and dust-free. Neglecting regular cleaning of evaporator coils leads to excessive cycling. Keep frost from accumulating on coils.
  • Check the refrigerant charge. An incorrect charge can cause an overworking compressor.
  • Check door gaskets regularly and replace them when damaged or worn to prevent warm, moist air from getting in while doors are closed.
  • Automatic door closers should be checked often and repaired or replaced if they stop working efficiently.
  • Have refrigeration units audited for efficiency and regularly check temperature settings.
  • Check anti-sweat motors regularly.

Ambient Temperature Control-

  • Calibrate the thermostats to ensure they read accurately
  • Adjust thermostat settings to save when a store is unoccupied overnight
  • Alter settings with seasonal changes

Lighting and Refrigeration Equipment Improvements and Upgrades.

By improving the function of present lighting and refrigeration equipment and upgrading to more efficient technology when possible, supermarkets can save on energy bills and add to their bottom line.

Efficient Lighting Technology

Replacing outdated light fixtures with more efficient ones can substantially reduce electric bills, and the investment is recouped over time. For example, replace T-12 bulb fixtures with ones that take T-8 or T-5 bulbs. Research shows that the thinner the fluorescent tube bulb, the more energy-efficient it is. The T-12 is 1.5″ wide, the T-8 is 1″ wide, and the T-5 is 5/8″. The savings for installing T-8 bulbs is about 18%, and you get the same amount of light. However, you can’t replace just the bulbs because the thinner T-8 tube requires a different type of ballast, electronic, versus the magnetic ballasts used for T-12. Units need to be retrofitted or replaced to use the thinner bulb sizes.

LED lighting is an even better option because it saves 50% to 75% over regular fluorescent bulbs. U.S. government studies have shown that LED bulbs consume up to 75% less energy. They also last 25 times longer, which means less maintenance time. Fixtures will either need to be retrofitted or replaced to use LED bulbs. Supermarkets can also save with LED lighting for outdoor signage and parking lots.

LED lighting over refrigerated cases has two advantages:

  1. LED is cooler than traditional lighting, so refrigeration motors don’t need to work as hard.
  2. Customers prefer it. According to a study by the Lighting Research Center at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, 86% of shoppers prefer LED light for freezer cases.
    Install occupancy sensors and connect lights to them in storerooms, back offices, and other low traffic areas.

Upgrade Refrigeration Equipment

Open refrigeration and freezer displays make picking up items easier for shoppers, but they waste a tremendous amount of energy. However, some low-cost measures mitigate the loss.

  • De-humidification Filters – Install them to control the moisture build-up in a case. The moisture raises internal temperatures, causing the compressors to turn on. These filters draw moisture from the air in the unit to prevent temperature increases.
  • Plastic Curtain Strips – Plastic strips for walk-in freezers, refrigerators, and cooled storage areas prevent heat loss as employees walk in and out. Plastic curtain strips can also be hung in front of open freezers. Customers can still see products and reach through the strips to get the products they want to purchase.
  • Night Curtains – Covering open cases with continuous cloth or plastic when the store is closed limits cold air loss during overnight hours.

The newest technology in-store freezer and refrigeration units save on energy bills and reduce waste through improved food safety. More precise temperature and humidity controls help prevent the thawing and refreezing of foods. Consumers won’t buy ice cream containers covered in ice crystals, and some foods become unsafe and unsaleable without accurate controls. Newer units include some energy-saving improvements. Here are four:

  1. Hydraulic Cylinder Closures- Doors close much faster when the shoppers release them. The shorter open time saves energy.
  2. Night Shades- Units are available with built-in nightshades you can employ.
  3. Triple Glass Panes- There are three panes and two layers of inert gas to insulate and seal out moisture. This eliminates the need for a heating element for defogging.
  4. Gravity Cases- Use convection technology to cool merchandise uniformly.

Operating costs have increased for supermarkets over the past couple of years.
By improving the energy efficiency in service areas, adding more natural light, maintaining equipment regularly, and investing in more energy efficient equipment, grocery stores can lower energy bills and improve their profitability.

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