Supermarkets use more energy per square foot than any other type of commercial building – even hospitals. So supermarket operators trying to squeeze some extra profit out of their stores need look no further than their energy-using equipment to find ways of saving money. How much? Well, an EPA study estimates that reducing energy costs by only 10% can increase net profit margins by 16%. Put another way, every $1 saved by reducing energy use in a supermarket is equivalent to increasing sales by $59.
Of course, the best place to start on your journey to lower energy costs is with an energy assessment, which will look closely at all the equipment in your supermarket and tell you when, where and how it’s using energy. That way, you’ll be able to identify the best opportunities for saving money through efficiency upgrades. In the meantime, though, here are five things you can do right now to cut down on energy use. Since we have only five items, we’ll go through the express checkout lane.
1) Light the way with LEDs: Upgrading to LED lighting can reduce energy use by 30% over fluorescents. And since LEDs last three to five times longer than fluorescents, you save on maintenance and replacement costs as well.
2) Another use for LEDs: Because they generate very little heat, using LEDs in refrigerated display cases won’t make the refrigeration motors work harder. And since LEDs work better in the cold than fluorescents, installing them in refrigerator and freezer cases makes the upgrade even more beneficial.
3) Close those doors! Doors on refrigerators, freezers and display cases should be tightly sealed to prevent warm, moist air from leaking in to the units. Door gaskets and automatic door closers should be checked regularly and repaired or replaced if they’re damaged or worn.
4) It’s the humidity: One low-cost measure to help cut energy costs is de-humidification filters. Moisture causes a refrigerator’s internal temperature to rise, turning on the compressors to bring the temperature back down. De-humidification filters draw moisture from the air inside the unit, allowing the compressors to run less often and reducing electric use.
5) Behind the curtain: Clear plastic curtain strips reduce the loss of cool air from refrigerated cases while still providing customers with a clear view of the products inside. Additional energy savings can be realized by placing a continuous cloth or plastic cover, or “night curtain” over the cases during overnight hours, limiting the loss of cool air when the store is closed.
These five points are a good start, but they’re only the beginning. An Ecology Action energy efficiency expert can provide the guidance you need, advising you on obtaining an energy assessment and following through on its recommendations. Lowering your supermarket’s operating costs through energy efficiency is the fastest road to increased profitability.