Managing energy in your retail business

You want to create a great environment for your customers. But are you missing a trick when it comes to managing your energy?

Andrew Fletcher
Site audit advisor

Four ways to make your retail business more energy efficient

I've audited more than 15 shops and stores over the last year and most of them make the same energy mistakes. The good news is that they're relatively easy to fix.

Simple things like switching off lights, heating and ventilation when not in use can really help. You'll see more of my recommendations below.

1. Lighting open/close

Brightly-lit stores can be more appealing but there are ways you could reduce your lighting expenditure and still keep customers coming in.

Our energy auditor says

Use lower level lighting in non-customer areas

For stock room, store cupboards and staff toilets think about installing automatic detectors to control the lights in these areas so they're only on when you need them to be.

Keep lights switched off when they're not needed

Occupancy detectors that automatically turn on lights when someone's in the room can help you save to 50% on lighting costs.

Dusk to dawn automatic sensors fitted to exterior lights in your car park can help save money by making sure lights come on only when it's dark outside. Time-clock controls can be used to operate fascia lighting.

Opt for energy efficient light bulbs

Compact fluorescent lamps (CFLs) have a similar light output to conventional tungsten light bulbs but last up to eight times longer and use only 20% to 25% of the energy. Whereas LED lighting also last much longer than conventional light sources but uses 60 - 80% less energy.

More words of wisdom

It's a good idea to establish a basic lighting maintenance program:

  • Regularly check artificial lights, windows and skylights
  • Replace blackened, flickering, dim or failed fluorescent tubes. Fluorescent tubes are available in different colour temperatures, warm white and cool white are best suited to retail environments.

A simple programme like this will help to keep the lighting bright and welcoming in your shop while reducing costs by up to 15%. (Without it, the lighting level in your store may fall by 50% within two or three years).

Source: Retail - Energy management - the new profit centre for retail businesses, Carbon Trust, March 2012

2. Heating open/close

As heating accounts for 40% of energy used in a typical retail environment, there are lots of opportunities to save. Some businesses could reduce heating costs by up to a third through simple energy saving measures.

Our energy auditor says

Set shop temperatures realistically

In cold weather most shoppers will be wearing warm outdoor clothing so the temperature within your premises doesn't need to be set too high. Set your thermostat a few degrees lower. 19oC is recommended and will ensure that customers don't become uncomfortably warm. Reducing heating temperatures by just 1% can cut fuel consumption by 8%.

Keep outer doors closed

Open doors allow heated air to escape and cold air to enter. If doors must be left open then fit an air curtain above the door, this will reduce the amount of hot air which escapes and cold air that comes in from outside. However make sure the air curtain has a time-clock fitted so as it only operates during opening hours.

Make sure your business hours and heating system are in sync

Make sure your heating - and your ventilation and cooling systems too - are on only when they need to be. You can probably turn off your heating or air conditioning an hour before your shop closes without anyone noticing. Simple timer switches can ensure this happens automatically.

Source: Retail - Energy management - the new profit centre for retail businesses, Carbon Trust, March 2012

3. Refrigeration open/close

The energy used by refrigeration in a small retail outlet can account for half of its total electricity bill.

Our energy auditor says

There are many quick and easy ways you can make your fridges and display refrigerators work more efficiently - and save you money.

Inside the display refrigerator

  • Avoid over filling fridges - more products on the shelves prevents air circulating and means the equipment has to work harder
  • Turn off internal display lights out of hours
  • Increase the set cooling temperature by 1°C, if it's food-safe to do so, and you'll reduce energy consumption by 2% to 4% (only applicable to display refrigerators containing non-perishable stock items)
  • If the display refrigerators are fitted with doors, which is recommended for energy efficiency, make sure that the doors close properly and that the door seals fit correctly. For display refrigerators with pull down thermal insulating blinds, ensure these fit properly and are closed out of hours.

Outside the fridge

  • Remove anything that might restrict the airflow around the fridge
  • Use insulating blinds and covers
  • Keep condensers (sometimes installed at the back of the display refrigerator or sometimes externally mounted), free from dust.

Display refrigerators also produce heat, consider this when locating equipment in your retail premises, this can be a useful free source of additional heat when required, alternatively ventilation equipment may be required to extract the heat to avoid a requirements for air conditioning.

Source: Retail - Energy management - the new profit centre for retail businesses, Carbon Trust, March 2012

4. Get employees involved open/close

In the fight against energy wastage, your people are your most important weapon.

Our energy auditor says

Changing employee behaviour can have a real impact on your shop's energy usage. Here are some tactics you could try in your retail business:

Train your staff to use equipment correctly and energy-efficiently

Pay special attention to heating, air-conditioning and ventilation systems.

Draw up an energy saving action plan

Make sure that every employee knows what's expected of them. Implement an end of day procedure to ensure all unnecessary equipment is switched off before everyone goes home.

Appoint an employee energy champion

Make one person responsible for initiating small-scale efficiency practices. Rotate this role, if possible, so everyone gets involved.

Set energy saving targets

Most businesses can reduce their energy consumption by 10 to 40%. Start with a 5% annual energy bill reduction.

Measure and communicate energy savings

Ensure that energy savings achieved through employee engagement or energy champion activities are reported and widely communicated.

Source: Retail - Energy management - the new profit centre for retail businesses, Carbon Trust, March 2012

Let’s talk about your business

Gas, electricity or both? Whatever you use, you need a plan that works for you. Give us a call and we’ll help you find the right one.

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