simple approaches to reduce energy use

Keeping a cap on consumption can help cut costs and maintain budgets.

by Mike Wardle, Roth Bros. Inc.

Retailers spend nearly $20 billion annually on energy expenses, according to Energy Star, an Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) organization. And, as costs continue to rise, c-store operators need surefire strategies to conserve energy and maintain budgets.

A comprehensive approach to utility management takes into account HVAC maintenance and energy monitoring. Controlling these crucial components of a c-store can deliver operators significant cost savings.

Operators that don’t manage their energy expenditure risk exceeding their budgets. By following this sound advice, c-store operators can boost profits and keep customers and employees comfortable.

Monitor HVAC

Well-maintained heating and air conditioning systems help keep energy costs down. Addressing small problems early prolongs the life of the HVAC system and prevents costly breakdowns. Outsourcing regular inspections to an HVAC specialist will ensure the system is operating at its maximum efficiency.

Another way to reduce HVAC costs is by monitoring its use. Just by raising the thermostat 2 degrees during summer and dropping it 2 degrees in the winter can cut cooling and heating electric usage 3-4%.

And keep space heaters in storage. Employees that use space heaters increase costs because they use more energy than average appliances. Another low-cost strategy is applying a tint coating to storefront windows exposed to sunlight. Tinted glass blocks up to 28% of heat infiltration, which can cut your cooling load by 8-10%.

To further reduce your load, consider installing energy management systems that monitor thermostats, HVAC, lighting, and refrigeration units’ output around the clock. These automated systems ensure equipment runs only when necessary, keeping a lid on energy waste, and pinpointing problem areas.

Light and temperature sensors placed throughout the building’s interior, exterior, and HVAC equipment, relay important environmental data to the automation unit. These sensors independently maintain temperatures and power schedules set by operators. An energy management consultant can advise c-store operators about automation control systems or install an appropriate system.

Make Sound Adjustments
Make sure you dim, reduce or turn off lights when the store is closed. Installing timers or an energy management system to do this is your best defense. New technology fluorescent fixtures (T-8 and T-5) are the most efficient and cost effective for operating costs and lumen output. These fixtures utilize low wattage electronic ballasts as well as low wattage lamps that produce more light at a lower wattage. The T-8 lamp is a common cost effective system for the consumer.

Installing four-foot, two-lamp T8 fixtures that use about 56 watts, instead of traditional T12 fluorescent bulbs that use 72 watts, saves about $12.80 in energy costs per lamp over the bulb’s life (at 8 cents per kWh).

The electronic fluorescent ballasts also offer a more extensive warranty than the T12 fluorescent (approximately 3 additional years).

In addition, utilizing occupancy sensors in areas such as refrigerated section of cases, rest rooms and offices will reduce energy costs as well as extending the life expectancy of lamps and ballasts.

Remember to create an even mass in freezers and refrigerated cases by distributing goods evenly. Doing this contains the cold more effectively and keeps temperatures consistent. Lastly, make sure all coils are clean, and seals are tight. This reduces the units’ energy expenditure by 10-20%.

Seal the Deal
Inspect all entry, stocking, window, and garage doors to ensure they are sealed properly. Constant use wears seals quickly, and they should be replaced once a year on average. Check for worn-out seals by turning off the lights and seeing if the sun shines through. Or use a flashlight along the seals to detect if light is leaking through.

And make sure entrance and delivery doors are closed as much as possible during summer when running the air conditioning. Cooling or heating the neighborhood is not your responsibility.

Costs can be further reduced by installing Energy Star qualified equipment. This energy-efficient equipment reduces waste and costs, and should be installed wherever possible. Energy Star labeled commercial solid door refrigerators and freezers can cut energy usage by 45 percent, and pay for themselves in about a year. That can save $140 annually per refrigerator and $100 per freezer.

Visit for a list of manufacturers and their energy star ratings. This will help you find models to best meet your needs and budget.

Find Out About Rebate Opportunities
Once you’ve installed the Energy Star qualified equipment, call your utility. Depending on your location, some utility companies will offer energy rebates. These rebates are usually available on higher-efficiency systems to encourage energy efficiency and offset equipment and installation cost.

In fact, some utilities offer rebates for using certain energy contractors. Hiring companies that use fully integrated maintenance and energy management programs can often result in a utility rebate.

Contact your utility provider and ask about possible cash rebates before upgrading to high-efficiency equipment or have your energy management firm do so. In some areas, rebates can actually cover a good portion of the full equipment and installation cost.

Using these best energy management practices can help maintain your energy budget in the face of rising energy prices. Remember, your facility stores your profits. Don’t neglect it.

Mike Wardle, is executive director of HVAC Service Sales and Marketing for Roth Bros. Inc. in Youngstown, Ohio. He can be reached at MWardle@RothBros.comor visit


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