Energy Efficiency for Retail Stores

retail energy

Top Energy-efficiency Tips for Retailers

Retailers need to keep up-to-date with technology in order to serve their customers better. The changing demands of the general public favor environmentally friendly businesses, and the easiest way your store can assist the environment is through energy efficiency.

The United States consumes more fossil fuel than it produces, which means oil and gas have to be shipped from overseas, causing the risk of spillage and environmental damage. The government's concerns about energy security compel them to meddle in the politics of other nations, simply to ensure a plentiful supply of fuel for the United States. Cutting energy consumption would make the world a safer place, as well as a cleaner one.

Many worry about the effects of carbon emissions on the ozone layer and seek to reduce their energy usage. Consumers who prioritize environmental issues are likely to favor retailers that share their aims, and will avoid energy abusers. An energy efficiency strategy can provide you with good PR and earn you sales.

Some investors only invest their money in green businesses, and there are now crowdfunding sites that only accept environmentally friendly applicants. Being energy efficient can open doors for growth in your business, as well as preserve the environment.

Fortunately, pleasing the environment through industrial energy efficiency programs saves you money. There are so many options to achieve energy efficiency in retail stores. If you worry that you can't take enough time away from your store to consider this issue properly, follow our guide to the top retail energy saving tips.

Energy Audit

You should be writing up your accounts on a monthly basis. The longer your business has been running, the more information you have at your fingertips — use it to set a baseline for your energy efficiency project. Open a spreadsheet and create your energy log. The first of our retail store energy saving tips is to establish a starting point for the project.

Look through your expenses for the last three years and take the average retail energy consumption for each month. Don't include the current year, because it isn't complete. That means you should look at January figures for the previous year, the year before and the year before that. Add those three numbers together and divide by three to get a January figure for a given cost. Do the same for each calendar month.

You will examine four broad categories of costs for your retail energy management scheme, but you will be writing detailed costs in between these headings. Those categories are:

  • Warehouse
  • Store
  • Deliveries
  • Other

The way you fill out these categories depends on the size and complexity of your business. For example, if you don't have a separate warehouse — or storage unit — you won't have to work on costs for that category.

If you have several sales premises, put a heading for each and consider the energy consumption for each site separately. It may prove that some of your stores are already more energy efficient than others, so lumping them all together into one category would hide some illuminating information.

The "Other" category includes the fuel you might use running a vehicle to go to sales meetings or to buy supplies. Try also to include any expenses that you may incur at home. For example, if you wash your uniforms at home, you should be itemizing that as a business expense.

The second column of your spreadsheet will list sub-categories. Try to split out the cost of heating, air conditioning, light and hot water, for example.

Write the months of the year as the next 12 columns. Write "Total" as the title of the last column in the model.

Calculate the cost of each type of expense for each month averaged over three years and then write a row of sub totals at the end of each category. Add these costs for the Total column of the spreadsheet.

At the end of all of your work, you should be able to write in a grand total by summing up all the figures in the Total column.

Get Help

If you find the topic of retail building energy efficiency too complicated or time consuming, there are people who can help you assess your current energy usage. Partnering with a consultant will enable you to work with someone who performs energy audits on a regular basis and who knows retail energy solutions to reduce costs.

You can get some good advice for free from energy suppliers. They want to win your business at the end of the exercise, so you can get some concrete figures out of them once you move on to assess alternative strategies. Shipley Energy performs a complimentary Energy Scan for potential commercial customers.

Not everyone likes the idea of letting strangers look through the business's books, however. Fortunately, there are online assessment tools available, if you don't want to use the spreadsheet method or call in a consultant. The Environmental Protection Agency created the Energy Star standards to promote energy efficiency. You will find the EPA's Portfolio Manager at the Energy Star website. This tool enables you to perform your energy audit, which the EPA refers to as "benchmarking."

Focus Areas

Your main opportunities to achieve retail energy efficiency on your premises lie in the following areas:

  • Heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC)
  • Water heating
  • Lighting
  • Electrical equipment

There is no standard off-the-shelf solution to achieve energy efficiency for retail, because each retail sector has different requirements. Large businesses and small stores will have different opportunities to take advantage of, and different regions of the country occupy a vast range of climactic regions, offering different environmental factors to exploit.

hvac

If you operate in the northern states, your main expense of your premises will probably be heating. If you live in the southern states, your summer electric bills are probably larger than your winter bills because your main need lies in cooling, not heating. To decrease your heating and cooling bills, consider the following tips:

  • To reduce the cost of heating, get a quote from an insulation specialist.
  • Buildings in hot areas absorb heat from the sun. Side and back walls that are in direct sunlight for long hours will feel hot to the touch — that heat sinks in through the walls and makes your premises hotter than they need to be. Painting exterior walls white will reduce heat absorption. Paint flat roofs with a reflective coating.
  • Write off old heaters and air conditioners — they are inefficient. Newer models will reduce your energy consumption.
  • Get an engineer to check all of your HVAC systems, clean them and tune them. This is called "commissioning the building" and can reduce your energy bills by up to 16 percent.
  • Turn down HVAC systems for the periods when the store is closed. Also reduce heating or cooling to a minimum in the non-public areas of you premises.
  • Adjust your HVAC settings according to the season.
  • Use natural ventilation wherever possible to reduce the power needed for air conditioning.
  • Install sensors and automatic doors to reduce heat loss from open doors in cold climates.
  • Turn up your thermostat by two degrees Fahrenheit in the summer and decrease it by two degrees in the winter — you may be overheating or overcooling, and you could cut eight percent from your energy bill by being a little less generous with the HVAC.
  • Turn off the heating one hour before closing time — the heat trapped in the store should be enough to coast to the end of the day.

water heating

If your business requires hot water, you might be tempted to keep an old boiler running for an extended service life to avoid the expense of buying a new one. This could be a false economy, because you are missing the chance to reduce your energy bills. To reduce the cost of heating your water, consider the following tips:

  • New water heaters are more energy efficient than old, and they are also safer.
  • Get water heaters serviced regularly to ensure peak performance. Old gas water heaters can emit lethal fumes if not properly maintained.
  • Check the "Annual Fuel Utilization Efficiency" (AFUE) of any new heater you consider. The higher the AFUE, the more efficient the boiler.
  • Compare local prices for oil, natural gas and electricity when calculating the cost of different heating systems.
  • Consider solar panels for water heating if you live in a zone with sufficient sunlight hours.
  • Turn down the temperature gauge on the heater if you do not require boiling hot water.
lighting

It is a well-know tactic in retail to ensure that premises are well lit, possibly even over-lit. Key products need to be clearly visible, and bright lighting creates a cheery atmosphere. However, lighting can be a major expense. Luckily this area provides you with opportunity to improve your energy efficiency without much outlay. To reduce your lighting expenses, consider doing the following:

  • Use as much natural light as possible. Don't fill the store window, and place key products as close to the window as possible.
  • Organize your retail space on one floor to remove the need for in-store lifts and escalators.
  • Deep premises mean much of the store is away from the window. Place non-public or less frequently used facilities, such as changing rooms and toilets, at the back of the site.
  • Tell all staff to turn off lights in break rooms, wash rooms and storage rooms when leaving.
  • Consider installing movement sensors to cut the lighting when non-public areas are vacant.
  • Replace all bulbs with the low-energy equivalent — LED bulbs can save up to 80 percent on the cost of lighting.
  • Switch off all lights when the store closes.
  • Electric advertising signs and emergency exit signs use less power if lit by LED lights.
  • Consider installing skylights if you have a flat roof.
  • Don't leave outdoor lighting on during the day.

electrical equipment

Make a list of all the electrical and electronic equipment you have on your premises. Some older pieces of office gadgetry are actually now out of date. For example, your fax machine can be replaced by a scanner and eFax software on your computer. Electric racks and revolving displays are unnecessary and out-dated. To improve the energy efficiency of your electrical equipment, try the following tips:

  • Retire unnecessary electrical equipment.
  • Replace older equipment with more energy-efficient, newer models.
  • Switch off all electrical equipment at night.
  • Don't let assistants turn the music up loud — speakers use more power when they are turned up.
  • Use sleep mode on electronics, such as computers.
  • Don't leave the coffee machine running all the time. Fill a thermos jug with the coffee once it has been made.
  • Look for the Energy Star label when buying equipment — these products are more energy efficient.

transport

If your business delivers bulky items, then gas-fueled trucks are unavoidable. However, there are ways you can reduce the fuel consumption on all of your business transport, including your own car. Consider the following tips to do so:

  • Choose a hybrid or electric car for city trips.
  • Use motorbike delivery for small items.
  • Consider bicycles for couriering documents.
  • Schedule delivery routes to serve groups of customers who are geographically close together in each delivery run.
  • Consider contracting out deliveries to a haulage company. They will consolidate trips to serve several customers simultaneously, maximizing truck space utilization.
  • Encourage employees to share their cars to and from work, and combine business trips to reduce fuel consumption.
  • Consider ditching your car and take public transport to go to business meetings, or buy a bicycle.
  • Try out electric carts and lifts in your warehouse.
  • Reorganize your warehouse to put more frequently ordered goods closer to the loading dock to shorten your most traveled routes.

Involve Stakeholders

No business should miss an opportunity to cut costs. In the past, cost-cutting was seen by customers as a risk to quality of service. Those employers who went around telling everyone to switch off the lights were branded mean and petty. However, the push to save the environment has given energy efficiency a fashionable image and everyone wants to get onboard. To take advantage of this, consider doing the following:

  • Pick an environmentally aware slogan and print it on all of your stationery to inform the public of your credentials.
  • Create a staff suggestion scheme to encourage employees to come up with ways to save energy and cut costs.
  • Print your environmental aims in your annual report to let your investors feel proud of their involvement with an environmentally friendly retailing operation.
  • Invite a local environmental pressure group to come and assess your operations, tell the local newspaper and get free publicity from the exercise.
  • Post a page on your website informing the public of your efforts and encourage them to come and enjoy your low-energy premises.

Begin the Journey

Putting together an energy efficiency strategy is an exciting project, but you may feel daunted by all the knowledge you will have to acquire in a hurry. Speaking to suppliers and documenting all of your options takes time, but it will be time well spent. Energy efficiency for retail brings the triple benefit of raising your profile in the community, cutting your costs and saving the planet.

Both the environmental and financial aspects of energy efficiency are vitally important and easily mismanaged if not planned properly. Talk to the experienced energy providers at Shipley Energy to make sure you have ongoing support on your journey into energy efficiency.