Saving on Energy

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Energy management remains a top priority of chains nationwide and with good reason: A 10% reduction in energy costs can boost profit margins by 6%, according to the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) ENERGY STAR program.

There are lots of solutions that retailers can undertake to better control their energy use, and the good news is that they all don’t require big investments.

“There are many low-hanging fruits when it comes to reducing energy, lots of changes that retailers can make without having to break the bank,” said Candace Bridges, campaign manager, Schneider Electric, Palatine, Ill. “These changes can increase the bottom line and save operating costs over the life of the equipment.”

Agood place to start is lighting, which typically accounts for 40% or more of a store’s energy bill.

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“An effective no-cost solution to saving energy involves teaching your employees to adjust the lighting to particular times of the day to save energy,” Bridges said. “For example, store traffic may be light from eight to 10 in the morning, so a full lighting scheme may not be necessary at that time.”

Retailers are also advised to use occupancy sensors in spaces that don’t have constant traffic, such as the security room, back offices and fitting rooms.

“Occupancy sensors that turn lights on only if someone enters the particular area are a low-cost solution that is easily implemented,” she said.

It also makes sense dollar-wise to compound energy savings. For instance, consider implementing lighting controls during a lighting upgrade.

“Converting to higher-efficiency lamps will reduce energy by about 5%, and putting in controls will save roughly 10%. But if you tie them together from the start, you will save even more—from 15% to 20%—than the two combined,” Bridges explained.

Retailers are also advised to look at energy-consuming equipment in context with each other.

Another key energy- and cost-saver is to look for and treat the root cause of a problem. For example, if a lamp needs to be replaced frequently, don’t just change the lamp—look at the breaker associated with it. It could be that the breaker wasn’t sized correctly and, as a result, it keeps tripping.

Many chains are not able to take advantage of potential energy savings due to a lack of understanding as to where energy is being used and when. Simple metering can provide a wealth of data that can bring about easy changes—and significant energy reductions. Pay-back for metering equipment is roughly six months.

The most effective way to identify opportunities for saving energy is through an energy audit by a qualified expert from Schneider Electric or another qualified manufacturer.

“The expert will come in and assess what is going on in the store energy-wise, where the opportunities are to save energy and make related recommendations,” Bridges said.

There is no set timetable as to how often a chain should do an energy audit. But a good time, according to Bridges, is when a store is doing a remodel or updating energy-related equipment.

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