Five Simple Ways to Winterize Retail Facilities

Black Friday – it’s the day retailers anticipate all year; the official start of the holiday shopping season. In 2012, Black Friday generated more than $11 billion in sales and brought 307 million shoppers to the stores; and 2013 is shaping up to be even bigger: more sales, customers and hours. Extended hours of operation means increased profits—and increased energy consumption. In a typical retail building, lighting, heating and cooling account for between 69% and 84% of total energy consumption—which are all intensified during the holidays. While the added cost is more than justified by the revenue, there are a few simple ways that energy and facility managers can ‘winterize’ their facility to prepare for the influx of holiday shoppers and be as energy efficient as possible throughout the colder season while maintaining a comfortable environment:

  1. Fall and winter means colder weather outside and a need to turn off the air conditioning and turn up the heat. Customers want to be comfortable, but they don’t want to cook. Keeping your store at a comfortable level while allowing customers to keep their coats on will alleviate overheating your customers and will help keep heating costs down during the colder months. You should establish corporate set point standards and monitor your stores to make sure they are all operating at standard temperatures.
  2. Another good practice is to stagger the start times of equipment with motors greater than 1 HP so they don’t start instantaneously, possibly creating an electrical demand peak. Starting them staggered by 30 seconds can be an effective way to reduce monthly or even annual peak demand costs.
  3. Efficient settings for lighting and motion controls – with the days getting shorter, leveraging natural lighting is less of an option. Make sure that your lighting systems are scheduled to automatically turn on and off at set times based on your operating schedule and monitor this on a regular basis.  Also, when store hours change to accommodate sales events, or after hour cleaning make sure that the lighting systems are set back to their standard schedules to avoid lighting empty stores unnecessarily.
  4. Minimize Access to Systems – Most BAS/EMS have the capability to set permission levels and control access to make changes to system operation. This feature is often not used or overridden enabling ANY user to override settings. Access to these systems should be limited and configuration should be established to allow proper levels of access.
  5. In some parts of the country fall and winter can offer a great opportunity for free cooling through economization. During fall preventative maintenance, check the integrity of the economizer operation. Check mixed air and outside air temperature sensors, damper and actuator function to be sure your system is ready to capitalize on free cooling opportunities.

These are just a starting point – a few basic steps to prepare retail facilities for winter, keep shoppers comfortable and stop energy bills from skyrocketing. To truly maximize energy efficiency and the shopping experience year-round, retailers need to implement a comprehensive energy management strategy that includes peer-to-peer energy benchmarking. Several recent studies have shown that setting benchmarks and comparing against peer groups leads to greater efficiency improvements. Until recently, establishing a true peer group for comparison has been a challenge, making peer-to-peer benchmarking nearly impossible. Changes within the industry, as well as mandatory energy data reporting in several cities and states, is making it possible. I’ll dig into that in my next column.

Bob Zak is senior vice president of facility solutions at Ecova, the total energy and sustainability management company. 

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