SHELTON, Conn. — Convenience stores and gas stations thrive on efficiency, in terms of location, product placement and service. With longer or round-the-clock hours, food storage needs, product turnover and consumers’ increasing demand for expediency, efficiency is also the name of the game when it comes to turning a profit. If you’re wondering how to make a c-store more profitable, the devil is in these details. This includes energy usage—and is why engaging an Energy Efficiency as a Service (EEaaS) partner is a smart consideration.
You know that detailed planning and monitoring of merchandising and marketing are essential to c-store success. That same level of analytics and control can be applied to energy use. In big brand stores and independent chains, 24/7/365 energy use means non-stop opportunities to waste or save. But that means more than just following general energy saving tips for small businesses.
While any store that sells food uses more energy than general retail, averaging about 51.5 kilowatt hours per square foot, c-stores can blow this number out of the water, burning as much 94 kilowatt hours per square foot. Refrigerator and freezer cases, outdoor canopy lighting, coffee pots and other food-warming elements all play a part. And if you own multiple locations … well, do the math.
Obviously, forgoing these elements isn’t an option. Partnering with an EEaaS vendor or an energy efficiency company can be a huge leap in the right direction in terms of going green and saving green. Here’s what you need to consider …
At most c-stores, lights are on 24/7. Bright, well-lit stores encourage customers, and better lighting is also a safety improvement for your employees; however, from the interior lights to the outdoor canopy lights, lighting can be a major energy waste. Many c-stores still use fluorescent or halogen bulbs, compounding the problem. A big opportunity for savings lies in converting to LED storewide, from the wall packs to the outside luminaries. LED cuts 50% or more from energy consumption and improves light quality, making those colorful marketing displays come to life.
Food refrigeration is a key component in how to make a c-store more profitable. Even something as simple as a dead light bulb in a cold case can discourage sales. But their efficient use of energy (or lack thereof) can make a big difference in your margins. Of course, upgrading to energy-efficient units goes a long way, along with ensuring doors are shut when not in use. But these systems are often designed for worst-case ambient temperatures. New technology such as floating head and suction pressure controls respond to true, rather than assumed, ambient conditions, reducing the intensity at which the cooler needs to work by as much as 20%.
Likewise, electronically commutated motors (ECMs) can be programmed to speed up or slow down based on your specific cooling needs. These are a vast improvement from evaporator fans, slip capacitors, and shaded-pole monitors traditionally used and can shave as much as two-thirds off energy consumption.
Lastly, antisweat controls that monitor temperature and humidity in the store can prompt the heaters embedded in cooler and freezer doors to control condensation, potentially saving up to 50% of energy usage. Keep in mind, it’s not just a matter of replacing equipment, however. Monitoring them at every point of usage, then tweaking and changing as needed are all part of an energy efficiency savings plan.
Food warming is often overlooked, but self-serve coffee pots, roller grills and soup and sauce warmers are usually on all day. Aging or inefficient equipment can draw unnecessary electricity, warm food unevenly and increase food waste. Store owners should think long-term when upgrading equipment, including turning to green models designed to reduce energy usage up to 20%, which can mean hundreds of dollars in savings each year per unit. New tech like enclosed radiant heating shelves for heated merchandisers and improved roller-grill designs can translate to substantially lower operating costs. Employing technological controls to monitor these systems can also give you the feedback to make tweaks to your setup, even furthering the savings.
Heating and cooling are necessary, and while they keep customers and employees comfortable, they account for a significant portion of energy use. Auditing and monitoring your systems are the first steps in ensuring efficient, cost-effective usage. Making sure air filters are changed regularly, sealing heating and cooling ducts, and installing a programmable thermostat are common, smart energy saving tips for small businesses like c-stores.
But you can increase your savings significantly by doing more. HVAC upgrades , professional insulation improvements, superior coolants, renewable energy sources and peak demand monitoring are all ways in which you can continually shave energy overhead, all of which can be managed by a competent energy efficiency company. Again, monitoring your systems at every point of energy usage will also result in increased opportunity for optimization and savings.
Managing it all
While it’s possible to make the small changes above on your own, the big ones can be daunting. An EEaaS model can be combined with free capital to make a comprehensive energy efficient transformation possible in every facet of your business. You shouldn’t have to pay your own money to go green, and you can’t manage what you can’t measure. A full-service EEaaS company can make all the state-of-the-art upgrades, as well as continuously monitor and tweak these systems, resulting in dramatic, guaranteed savings and putting more money back into your business every month. And they can provide 100% of the capital needed to do so, guaranteeing immediate results.
A dedicated energy-efficiency company can replace equipment as technology improves, implementing the best and most effective advances on-site. This can include paying for ongoing component maintenance and converting customers’ stores to renewable resources such as solar, wind and geothermal. An EEaaS doesn’t just provide the individual technologies, it can monitor and integrate all of them, at every point of energy usage, providing constant optimization and savings. This can not only take energy management off your plate, but also set your business up for long-term success for a future that’s both bright and green.
Lee Kaufman is vice president of operations of Budderfly’s Energy as a Service division. Budderfly, Shelton, Conn., creates networks of patented Internet of Things devices that meter and report on all elements of energy use.