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And the Winners Are … 
Sears and J.C. Penney among top finishers in EPA energy competition


A Sears store in Glen Burnie, Md., and a J.C. Penney store in Orange, Calif., took second and third place, respectively, in the Environmental Protection Agency’s first-ever National Building Competition. Top finisher: a dorm at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

The competition challenged teams from buildings across the country to see which commercial building could trim its energy use the most during a 24-month performance period. The EPA required utility-bill statements for verification of the energy loss.

The 195,000-sq.ft. Sears store, built in 1996, cut its energy use by 31.7% (for $45,612 savings in energy bills) and reduced its greenhouse gas emissions by 272 metric tons. Penney had an energy reduction of 28.4%, reducing its emissions by 152 metric tons. 

How did Sears and Penney achieve their results? Improved lighting and employee engagement were key. Here are some more details: 

Sears: The Sears team replaced inefficient 4-lamp 30W light fixtures throughout the store with energy-efficient 2-lamp 32W fixtures, which reduced consumption and provided higher light output.

In addition, Sears put its thermal imaging camera to work looking for “hot” equipment that could cause energy loss through inefficiencies. It made repairs on HVAC equipment that wasn’t operating at peak performance, replaced worn or missing weather-stripping to stop air infiltration and repositioned incorrectly placed interior zone temperature sensors to more accurately heat and cool the store.

Most importantly, according to Sears, the store’s management and associates were vigilant about conserving energy, treating the store as if it were their own home, keeping doors closed when the air conditioning or heat was on and turning off lights when not in use.

J.C. Penney: Aggressive measures with lighting also paid off for Penney. The chain outfitted the store with more than 300 high-efficiency LED lamps, which are expected to yield 4% to 6% energy savings, not including any additional savings from the HVAC load reduction. It also installed a lighting control panel that provides five different lighting levels for various store activities and new occupancy sensors in back offices and stock rooms.

Diagnostic tools, in the form of interval smart meters, also helped Penney save energy. The meters record energy usage in 15-minute intervals. Penney uses the data to estimate daily energy usage, helping it to identify and address problems the next day. 

The Penney store is part of a group of 63 Penney locations that participate in the chain’s Advanced Energy Management Program, which stresses a focus on energy awareness on both the facility maintenance and store associate level. The store posted notes and signs near light switches in every office area, hallway and restroom reminding staffers to turn off lights in unoccupied rooms.

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