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Tapping into Greater Energy Efficiency


Putting an energy management system in place is critical to a retailer’s energy-saving efforts. But a big mistake that some EMS users make is ignoring the system once it is up and running. This “Fire and Forget” approach will, over time, always render less energy savings than originally expected, and will waste a great deal of the value most systems offer, advised Comm-Works’ energy practice leader Rod McCrea, who spoke with Chain Store Age about energy efficiency.

Once the EMS is in place, what else can facilities directors do with regard to saving energy? 

The ongoing effort required to get the most from the energy management system falls into three categories. The first is to manage or periodically review HVAC, lighting and occupancy schedules to assure they still apply to the local conditions. This includes the revision of cooling and heating setpoints when the seasons change and the updating of on and off lighting schedules to accommodate daylight savings time changes. 

The second category involves looking at the monitored data — most energy management systems collect huge amounts of data about the operation of the facility and its building equipment. The more sophisticated systems do a very thorough job of analyzing the data and presenting it in a way that is easy to understand. Less sophisticated systems provide users with the raw data to analyze at will. Either way, users can derive significant insight about the facility’s operation from this data.

Finally, use the alarms. Most EMS solutions will send an e-mail alert when certain conditions are encountered, such as when a walk-in cooler gets too warm or when an HVAC unit fails to turn on. Acting on these alerts will ensure facilities are operating properly and energy savings are maximized. 

What is the best way to uncover energy leaks and determine their potential solutions?

First, users should look at their facility and use common sense to find energy leaks. For instance, many outdoor mall retailers leave their doors wide open to make the store seem more inviting and to help attract customers. Unfortunately, when this is done on a sunny, 90-degree day, the store’s HVAC system is also cooling the outside airspace about 3 ft. from the store’s entrance. Closing the doors could save as much as 10% of the store’s energy spend and will certainly extend the life of the air conditioner.

The second way to uncover energy leaks — and by far the most effective — is to have an energy audit performed. A professional energy audit will uncover the more subtle energy wasting areas like outside air leaks, poorly performing compressors, ineffective insulation and poorly sealed doors and windows, to name a few.

What are some of retailers’ most commonly overlooked opportunities for reducing energy?

Overlooked energy-saving opportunities include simple things like turning down (or up) the temperature in the facility when unoccupied, turning off the lights in spaces that are not in use, noticing when a heating or cooling unit never comes on (indicating a system failure and requiring other units to work harder to heat or cool the space) or when it runs too much. Disconnecting devices such as big screen TVs when they aren’t in use can also save energy. Devices in standby mode can consume as much as 25% of the energy they use when they are turned on.

Another overlooked opportunity is maintaining regular preventive maintenance procedures. Clogged air filters and dirty cooling coils rob HVAC performance and force systems to work harder and longer, thus consuming much more energy. 

How can facilities directors get upper management to buy into energy-efficiency investments? 

Provide a financial justification for the investment. Often, the improved energy-efficiency coupled with the installation rebates and tax incentives can pay for the upgraded systems in very little time. 

Also, corporate image should be taken into consideration, as customers, employees and shareholders often expect large enterprises to be environmentally conscious.

How does Comm-Works help retailers become more energy-efficient?

Comm-Works offers a complete suite of energy-management services. Utilizing energy professionals, we perform energy audits and leverage our global footprint to implement on-site energy conservation measures for multi-site retailers. Comm-Works will also centrally monitor and manage energy consumption and will interpret and analyze the data to continually identify new opportunities to reduce energy consumption. If an on-site presence is needed, we have local resources available 24/7 to identify and resolve any problems.

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