For businesses using commercial refrigeration equipment, keeping inventory cool can be incredibly expensive. Refrigeration costs, according to the U.S. Small Business Association, typically range from 25% to 60% of the electricity consumption for grocery stores, convenience stores, and other facilities that rely on commercial fridges. Operating refrigerators can be an expensive budget item, but they are also a ripe opportunity for energy savings.
Business owners with hefty bills aren’t the only ones noticing these expenses. The energy costs associated with commercial refrigeration recently caught the eye of the United States Department of Energy. In 2014, the DOE announced new efficiency standards to help small businesses owners save energy. “By improving the energy efficiency of commercial refrigeration equipment – like restaurant-size fridges or the deli case at your local grocery store,” said Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz, “we can make our businesses more competitive, reduce greenhouse gas emissions and save money.” While the efficiency of new refrigerators has improved dramatically in recent years, those improvements offer little consolation to business owners paying massive energy costs just to maintain their daily operations.
As the Department of Energy works to make commercial refrigerators more efficient across the country, there are steps that small business owners can take to improve efficiency in their own facilities. By following any one of these three steps (but ideally all three!), you can reduce your energy expenses and improve your fridges at the same time.
1. Call us! Invite Lime Energy to assess and upgrade your equipment.
If you are looking to improve the efficiency of your small business’s refrigeration, look no further than one of the nation’s most active and most successful implementers of energy efficiency upgrades. If you have old or outdated equipment, or even if you have newer equipment that could benefit from the latest technology, Lime Energy can retrofit your commercial refrigerators to minimize energy consumption and maximize savings. The following measures are available through Lime’s efficiency programs:
– LED Case Lighting – As this blog has recently shown, LED lighting (even LEDs inside refrigerators) can dramatically reduce energy costs. The energy saving effect is even greater for refrigerators because not only do LEDs consume less energy but they also generate less heat, causing you to need less electricity to keep your products cool. Furthermore, LEDs improve the visibility of anything you have in your refrigerator, an especially important feature for refrigerated items like meat or produce where customers can be extremely selective.
– Brushless EC Motors – State of the art motor technology not only demands less electricity than older motor models, but also runs quieter and lasts longer. Making your refrigerators more reliable may be motivation enough to install new motors, so saving on your energy bill in the process is just an added bonus for this measure. The new equipment can also make sure that your motor is running only when cooling is needed, a feature that preserves produce that can dry out when exposed to too much airflow.
– Anti-sweat Controls – Anti-sweat heaters are great. They prevent water from condensing on the outside of your refrigerated display cases, allowing customers to see your product at all times. But anti-sweat heaters require electricity and heat your refrigerated cases in the process, therefore burning more electricity to sustain cool temperatures inside. By upgrading you with anti-sweat controls, Lime Energy will give you the benefits of anti-sweat display doors while also minimizing energy costs. These measures control the operation of anti-sweat heaters, allowing them to run only when needed and therefore giving you the best of both worlds – great appearance at minimal cost.
With the benefit of utility incentives, in most cases you will only have to pay a small percent of the cost of the Lime Energy upgrade. Major savings at little cost to you? Sounds like a Win-Win.
2. Regular cooler maintenance.
While you wait for the Lime Energy experts to retrofit your facility, or even if you don’t rely on Lime to upgrade your fridge, there are steps you can take on your own to lower your refrigeration costs. There are number of sites, like Efficiency Vermont and the U.S. Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy, that list a number of incremental maintenance activities that will do the trick. Here are some of the most effective:
– Keep the coils clean. A dust-free system, especially the coils, improves the refrigeration system’s functionality.
– Replace faulty door gaskets and auto-closers. When not working properly, these mechanisms cause energy waste and food spoilage.
– Give it space. Good airflow is essential to a properly functioning fridge. By clearing space around your equipment, you can make it more efficient.
– Add covers. For walk-in refrigerators or open cases, a strip curtain can prevent excess heat transfer. You don’t want all of the cool air leaving as you walk inside, so installing a curtain can help lock in the already cooled air. Also, adding overnight covers for display cases prevents waste after business hours.
3. Choose closed cases when possible.
In a typical supermarket, 50% percent of refrigerated display cases are open. These open cases use 3 to 4 times as much energy as closed cases. If you have ever walked through a chilly grocery store, you understand how much energy is wasted giving you goosebumps instead of cooling beverages or dairy. So if you own, operate, or manage a facility with open display fridges, imagine spending 3 or 4 times less each month. This step isn’t easy. It can be expensive and invasive to replace existing open cases with glass-door cases or to retrofit the open cases to add doors. But if you are willing to tolerate the upfront costs and inconvenience, the resulting efficiency generated by closed cases will create huge payoff in the long run
Lighting is the easiest and cheapest way to achieve energy efficiency, but focusing only on lighting overlooks many of the most lucrative savings opportunities. With Lime Energy’s refrigeration capabilities, we can help small businesses reap even greater rewards than available with simple lighting upgrades. With new, efficient commercial refrigeration, small business owners can get brighter, more reliable equipment, often paying only a fraction of the cost after utility incentives. If you could benefit from these services, call Lime Energy today or visit our Small Business Page.