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One Size Doesn't Fit All: Energy Efficiency for Small Businesses – Part 2

One Size Doesn’t Fit All: Energy Efficiency for Small Businesses – Part 2 of an 8 Week Series

At Lime Energy, we help utilities around the country bring energy efficiency to their small business customers.  With over 15,000 completed projects to date, we have learned a lot about the unique needs of small business customers.  Over an 8 week period, we are taking a look at several small business types and uncovering their potential for energy savings.  In many cases, these businesses are eligible for incentives from their utility to cover a large portion of the project cost, making the long-term benefits of energy efficiency even more attainable.

Retail Stores:  

Retail companies like clothing stores, gift shops and specialty stores spend almost $20 billion per year on energy.   In a typical building, lighting and heating alone account for almost 70% of the energy consumption.  According to both the EPA and ENERGY STAR, there are several significant benefits of energy efficiency in a retail setting:

  1. Increased sales:  Energy efficiency creates a more pleasant shopping environment, which attracts and retains more customers.
  2. Increased profitability: Reduced operating costs from energy efficiency savings are reflected directly on the balance sheet and improve overall profitability.
  3. Reduced vulnerability to price fluctuations: Reducing energy consumption can soften the impact of external factors on energy use, including extreme weather, policy changes and deregulation.
  4. Enhanced public Image:  Energy savvy consumers want to see that their dollars are being spent in retail establishments that are committed to environmental stewardship.

energy use in retail stores

There are several low to no-cost measures that retail stores can implement to reduce energy expenditures:

  • Turn lights, computers, cash registers and electronic displays off when not in use.  Every 1000 kWh saved by turning things off equates to a $100 power bill reduction.
  • Cleaning and maintenance.  Proper maintenance of existing equipment addresses potential problems before they become energy wasters. Common equipment maintenance should include economizers, air filters, gaskets, condenser coils, door seals, cabinet panels and refrigeration settings.
  • Temperature set-backs.  Turn down temperature settings during unoccupied times and adjust temperatures to accommodate seasonal changes.

Long-term energy efficiency solutions:

  • Retrofit fluorescent lighting from T-12 lamps and magnetic ballasts to T-8 or T-5 fixtures  with electronic ballasts to save up as much as 35% per year
  • Upgrade display lighting.  Quartz halogen lamps are most commonly used to accent merchandise as they provide bright, focused light.  However, they are much more energy intensive than CFL’s, metal halide track lighting or spot lights.
  • Install LED exit signs to save $35 per sign per year. Some LED exit signs last 25 years as opposed to the 1 year life span of an incandescent bulb exit sign.
  • Utilize daylighting to save energy and potentially improve sales.  A California Energy Commission study found that stores employing significant daylighting increased sales by 6% over non-daylit stores.
  • Improve parking lot lighting.  Most new technologies are designed to last 50,000 hours (LED) or 100,000 hours (induction), which dramatically reduces maintenance costs by eliminating the need for servicing.
  • Incorporate controls.   In back-room areas, storage rooms, offices and restrooms, lighting occupancy sensors can save energy and also help to reduce maintenance costs by lengthening the relamping interval.  On the HVAC side, implementing a demand controlled ventilations (DCV) system, saves energy during peak cooling periods when store occupancy is low by detecting the amount of carbon dioxide in the return airstream and decreasing ventilation accordingly.
  • Replace HVAC systems that are more than 10 years old to save 20% or more on cooling energy.


From incentive programs to equipment rebates and recycling, local utilities may provide assistance in determining how best to implement energy efficiency solutions.  

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