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The average supermarket can boost sales per square foot by $44 and net profit margins by as much as 16 percent by cutting energy costs by 10 percent.  The same reduction in energy costs for the average full-line discount retailer can boost sales per square foot by $25 and net profit margins by as much as 1.55 percent.  With profit margins often tight, energy conservation gives your retail business the opportunity to directly influence your bottom line.

Of course, your stores' profits also depend on your ability to attract and retain customers, so it's important to make sure your customers are comfortable while in your stores.

Below are eight tips to help you save energy and cut costs without sacrificing comfort.

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Know where energy is being used

Understand how your store spends its energy dollars so that you can plot a cost-effective path to energy and cost savings. 

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency offers the ENERGY STAR® Portfolio Manager®, a free energy conservation tool that helps you assess emissions and energy and water use at your stores. Your energy provider may also offer tracking tools for monitoring energy use and determining areas of improvement.

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Examine entire buildings for inefficiencies

Recommissioning your building can reduce your annual energy bills by as much as 16 percent.  

During the process, auditors and engineers look at all building systems and determine ways to improve how they function together and cut energy use. They also put the building on an operations and maintenance schedule to maximize equipment efficiency.

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Install sensors to avert waste

Building occupancy and energy demand can vary widely throughout day. Include sensors and motion detectors as part of your automated building management system to detect and automatically shut down lights and heating and cooling equipment that aren't in use. Smart energy management systems even learn the flow of people in and out of rooms and adjust lighting, heating and cooling pre-emptively to save energy. 

By installing advanced lighting controls, your store may be able to save an additional 15 to 80 percent over and above lighting upgrades alone.  This is because light levels tend to be set for their highest use—which is typically much higher than is needed.

Easy-to-install wireless electricity monitors offer a granular picture into energy waste. These sophisticated systems can detect where energy is being wasted—down to specific lights, office equipment and points in the heating and cooling system. With this knowledge, you can take steps to eliminate waste and reduce costs.

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Install efficient lighting 

Lighting accounts for over 25 percent of energy use in retail buildings.  Consider phasing out older T12 fluorescent lamps in favor of modern T8 lamps. If your store has high ceilings, opt for a system that uses T5 lamps and indirect fixtures to boost both lighting quality and efficiency. T5 lamps and light emitting diodes, or LEDs, are far more energy-efficient and offer better light quality than the high-intensity discharge lights that are typically found in high-ceiling stores.  

LED lights can save as much as 75 to 90 percent of lighting energy when they replace incandescent lighting.  You should also consider using LED lights on outdoor signage.

Use skylights and other natural light in combination with timers and sensors to further reduce energy use. This is especially helpful in back-of-store, low-traffic areas.

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Don’t forget parking lot lighting

Parking lot lighting designs can be inefficient, with lights that illuminate the sky as much as the lot. Consider using LED, low-wattage metal halide lamps or other energy-efficient lamps instead of older, less efficient high-pressure sodium lamps. With intelligent lighting design, you can safely cut back on the number of lights required.

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Upgrade to energy-efficient equipment

Replace used freezers, refrigerators, computers, cash registers and other equipment with more energy efficient models. ENERGY STAR rates equipment according to its potential energy savings, and rebates are often available on equipment models that are more expensive, but higher-rated.

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Vary your HVAC settings and keep the system well-tuned 

Programmable thermostats are an easy way to keep from over-cooling or -heating your stores. Keep little-used areas, such as storerooms, at lower, more energy-efficient temperatures.

Be sure to clean and service your HVAC system regularly. Your maintenance staff should not only change filters regularly, but also keep the condenser coils clear of debris. If your system uses an economizer, ask a licensed technician to check, clean, calibrate and lubricate it about once a year, as economizer failure can increase heating and cooling costs by up to 50 percent.

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Upgrade your building envelope

You can reduce heat gain or loss by adding insulation to exterior walls. Enclosed existing walls and hard-to-reach places can be filled with loose-fill insulation or sprayed foam. Since even existing insulated walls and ceiling can be energy inefficient due to thermal bridging and air leakage , you should be sure to choose an experienced insulating contractor who can explain the relative advantages of different types of insulation.

Reduce heating and cooling costs by adding caulk or weather-stripping to seal areas of infiltration, which reduces the amount of unconditioned air that enters the building. 

You can also replace old metal window frames and single-pane windows with double- or triple-pane glass containing an insulating gas and energy-efficient frames. Your new windows can be dressed with tints and heat-reflective coatings that are rated for specific climates.

Retail stores spend about $20 billion  per year on energy, but could save an estimated $3 billion annually by improving efficiencies.  Becoming an energy-saving retail store doesn't have to be a complex task, especially if you work with an experienced supplier that offers diverse, customized supply- and demand-side energy solutions. Direct Energy Business can help you buy less of what we sell, offering a Total Energy Management approach to lowering energy costs with data and analytics, energy efficiency and alternative energy solutions, including:

Panoramic Power®
Solar Power
Demand Response

Let our Advisory Services team help you make the best decisions for your business.
See how we can help you buy less of what we sell. 

Download our free Strategic Services guide now!



1. U.S. Small Business Administration, "Starting and Managing," retrieved February 2016
2. Ibid.
3. Madison Gas & Electric, "Top Five Energy-Saving Tips for Retail," retrieved February 2016
4., “Lighting Controls Strategies Can Save Money," August 2010
5. U.S. Department of Energy, Buildings Energy Data Book, retrieved February 2016
6., Managing Energy Costs in Retail Buildings, retrieved February 2016
7. . Department of Energy, "High-Intensity Discharge Lighting Basics," retrieved February 2016
8. Madison Gas & Electric, "Top Five Energy-Saving Tips for Retail," retrieved February 2016
9. Ibid.
10. Building Science Corp., “BSD-200: Low-Energy Commercial and Institutional Buildings: Top Ten Smart Things to Do for Cold Climates,” Jan. 6, 2014.
11., “Retail energy management: The $3 billion opportunity,” June 12, 2014
12. bid.


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