Recommissioning cuts energy, improves store environment

By Jonathan Tan, VP Energy Services
The AMS Group, Hillphoenix

The food store environment is complex, with the various building systems essentially working against each other to maintain optimal conditions. General illumination competes with lighting used to enhance merchandising. Refrigeration competes with maintaining comfortable aisle temperatures for customers. Seasonal and daily weather variables further complicate the mix, affecting loads on refrigeration and HVAC systems. When any one of a store’s systems isn’t operating optimally – at designed specifications – it affects the performance of the other systems and the overall store environment.

It also significantly increases energy expenses. Migration away from designed set points in refrigeration systems alone can add more than $15,000 to a store’s electric bill over the course of a year. This is wasted energy that eats directly into store profits.

Recommissioning for Energy Efficiency Offers High Rewards

In the Advanced Energy Retrofit Guide for Grocery Stores, the U.S. Department of Energy recognizes store recommissioning as the foundation of an effective energy-efficiency strategy for food retailers. It can differ in frequency and scope across stores, but however it’s implemented, it is one of the most cost-effective measures for improving energy efficiency.

Whole-store recommissioning: The DOE reports that a full-building tune-up can reduce energy usage by an average of 16 percent. Put another way, simply restoring a building to its original design specifications can reduce the electric bill by a median of $0.29 per square foot. Periodic recommissioning on this scale is the best way to ensure the building as a whole is performing optimally. At the very least, it should be done as a follow-up to any major change that impacts how a facility performs, including changes like installing new refrigeration rack systems or other equipment; upgrades such as Close The Case; and general remodeling.

A systems approach: Taking a staged or systems approach can be a good alternative for a given store or chain. Because refrigeration accounts for as much as 56 percent of total energy use across the food retail industry, starting here typically yields the greatest energy savings. Hillphoenix customers have reaped savings as high as 10 percent through refrigeration system recommissioning alone.

Identifying other improvement opportunities: The recommissioning process not only restores a facility and its systems to optimal performance standards, it also identifies additional improvement opportunities in refrigeration, lighting, and HVAC systems – which together account for 90 percent of total energy use across grocery stores. Improvements from a recommissioning effort focusing on these areas typically pay for themselves in about a year.

Utility incentives: Many utility companies offer incentives specifically for recommissioning and for energy-efficient retrofits and upgrades, reducing overall project costs and time for simple payoff.

Benefits Beyond Energy

There are nonenergy savings as well. When factoring in such benefits as improved thermal comfort and extended equipment life, the DOE estimates an additional median savings of $0.18 per square foot through periodic whole-store recommissioning.

The AMS Group at Hillphoenix works with food retailers to determine and implement cost-effective recommissioning efforts that improve the store environment and increase profitability through reduced energy consumption.

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