Three ways food retailers can reduce refrigeration costs
Refrigeration could account for more than 50% of a food retailer's energy use
When energy advisor Ben Mills visits food retailers he's nearly always asked the same question: how can I lower my refrigeration costs? If you work at a grocery store, a bakery or deli consider these simple energy-saving tips next time you restock your refrigerated cases or freezer:
- Know the age of your equipment
- Place barriers between warm and cold areas
- Replace the motors in cases and walk-in coolers with electronically commutated motors (ECMs)
The energy efficiency of refrigeration technology has improved significantly over the years, but the cost of completely replacing older refrigeration cases is substantial. That's why a lot of old and inefficient systems are in still being used today, explains Mills.
"It doesn't usually make sense to replace equipment that's still functioning well, but if it's near the end of its life, upgrading to energy-efficient equipment will save you money in the long run," he says.
That said, business owners can improve the efficiency of existing equipment with a few simple tips: where possible, trim an appliance's operating hours, regularly inspect door seals for cracks, and keep refrigerated cases and freezer as clean as a whistle.
"A major factor in reducing the cost of energy for refrigeration is to prevent the loss of what you've already invested in: cold air. Simple things, like placing barriers between warm and cold areas can have a big impact," explains Mills.
For smaller stores, Mills recommends installing night covers on upright refrigerated display cases and strip curtains at the entry to cold storage areas. Night covers are a retractable plastic cover, like a window blind, that are pulled over the case opening during closing hours, keeping the cold air in place. Much the same, strip curtains stop chilled air from spilling out of a busy cold storage area, while still allowing people to reach in and out easily.
Both items, he adds, are eligible for BC Hydro incentives. Incentives are also available for ENERGY STAR® freezers, ENERGY STAR refrigerators, as well as simple improvements like adding doors to open display cases.
According to Mills, another way to save money is to install electronically commutated motors (ECMs) as the motors in walk-in coolers, refrigerated cases and freezers burnout.
"Electronically commutated motors (ECMs) are small variable speed motors," explains Mills. "They draw much less electricity compared to standard motors because they contain built-in speed and torque controls that allow the motor to operate only at the speed that's needed. Also, ECM motors are designed to drop right into existing equipment, making the changeover easy and cost effective."