How can shops save energy and money? A few tips and tricks

If you’re operating shops and stores the pressure is on like never before. As people have grown more comfortable with buying online, how many will return to the High Street? What knock on effect will this have on cafés, restaurants and bars? 

In such an environment, controlling costs is vital. Of course, energy use varies from sector to sector with clothes shops using less than food stores who rely on refrigeration. Nevertheless, there are simple steps you can take to reduce energy usage, save money and cut your carbon footprint.

First, lighting. You need top notch lighting but only in the right areas. Make sure the shop floor is well lit, but rein back on staff and stock areas. You’ve probably already invested in low energy LED lighting, but if you haven’t the new generation of bulbs produce excellent light and are great value for money. Think about installing sensors in little used spaces so lights only come on when people are there. If you have a bank of switches, it’s a sensible idea to label them so staff only turn on what they need to.

Second, heating. It’s easy to lose a lot of heat through doors, either to the street or to cooler stock rooms/warehouse space. In autumn and winter, open doors let cold air in and hot out and as a result your heating will always be on, wasting a lot of energy. If suitable, revolving or automatic doors can really help. A shut door may be less attractive to potential customers, so be creative with window displays and make the store appears as attractive as possible.

Getting the temperature in store right in colder months can be tricky. It needs to be warm enough for staff, who are only wearing indoor clothing but not so warm that shoppers roast in their coats. That said, a lower temperature will save money, so engage with staff so they wear enough layers to suit a cost effectively set thermostat.

In larger stores, it makes sense to set up different heating zones. Keep those mainly used by staff warmer, while those near doors can be cooler to reduce excessive heat transfer. It’s also worth setting up time profiles so that the shop is only heated when open to the public, while warehouses only need heating when staff are working in them.

Third, air con. Air conditioning is increasingly expected by shoppers but it’s a big overhead, just behind heating and lighting. Using natural ventilation is the most obvious way to control the temperature in the warmer months without cost. Keeping doors and windows slightly open can really help, with the obvious security warning. If you have an air con system, make sure it is regularly maintained. Their performance will dip alarmingly if they are clogged and dirty.

Fourth, energy management. To manage something effectively, you need to be able to measure and monitor it.  Once you have a good profile, you can see if there any areas of concern or anomalies. Energy management software (EMS) is excellent at doing this but wasn’t always the best option for retail chains which tend to have lots of fairly simple sites because of cost. That’s now changed. For instance, our EMS software, EMMA AI, works differently because we don’t charge on a per meter basis.

In a recent pilot with Betfred, we identified potential savings of more than £140,000 per annum if EMMA AI was rolled out across their estate, a ROI of more than 300%.

Because it is backed by artificial intelligence, EMMA AI, is the next generation of EMS. While it monitors it learns and will send your team a warning if something looks wrong. Not only that, it will offer possible solutions to resolve the issue.

Fifth, staff engagement. We mentioned it before, but having everyone involved in energy saving is crucial. Fortunately, the growing interest in climate change means employees will not only want to support your initiatives but will probably have some of their own. A staff competition is a great way to harness this enthusiasm.

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