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Four steps food and beverage retailers can take to cut energy consumption

According to the Carbon Trust, the retail sector uses around seven percent of all UK building energy consumption, releasing over five million tonnes of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere each year.

It’s big business, and it’s vital we all work towards doing better on energy emissions. The same report by the Carbon Trust estimates that retailers could save as much as 20% by focusing on this issue alone.

So, what can be done? Today, we wanted to take the time to go through a few practical steps that food and beverage retailers can consider to reduce their energy consumption. These are a win-win: savings help the business, and that reduced energy need and carbon footprint helps the environment.

Let’s take a closer look!

Shelving and food storage

Beyond purchasing considerations, it’s a sure bet that simply storing food appropriately inside refrigeration units will improve energy efficiency.

Let’s take shelving as an example. It’s hugely important in determining how efficient and reliable a cabinet is. Many cabinets make use of an ‘air curtain’ – the flow of cold air from a honeycomb at the top of a unit to an air return grille at the bottom.

If a cabinet is overstocked, this airflow is compromised; the same applies to the bottom section of such a unit being blocked. Poor airflow, higher temperature. Higher temperature, higher energy consumption. Products that protrude or overhang their shelving units are common culprits here.

The solution? Positioning shelving evenly. If sloping shelves are needed, smaller versions that won’t disrupt the air curtain can avoid the lost performance.

Cabinet locations

Store owners and retailers will always consider the location of their refrigeration units, but many fail to do so from an energy consumption perspective!

The worst place to put your cabinets? Immediately opposite your store entrance; you’ll expose your units to drafts, dust and general litter, and overall fluctuations in temperature. Open-faced cabinets are particularly prone to poor efficiency if they’re placed in such a location.

Similarly, ‘radiant heat’ (from the sun and other significant light sources) can drastically affect performance, making your refrigeration cabinets work harder than they need to in order to maintain the right temperatures.

Require more from your suppliers

In 2013, the European Commission released an interesting study on best practice for the environment within the retail trade sector. While the final recommendations varied, the most cost-effective and beneficial suggestion was simple: require your suppliers to demonstrate and, if needed, improve how they procure and transport their goods to you.

Questions that a retailer can pose to their suppliers are many, but from an environmental perspective can include things such as their route planning, vehicle maintenance, and how often their vehicles are running empty in-between the delivery of loads.

You can read more on the study right here.

Modern technology

Unsurprisingly, there are a lot of retailers out there who could benefit from investment in more contemporary refrigeration units or smaller items of technology that relate to them. Here are a few examples.

LED lighting: Lighting is vital to refrigeration and retail. The better you present your food, the more it’s purchased. Simple. Traditional tube lighting – still common across refrigeration units in stores today – is expensive to run and can be replaced with LED lighting to drastically cut energy consumption while still ensuring your products look vibrant and enticing.

EC fan motors: Electronically Commutated (EC) fans can really cut down the energy requirements of your refrigeration units. Variable motors can be tailored to work harder at specific times – a great way to match energy use to peak hours across your stores.

Microchannel condensers: These use smaller tubing than traditional condensers, meaning less refrigerant is needed to keep a system operational. Less refrigerant, less energy needed to pump it. They also allow for the use of low GWP (global warming potential) refrigerants such as hydrocarbons, instead of more damaging traditional options.

A mutual benefit

We’ve said it before, and we’ll say it again: Investment in more environmentally friendly refrigeration for your business is a win-win scenario. Cutting your energy consumption won’t be a zero-cost effort, but it will provide savings in time as your stores require less to operate at their best.

We hope you’ve found this article helpful and interesting. It’s an important subject and close to our hearts at Royale.

If you’d like to speak to a member of the team directly about your current energy consumption, do feel free to get in touch by emailing us at [email protected] or by calling direct at 016235 551446.