High energy bills are a problem faced by convenience store chains across the country – with 24 hour operations requiring constant lighting, heating/cooling, and refrigeration, energy costs can feel out of control in these small facilities. We talk a lot about energy use here at Powerhouse Dynamics, but even for us, the statistics on convenience store energy use are astounding. Just like restaurants, c-stores use 3 times the energy per square foot of other commercial spaces. But stores can vary widely, with some (such as 24 hour locations or those with a quick service restaurant) consuming 7 times the amount of energy per square foot of other types of commercial spaces, according to NACS. Let’s take a look at one of our typical C-Store customers.
Joe owns a chain of 25 busy convenience stores across the South. He has not done any major renovations or replaced equipment since the most recent store opened in 2010. Joe has seen a steady increase in energy costs across his locations, both from increasing rates and demand charges, and from the decreasing efficiency of his equipment as it ages. He also faces the problem of equipment failure: last summer, three different Roof Top Units (RTUs) malfunctioned at different locations. Customers were uncomfortable so they spent less time and money in the affected locations, and the RTU repair and replacement costs were very high, particularly on an emergency basis. Joe sees that HVAC costs are eroding his profits and wants to reduce his energy costs and prevent equipment failure, but he does not have the capital to purchase new refrigeration and HVAC equipment at all of his locations this point. So how should he prioritize which locations to address first? Should he prioritize purely based on the age of the equipment? Or based on the highest energy bills? Or should the most profitable stores be first on the list?
Actually, though looking at equipment age may get Joe started on the right track, none of these indicators is a great proxy for finding out which pieces of equipment are using the most energy or likely to fail soonest. Instead, Joe chose a much smarter approach: rather than guessing, he decided to get smart about finding out exactly how well each piece of HVAC and refrigeration equipment was functioning at each location. He installed an energy management system (in this case, SiteSage) at each of his locations so that he could not only see how healthy each piece of equipment was, but he could also control equipment and get alerts about problem equipment well in advance of failure.
Because Joe could now see the energy consumption of individual pieces of equipment at each of his locations across the enterprise, he was able to prioritize his equipment upgrades according to actual equipment performance. So equipment that showed signs of slipping performance could be evaluated, and ROI decisions on new equipment became easy. Joe was also able to benchmark each location to determine why one location was much more energy intensive than others and what the best performing location could teach others.
Energy management systems are just one of many tools and best practices to reduce costs and increase transparency and control across convenience store chains.