Comment: In-store energy efficiency will please the consumer and improve the bottom line
According to the Carbon Trust, the retail sector is responsible for around 21 million tonnes of CO2 emissions every year. By Mark Dwyer
Any reduction in this figure is to be welcomed – especially given the growing green consumerism movement concerned about leading brands’ perceived energy wastage. However, as well as pleasing climate conscious customers, the potential cost savings associated with increased energy efficiency could amount to hundreds of thousands of pounds annually.
While it’s not certain that consumers are prepared to dig much deeper into their pockets for environmentally friendly services, products or brands, it is widely recognised that customers are more likely to remain loyal to a retailer they perceive to be behaving in an ethical manner. With this in mind the importance for a retailer to be seen as environmentally aware should not be underestimated - and it should be influencing decision-making now.
So, given rising energy prices, this growing customer demand for ethical operating practices amongst leading High Street retailers and the introduction of environmental and carbon reduction legislation such as the Carbon Reduction Commitment Energy Efficiency scheme, the time is now right for retailers to rise to the challenge of improving energy efficiency.
The Carbon Trust estimates that energy savings of up to 20% within the retail sector could cut its total spend on heating and cooling by a massive £560 million annually. It says that heating and hot water account for 60% of a retailer’s energy bills. For those who use air conditioning, energy consumption and associated carbon emissions double when compared to those who don’t. This need not be the case.
Given that retail environments have multiple requirements for lighting, refrigeration and internal climate control, any drive to cut heating and cooling bills dramatically may seem a distant goal, especially if it’s achieved at the expense of performance. Again, this need not be true.
One of the most effective ways of achieving major energy savings is by improving efficiencies in air conditioning systems. Although many retailers will argue that now is not the time to be investing in new technology, reduced energy bills could result in equally reduced payback periods.
However, as the aesthetics of the store environment plays such a crucial role in attracting and retaining customers, it is vital that the solution continues to meet the complex needs of the many micro-climates required within today’s retail environment. There should be no reduction in the ability of an air conditioning system to provide the exact climate conditions required for the optimum shopping experience.
There is a need for flexibility to control multiple indoor units individually, so that the different areas of a shop - such as the shop floor, storage and staff areas - can be set at different temperatures in order to provide the highest levels of comfort for staff and customers. If retailers require an “open door” policy then technology is at hand to provide this, with minimal impact on the environment.
Designing flexibility into the system, so that the temperature can be controlled zone by zone, is an important part of maintaining the ideal conditions for customers and staff. Variant refrigerant volume (VRV) heat pump systems have this versatility, using only the amount of refrigerant required in each area, thus helping improve comfort levels. Varying the refrigerant volume to exactly match the building need at any instant saves both money and carbon emissions, while allowing each area to maintain its set temperature.
For example, each kilowatt of electricity used by a Daikin VRV (Variable Refrigerant Volume) Heat Pump will return approximately four kilowatts of heat. Micro processors are used to balance the system’s cooling and heating loads to enable its compressors to operate down to power levels 40 to 45% lower than more conventional systems, thus maximising efficiency and minimising electrical consumption.
The effectiveness of VRV a heat pump can be increased further by the use of multiple zones on one circuit. With only one outdoor unit connected to a multitude of indoor units, VRV technology can be used to create integrated building systems which provide the greatest savings for customers in the long term.
VRV also offers the possibility of heat recovery – a process that achieves yet further levels of energy efficiency. It works, for example, by taking heat created through the cooling process and diverting it for heating, ventilation and hot water. Take Daikin’s VRV®III Heat Recovery system. This can deliver exceptional efficiencies of up to 9 or even 10.
It is important to recognise the importance of accessibility for customers and the need for many retailers to operate with ‘open door’ trading. However, with this free form of access comes the issue of cold drafts. With this in mind, Daikin, in conjunction with Biddle, has recently introduced a heat pump air curtain, which is designed to combat the issue of climate separation across outlet doorways. This air curtain reduces the amount of conditioned air leaving the building and conditions any incoming air to a comfortable temperature.
Using a combination of rectifier technology, optimised air velocity and temperature control, it delivers greater comfort to staff and customers alike, all year round, in all weathers. Daikin’s inverter driven compressor allows the capacity to be adjusted precisely to match variations in room and outside temperatures, resulting in less frequent start/stop operations. This offers huge advantages over more traditional electric and hot water air curtains.
Tests have shown that heat recovery through this air curtain can deliver energy consumption savings of up to 67% compared with a typical electrically heated air curtain. It is estimated that this highly energy efficient solution can reduce CO2 emissions by more than six tonnes and achieve cost savings of £1,500 per annum, offering a payback period of just three years.
So, by creating a ‘virtuous circle’ of climate control through heat recovery, not only is it possible to deliver a system with improved versatility and precise local area control, but it will also reduce significantly a retailer’s energy bills. By taking this approach, not only can the challenges of heating and cooling these multi-zone environments be met, but greater energy efficiencies will be gained and much less heat wasted from the building. This will result in lower energy bills and a higher environmental profile for the retailer.
Mark Dwyer is Manager of Daikin UK’s Corporate Clients Division
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