A good place to begin being helpful when working with a convenience store personnel is by looking at what systems are using how much energy. As these pie charts show, a typical convenience store's electric use is heavily tilted toward lighting (42%). The miscellaneous other (23%) can be challenging to work with, but is large enough to make it worth an attempt. Some of it could be for powering an air compressor, and where there are air compressors, there are often leaks that cause them to run excessively wasting energy. Food service (19%) and space conditioning (15%) are worth taking a closer look at too. The larger opportunity is likely the space conditioning. In climates where cooling is needed, be sure the windows are shaded or tinted to minimize solar heat gain. Many convenience stores have glass covering the entire front of the store.
You may see an ice machine or cold drink dispenser struggling to keep cool while basking in intense heat from the sun. Suggest moving it or shading that window. Since most convenience stores have lots of refrigerated cabinets, check them for good door seals and closing mechanisms.
Convenience stores that use natural gas may have some potential for savings by improving the building envelope since almost 30% of their gas use is for space heating.
It's important to keep these percentages in mind as you work with and advise convenience store personnel because the larger slices of the pie are where the most savings potential usually exists. And a small improvement in a large energy user will probably create more savings than a large improvement to a small energy using system. So it just makes good sense to focus first on the lighting, space conditioning and cooking loads for improvements.
If you are going to call on or be an account representative for convenience stores, it's a good idea to become familiar with their energy use and patterns (electricity, gas and other fuels), their billing history (in dollars), and their unique situation (special equipment, outdoor signs, operating schedules, etc.)
Some information can be pulled from your company's billing system, but the store may use fuels provided by others for which you'll find little or no information, other than from the store manager.
In trying to understand the account, other people in your company can be a wealth of information, particularly if you are so fortunate to have access to the person who previously had responsibility for the account. But even if that person is gone or you are the first assigned or visiting there, it often pays off to ask around inside your company for information about your company's history with the account.
If you are visiting the facility, the place to start after doing your homework on the facility, is by sizing it up from the outside, then surveying the interior. Keep the energy usage charts in mind and keep your focus on the likely largest energy using systems. While outside, look for outdoor lighting and lighted signs that may be either inefficient light sources or not on timers or programmable controls to keep them off when not needed.
This picture is of something all too common in convenience stores too -- an energy efficient waste of energy. As with any other type of commercial operation, look for these kinds of obvious energy waste as you approach the building. In cooling climates, look to see if there are large glass expanses where solar heat gain could be avoided with awnings, reflective films or other shading devices. And what about the doors themselves? Is there an entire building air change when someone opens the door? Adding a vestibule or some form of air curtain can be expensive, but when you think that so much of the store's energy goes to heating and cooling, it might pay off.
At the door, feel for air blowing in or out indicating the building pressure is out of balance. And are the doors sealing well then they close or is there a large gap where they meet? Some changes are low-cost to no-cost, like adding some weatherstripping or adjusting the doors. Others will take professional help to analyze. As an auditor, you can be helpful by calling attention to problem areas.
One tip for getting a feel for the facility energy use is learning its square footage. As you can see in the table below, these are some ball park numbers for what annual energy costs might be for convenience stores of various sizes. Furthermore, the table gives a feel for how much savings potential might be in two systems if 20% savings were achieved.
Take a moment to think about the numbers. A 5,000 sq. ft. store might spend $6,000 annually on energy. If there were a project that could cut their lighting portion their energy budgets by 20%, they could save about $400 each year. A larger facility spending $12,000 annually on energy could have $2,000 to $3,000 savings from a similar measure.
In many cases, these measures have just a one or two year payback, so it's worth investigating. These savings keep on coming in future years and can be used to make the store more profitable and successful. Successful convenience stores are more likely to expand or open new locations, so you are helping not only the owners, but the community and your company as well. The cause is noble and can be very rewarding.