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Store Front: Invest in Energy-Efficient Equipment for Your Pet Store

Posted: Sept. 4, 2012, 6:15 p.m. EDT

Upgrading lights, heating, air conditioning and tank display equipment can save money and impress customers.
By Leila Meyer

Retailers can save money by switching their stores to energy-efficient lighting, heating, and air conditioning. Recent advances in technology have made upgrades more worthwhile than ever before.

Lighting upgrades are relatively inexpensive and often easy to do.

For general store lighting, Chris Miller, president of Pacific Store Designs in Garden Grove, Calif., recommended the newer T5 or T8 fluorescent bulbs over the old T12 ones.

“Fluorescent bulbs are becoming smaller in diameter and lower in wattage,” he said.

Energy upgrade
Updating a store’s A.C. unit is a good way to reduce energy consumption. Courtesy of National Renewable Energy Laboratory
Low-wattage T8 and T5 lamps, when used with high-performance electronic ballasts, can reduce lighting costs up to 70 percent compared to T12 lamps with older magnetic ballasts, according to Hawaii Energy in Honolulu, the state’s energy conservation and efficiency program.

Accent lighting in displays such as showcases do best with LEDs because they’re lower power and very bright at short distances, Miller reported.

“They’re 3, 6, and 8 watts, and put out quite a bit of light from a short distance,” he said.

When creating hot spots or focal points with track lighting, Miller said he prefers to use MR16 halogen bulbs, which are more efficient than standard halogen bulbs.

“They put out two-thirds less heat, and a 50-watt MR16 puts out as much light as a standard 100 watt halogen,” he said. “They also have good color rendering and are very intense.”

However, those working with halogen bulbs should wear gloves because the oil residue from skin can cause the glass bulbs to overheat, crack and burn out, Miller advised.

For standard screw-in type fixtures, compact fluorescent lights (CFLs) are the way to go, Miller noted. They are lower wattage than traditional incandescent bulbs, so they’re great for saving energy, but their color rendering and intensity is not as good for merchandising, he said.

Tank Displays
Energy efficient lighting also works in tank displays.

T8 and T5 fluorescents, as well as LEDs, are available for tank displays, reported Bruce DeWalt, commercial sales and operations manager for North American Pet Products in Corona, Calif.

“LEDs aren’t as bright as some T5s and T8s, so there’s a tradeoff,” he said. “But LED technology is coming around by leaps and bounds, and nowadays we’re getting the brightness that you see in traditional T5s out of LEDs, so LEDs are the future.”

LEDs cost as much as 30 to 50 percent more than fluorescents, according to DeWalt, but they last much longer, so they don’t need to be replaced as often, and they use considerably less energy, which also saves money.

There is also a side benefit of LEDs in tank displays, he noted.

“They make the tank water shimmer, like looking down at the clear ocean water in Florida,” DeWalt said. “LED lighting does that by nature, whereas fluorescent lights don’t.”

Energy efficient water pumps are also available. Low-wattage, energy-efficient powerheads that sit right inside the tank reservoir are replacing the old direct-drive pumps that sat outside the reservoir, according to DeWalt.

Heating and Air Conditioning
As for air conditioning, many states want businesses to install a 13 SEER (seasonal energy-efficiency ratio) system, reported Shanti Pless, senior research engineer with the National Renewable Energy Laboratory in Golden, Colo.

“They are the most efficient out there right now, and they have technologies where you can program your air conditioning to come on and off automatically according to a schedule,” Pless said.

Updated air-conditioning equipment can be as much as 20 percent more efficient than existing equipment, noted Tim Speller, president and CEO of Speller Energy Consulting in San Diego.

Saving on Taxes, While Saving on Energy
When embarking on a quest for energy efficient equipment, retailers can save money through rebates and tax credits.

“Your local utility is the best place to start for rebates and for best practices guidance on mechanical systems and upgrades,” said Shanti Pless, senior research engineer with the National Renewable Energy Laboratory in Golden, Colo.

The rebates help pay for labor and parts to retrofit old technology, and retailers get to reap the benefits of a lower electrical bill, reported Chris Miller, president of Pacific Store Designs in Garden Grove, Calif.

While many utility companies offer rebates to help pay for upgrades, the Internal Revenue Service also offers tax deductions to help offset costs.

“A tax deduction of up to $1.80 per square foot is available to owners or designers of new or existing commercial buildings that save at least 50 percent of the heating and cooling energy of a building that meets ASHRAE Standard 90.1-2001. Partial deductions of up to $.60 per square foot can be taken for measures affecting any one of three building systems: the building envelope, lighting, or heating and cooling systems,” according to information on the Energy Star website.

Further information is available in Notice 2006-52, Deduction for Energy Efficient Commercial Buildings, on the IRS website. —LM

New rooftop heating and cooling systems are variable volume and can operate on partial flow, Pless said, which means they provide only the amount of hot or cold air needed to meet the load.

This type of system has been around for many years on a large scale, but the technology is becoming more cost-effective and is now available in smaller units suitable for smaller retail locations, he added.

For new stores being built, Pless refers people to the Advanced Energy Design Guide for Retail Spaces, published by the American Society of Heating, Refrigerating, and Air Conditioning Engineers (ASHRAE). The document outlines energy-efficiency opportunities for retailers and is available as a free download from the ASHRAE website.

Energy Star and LEED Certification
Store owners can make their equipment upgrades’ energy efficiency official and score bonus points with customers by obtaining Energy Star or LEED certification.

Energy Star is a U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) certification that rewards energy efficiency.

“Energy Star is really good because it resonates with the customer,” said Dan Butler, vice president of retail operations for the National Retail Federation (NRF) and NRF liaison for the Sustainable Retailing Consortium in Washington, D.C. “The consumer understands it, so retailers have embraced that, large and small.”

The commercial buildings section of the EPA’s Energy Star website has a portfolio manager, which helps owners document their energy use and walks them through the process of calculating how much energy they use, and then figuring out if that’s a lot or a little, National Renewable Energy Laboratory’s Pless reported.

From there, owners can decide whether to hire an expert to assess their energy use or contact their utility to figure out how to improve their energy efficiency, he added.

LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) is a green building certification from the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC). It covers sustainable site development, water savings, materials selection and indoor environmental quality, in addition to energy efficiency. Energy Star certification is a prerequisite for LEED certification for existing buildings, according to Pless.

“Once they’ve been able to document they have a green operation in addition to being an energy efficient operation, then a LEED certified professional can help them through that process to get the LEED plaque for existing buildings,” he said.

Another option is to join the Energy Star Challenge, a voluntary program with the aim of improving the energy efficiency of America’s commercial and industrial buildings by 10 percent or more, according to the Energy Star website.

Kristin Rock, energy manager for Petco in San Diego, oversees that company’s participation in the challenge.

“The Energy Star Challenge was an excellent platform to push ourselves to become as energy efficient as possible,” Rock said. “Not only are we comparing Petco stores to each other, but we are also able to benchmark ourselves against some of the most energy efficient retailers in the country.”


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