Reduce Utility Costs

How to Reduce Utility Costs at Gas Stations and Convenience Stores

By Pauravi Shah

Refrigeration and lighting account for approximately 75% of the average electricity consumption in gas stations and convenience stores. Since electricity accounts for such a significant chunk of operating costs, increased energy savings for convenience stores and gas stations can improve profits by up to 10%.1

Profit margins for gas station and convenience store owners can be very thin, sometimes as little as 1-2%.2 Fortunately, energy efficient commercial lighting and refrigeration technologies, along with improved awareness among employees, can improve those profit margins by significantly lowering utility costs.

Energy efficiency and the customer experience
Many gas stations and convenience stores are open most of the day and night, if not around the clock. Lengthy store hours mean increased electricity use, which makes these businesses susceptible to any changes in the energy market.3 That makes calculating operating costs difficult in both the short and long term. Energy efficient technology and practices can help mitigate a lot of that risk.

Energy efficient lighting and refrigeration also both play a key role in enhancing the customer experience and the business's public profile.4 Interior and exterior lighting set the tone for the store. Customers feel safer and more comfortable when shopping in well-lit spaces, especially at night. At the same time, newer, more efficient convenience store refrigeration leads to fresher, better-tasting products, and ultimately leads to repeat customers.

5 ways to increase energy savings for convenience stores and gas stations
These products and techniques can make increasing energy savings for convenience stores and gas stations easier than many owners and managers might think.

1. Properly maintain current equipment5
Operators of convenience stores and gas stations should regularly check refrigerated cases for air leakage and plug any leaks with tape or sealant. Another best practice is to clean refrigerator evaporator coils to maintain a consistent rate of heat transfer.

2. Retrofit with energy efficient commercial refrigeration
Refrigeration is usually the largest consumer of electricity in a gas station or convenience store. Consider these energy saving retrofit solutions:

  • Install efficient fan motors and controls, including evaporator fan motors, anti-sweat heat controllers on display case doors and smart defrost controllers.
  • Switch to floating head pressure instead of fixed head pressure. If refrigeration condensers are located outside, retrofitting a floating head pressure system allows the condenser to operate more efficiently in cold temperatures.
  • In drier climates, install remote evaporative condensers in refrigerators. Evaporative condensers are more efficient than air-cooled condensers. Make sure the water is recirculated and not a once-through design.
  • Use display case shields when the business is closed or during off-peak hours. Display case shields will keep products cold for hours, thus reducing electricity needed in convenience store refrigeration.

3. Retrofit with energy efficient commercial lighting
Commercial lighting represents one of the simplest ways to find energy savings for gas stations and convenience stores. Owners or managers of gas stations and convenience stores can start by switching to light-emitting diode (LED) bulbs. LEDs can be used for both indoor and outdoor applications. LEDs last up to 50 times longer than incandescent bulbs, use much less energy to operate, provide more consistent white light, and are readily adaptable to dimmers and other commercial lighting controls. LEDs are especially good for refrigerated cases, since they perform much more effectively in cold temperatures than other types of bulbs.6

Installing lighting controls and sensors is an energy efficiency measure many convenience stores and gas stations are adopting. Dimmers, timers, occupancy sensors and photo sensors are commonly used to reduce energy. Installing dual-level switching is another energy savings for gas stations and convenience stores. Gas stations and convenience stores that are open 24/7 can benefit from this system, which allows certain fixtures to be turned off at night or during off-peak hours while others are left on.7

Another way to reduce energy use is relamping the stores' exterior. Exterior lighting usually costs more for gas stations and convenience stores than it does for other businesses. Relamping the exterior, particularly with the help of a qualified lighting contractor, can make a business look more appealing to potential customers and make them feel safer and reduce monthly electricity costs.

4. Train staff in energy efficient best practices
The most basic step in training gas station and convenience store employees in energy efficient practices is to instill in them a greater awareness of the simple steps they can take to save energy, like turning lights or refrigerators down or off when they are not in use. And if new controls, timers or other devices are installed as part of a gas station or convenience store retrofit, make sure employees are properly briefed about them. For example, make sure employees understand how they operate, who to call if there's a problem and how they should be set for different hours of the day.

5. Work with a qualified lighting or HVAC contractor
Working with a qualified lighting or heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC)/refrigeration contractor is recommended for most retrofit and energy efficiency projects. A qualified contractor can assess current systems and provide advice on new products and processes that will improve energy savings for convenience stores and gas stations.

A qualified contractor can also help business owners find financing, incentive and rebate options that can offset the initial costs of most efficiency projects. For gas station and convenience store owners, many financial options are available through PG&E.8

To learn more about financing for commercial energy efficiency projects, download the "Insider's Guide to Financing Energy Efficiency Projects" from PG&E. This guide contains actionable information and proven resources to help you plan, finance and successfully complete energy efficiency upgrades, retrofits, repairs and replacements.

Referenced in article:
  1. E Source
  2. E Source
  5. U.S. Small Business Administration
  6. E Source
  7. E Source
  8. Pacific Gas and Electric Company

Here are five ways you can increase energy savings and reduce utility costs for your 24/7 business:
  • SMB Blog Author
    Pauravi Shah
    Product Manager for Commercial Buildings in Customer Energy Solutions for PG&E, she plays a large role in the products and solutions that support the commercial segment. She is the commercial lighting products lead, and additionally possesses valuable experience with PG&E’s Energy Efficiency programs and emerging technologies.

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