8 Energy Saving Refrigeration Measures for Grocery and Convenience Stores

8 Energy Saving Refrigeration Measures for Grocery and Convenience Stores

Timing is everything. Professional contractors know that the perfect time to consult with grocery and convenience store owners on implementing a refrigeration upgrade is before their business opens or when they are planning a renovation or expansion.

One way that new business owners can experience significant energy savings is by retrofitting existing walk-ins and replacing older refrigeration equipment. 

Adaptive refrigeration controls may not be the first solution a grocery or convenience store owner thinks of, but they could be a cost effective solution.

Upgrading a system with adaptive refrigeration controls, also known as “smart refrigeration,” makes temperature monitoring easy for businesses. For example, smart defrost controller kits and evaporator fan motor controllers are two major adaptive refrigeration controls that are easy to install and provide immediate savings. Furthermore, installing the controller may diagnose existing unknown refrigeration problems and warn the operator before certain components fail.

This is an effective energy upgrade, and a trade professional can inform customers about solutions that fit their needs.

Contractors can review the following checklist of energy efficient refrigeration devices with customers to help them plan their adaptive controls retrofit and start saving.

8 Ways to Save with Adaptive Refrigeration Controls

  1. Utilizing Smart Defrost Controller Kits: Smart defrost controller kits, or adaptive defrost controls, maximize the duration and number of daily defrost cycles for commercial walk-in freezers. Instead of the heater coming on every eight hours, it only comes on when needed – depending on how many times employees have opened the doors – or how much warm food has been placed inside. How businesses save: Depending on the size of the freezer, smart defrost controllers can save grocery and convenience stores hundreds of dollars each year.
  2. Upgrading to ECM Evaporator Fan Motors: Key components of commercial walk-in refrigerators and freezers, most evaporator units include fans that are powered by low efficiency, shaded-pole or permanent split capacitor induction-style electric fan motors. Electronically commutated evaporator fan motors, or ECMs, use about one-third of the energy of typical evaporator fan motors in walk-in coolers.1 How businesses save: A study by PG&E’s Food Service Technology Center finds that when fans with shaded-pole motors are replaced with ECMs, they use 67% less energy and yield a projected annual operating cost savings of $104 per fan.2
  3. Upgrading with Fan Controllers and Door Sensors: Instead of having fans run constantly, ECM controllers manage fan speed based on need. Fan controls can also be combined with a door sensor to turn off the fans when the door is open, reducing cold air loss from the refrigerated cavity. It also reduces the amount of energy needed to keep walk-in coolers and freezers at the required temperature. How businesses save: This upgrade can pay off within one year, depending on electricity rates.
  4. Installing Anti-sweat Heater Controls: Equipped with humidity-sensing controls that reduce the amount of power supplied to the heaters in periods of low humidity, these components are used with display refrigerator doors. Humidity can enter the refrigerated area through door openings or when warm products are placed inside. How businesses save: Reducing anti-sweat heater energy also cuts down the compressor duty cycle, it lessens the internal heat load and it saves on refrigeration energy use.
  5. Adding Auto-closers for Walk-in Cooler or Freezer Doors: While they’re not controllers, these passive mechanical devices are attached to the main insulated door of a walk-in and close the door when it is within one inch of full closure, reducing the chance of infiltration. How businesses save: This solution increases energy efficiency while reducing costs.
  6. Installing Strip Curtains: These soft plastic curtains or swinging doors are used in doorways leading to a refrigerated space below 50 degrees Fahrenheit to minimize infiltration. Strip curtains can also be installed behind a walk in door to minimize infiltration when the door is opened. How businesses save: Strip curtains can reduce outside-air infiltration by 75%. 1
  7. Upgrading Refrigeration Display Cases (High Efficiency, Low Temperature): High-efficiency reach-in cases are equipped with T8 lamps along with electronic ballasts, ECM fan motors and low/no anti-sweat double-paned glass doors. LED lighting has become more affordable and will save more energy than the T8 lamps. How businesses save: This smart combination of features work together to decrease energy use and costs.
  8. Adding Vending Machine Controllers: When the surrounding area is unoccupied for 15 minutes or longer, passive infrared occupancy sensors turn off fluorescent lights. How businesses save: The controllers can lower the holding temperature set point of these devices by reducing compressor run time and energy.

For details on refrigeration rebates, visit pge.com/businessrebates.


  1. Pacific Gas and Electric Company, Boosting Restaurant Profits with Energy Efficiency
  2. Food Service Technology Center, GE ECMTM Evaporator Fan Motor Energy Monitoring