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Energy Efficiency Success Stories: retail food sector


Are there good energy efficiency success stories and opportunities for these targeted businesses:  grocery stores, cold storage, convenience/corner stores, and restaurants?

Requested by: City of Seattle, Office of Economic Development

Key Findings:

There are numerous good examples, ideas, and cost-saving success stories about energy efficiency improvements at grocery stores, cold storage, convenience/corner stores, and restaurants.  Many of the success stories have been published by Environmental Protection Agency’s (USEPA) Energy Star, public utilities, and in other general newsletters or publications.

In summary, the energy opportunities for the sectors, as found in these case studies are:

Cold Storage

  • Lighting upgrades, including some LEDs and motion sensors
  • Advanced or upgraded demand and load controls on the refrigeration system
  • Storage temperature optimization
  • Modernization of insulation and draft techniques and materials, and/or adding insulation for truck doors, equipment and refrigeration or freezer rooms, or suction lines
  • Installation of high efficiency motors as old motors need replacement
  • Improvement of draft control


  • Lighting upgrades, including some LEDs and motion sensors
  • Upgrades to heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC), some with economizers
  • Addition and/or modernization of insulation techniques and materials, on equipment, refrigeration systems, or freezer rooms, or suction lines
  • Installation of Energy Star or energy efficient appliances, including freezers, cookers/fryers, dishwashers, ice makers, and a solar hot water pre-heater for dishwashing
  • Installation of ceiling fans to better circulate air
  • Installation of tinted window coatings
  • Installation of high efficiency motors as old motors need replacement
  • Installation of air to air heat exchangers
  • Design and installation of advanced or upgraded demand and load controls on high demand equipment such as air conditioners, kitchen ventilators, and refrigeration systems
  • Improvement of draft control
  • Installation of humidity controls
  • Reduced hot water consumption

Grocery Store

  • Installation of a fuel cell to supply electricity
  • Installation of LED lighting in food display cases
  • Installation of photo sensors to adjust interior lighting based on exterior light
  • Improvement of draft control
  • Installation of “anti-sweat” heaters to reduce condensation
  • Installation of other humidity controls
  • Lighting upgrades, including some LEDs and motion sensors
  • Installation of Energy Star or energy efficient appliances, including freezers and refrigeration
  • Switching from open freezer to enclosed freezers (display and storage)
  • Upgrades to heating, ventilation and air conditioning systems

Convenience Store

  • Installation of LEDs for interior and exterior and display case lighting
  • Installation of case covers or “night shields”
  • Installation of programmable thermostats
  • Installation of heat pumps
  • Installation of door “misers” in refrigerated glass display cases
  • Replacement of evaporative coolers
  • Upgrades to the HVAC system, specifically a high-efficiency energy recovery ventilato


Links to success stories are provided below, under category headings for the four specific operations, along with short descriptions of each project.



USEPA’s ENERGY STAR Success Stories for Restaurants

  • Jose O’Shea Café and Cantina  upgraded their lighting system with new and efficient products, including light emitting diode (LED) exit signs. The HVAC system was upgraded along with refrigeration improvements and new insulation, saving 157,000 kWh and $11,000 annually.
  • Reedville Café installed three new ENERGY STAR qualified gas fryers. These fryers are generating savings of 3,390 therms, or more than $3,800 a year.
  • Tripp’s Grill & Six Pack opened a 1,400 square-foot restaurant and grill in 2002, knowing that restaurants are among the most energy intensive businesses for their size and sales. That is why they purchased new ENERGY STAR qualified freezers to replace older freezers saving more than $1,900 a year and 31,700 kWh.
  • McDonalds (in New York) upgraded their lighting and installed rooftop HVAC units equipped with economizers. Economizers allow air-conditioning units to use up to 100 percent outside air instead of return air when the outside temperature is less than the inside temperature.  In a city like New York where the temperature is frequently in the 50-65 degrees Fahrenheit range, or where facilities generate substantial heat (such as restaurants), economizers can help businesses capture savings.  They also installed a tinted coating on windows to keep solar heat out in the summer and interior heat in during the winter.   Ready for more energy savings, they contacted the local utility, Consolidated Edison (Con Ed), and requested a free energy audit.   Recommendations included high efficiency motors when others break down, air-to-air heat exchangers, and demand limiters to control high-demand-producing equipment, such as air-conditioners, kitchen ventilators, and refrigeration equipment.
  • Subway Sandwiches installed energy-efficient lighting, heating, ventilating, air-conditioning, ceiling fans, and ice makers throughout seven Subway locations in Oklahoma, reducing energy costs by 40 percent and improving customer’s comfort inside the stores.
  • Southern California Edison (SCE) helped an Italian restaurant “save dough” via energy efficiency –  refrigeration systems, a vital food and wine storage component, are typically one of the restaurant’s biggest energy consumers.  After conducting a detailed on-site audit, SCE identified:   inefficient and poorly maintained  reach-in freezer, un-insulated suction pipes, inefficient and poorly maintained remote condensing units, and inadequate strip curtains.  SCE assisted in replacing and upgrading , and even increasing refrigeration capacity while reducing energy consumption.  The results range from 10 percent less energy consumption for one of the walk-in coolers to 53 percent less energy use for the two-door reach-in freezer.
  • At Taco Bell, a typical kitchen built around steam tables was using about $7,500 in electricity per year and 125 gallons of hot water per day. Its move to a dry electric Grill-to-Order (GTO) operation with help from Southern California Edison (SCE) cut Taco Bell’s power costs for the production lines by nearly two-thirds, and eliminated hot water use in the process.
  • Installing a high-efficiency dishwasher and solar hot water pre-heater resulted in a $250 per month electric bill savings for Homestead Farms Restaurant, a family-style eatery in Blackfoot, Idaho.
  • Applebee’s reduced energy costs and food waste by installing humidity control units in their walk-in coolers.   The humidity control units remove excess moisture and help to decrease the workload on the refrigeration unit to maintain the proper temperature. Reduced moisture also inhibits bacteria growth, helping to keep food safer and fresher.  Applebee’s in Louisville saw a four degree decrease in the walk-in temperature after installing the humidity control units, without increasing energy usage.



Recommendations and Guidance


Success Stories

  • A new (2010) Albertsons supermarket in the San Diego community of Clairemont will be one of the first in California to generate nearly 90 percent of the electricity it needs with a 400-kilowatt fuel cell from United Technologies Corporation (UTC) Power.  Other environmentally focused amenities situated throughout the Albertsons Clairemont store include, LED lighting in the dairy and frozen food doors, photo sensors in 33 skylights to measure the amount of day light from the outdoor sky and adjust the electric light levels accordingly, night curtains that are pulled over all open cold cases in the evening to seal in the cool air, and reduce spoilage and energy costs by up to 25%, and installed water-saving fixtures.  Water-saving faucets and fixtures installed in the restrooms to reduce the amount of water used by more than 45%.   More….
  • Vassar Grocery (Michigan) Store Goes Green – This grocer installed a new, ultra-efficient freezer, refrigeration and lighting components, after previous efficiency improvements implemented with assistance from Grand Rapids-based Vantaura Energy Services.  These improvements included replacing fluorescent lighting with LEDs, installing night-time shields over produce, meats and other open coolers, and upgrading the refrigeration systems.  Their electric bill has been cut by nearly a third, by about $5,000
  • USEPA ENERGY STAR Success Stories for Grocery Stores  
  • Bestway slashed energy costs by a whopping 33 percent by converting an open freezer to a closed glass freezer case, lighting upgrades, and other changes.
  • Community Mercantile installed highly efficient equipment in place of old equipment, including lights, a refrigerator, and a new heating, ventilation, and cooling system.  The store saves an estimated $55,000 annually.
  • Vic’s Market  installed a new, 80-foot row of enclosed freezers to replace the 80 feet of open multideck freezers that save a lot on electricity, but also eliminated customer complaints about being too cold in the freezer aisle.  The local utility also helped finance replacement of the compressor room and the purchase of new deli, meat, and freezer cases.



  • USEPA ENERGY STAR Success Stories for Restaurants
  • CITGO Convenience Store upgraded lighting in six stores and is saving 60,000 kwh per year.
  • Myobz Shell Station completed interior lighting upgrades and new T-5/HO fixtures outdoors to save energy and help increase sales with higher and better quality exterior illumination. New programmable thermostats, new heat pumps reduced and the installation of door “misers” in the convenience stores’ refrigerated glass display cases, added to the energy savings.  (Door misers monitor the units for condensation, and allow the heat strips to turn on only when condensation is detected). Finally, new evaporative coolers were installed to reduce energy use of walk-in cooler fans by 40 percent to 50 percent.  The $120,000 worth of energy efficiency improvements saved $24,000 and 180,000 kWh of electricity annually.
  • On-The-Move Convenience Store  – A high efficiency energy recovery ventilator and two in-line fans were installed.  The store experienced a dramatic reduction in kilowatt  consumption.
  • Howdy’s Convenience Stores  – This chain designed their newest store to use LEDs for all interior and exterior lighting.
  • Blogs on LED lighting for display cases

Cooler Connection – SCHOTT-Gemtron Announces CrossFire LED Lighting at T-8 Pricing

Cooler Connection – Retrofitting LED Lights Can Pay Off In Your C-store

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