Walk-in freezers consume vast amounts of electricity – how much is it costing your store?

Supermarkets are one of the most energy-intensive types of commercial buildings and significant energy is used to maintain chilled and frozen food in both product-related display cases and storage refrigerators (walk-in cold rooms and freezers).

Typical supermarkets with approximately 3700 – 5600 m2 of sales area consume in the order of 2 – 3 million kWh annually for total store energy use.

Present supermarket refrigeration systems require very large refrigerant charges for their operation and can consume as much 1-1.5 million kWh every year. That’s about half of the entire store’s energy consumption used purely to keep stock cool and fresh.

With energy costs continuing to rise at phenomenal rates for the foreseeable future, where does all of this leave the average supermarket?

At 1 million kWh consumed each year on refrigeration, this energy is costing approximately R800 000 per year for a medium to a large-sized supermarket. A significant sum of money for any supermarket.

You’ve got to sell a lot of products to pay that bill!

So what to do about it?

Here are some suggestions that can be implemented immediately to help reduce the effects of the electricity prices on your store:

Closed cabinets (Electrical savings of up to 50%).  An open cabinet acts as an air conditioner in a store as the chilled air is directly expelled into the atmosphere. A closed cabinet does not allow the ingress of warm air, and therefore saves a huge quantity of electricity. An open cabinet also absorbs moisture which creates ice build-up which reduces the efficiency of the refrigeration system.

Keep all the working components clean. It is very important to ensure that the condenser is kept clean at all times. Regular dusting (monthly) maintains optimum efficient operation of the working components, therefore saving electricity and lengthening the lifespan of the compressor.

Maintain the cold chain at all times. Cooling a product that has warmed up is not only a health hazard but wastes electricity in cooling it back down to the required temperature.

Regular Maintenance. Check and repair door latches and seals, deep clean refrigeration cases at least once a year to ensure sufficient air movement.

Monitor temperatures. Ensure that the temperature is at the optimal level by checking regularly; and if necessary, adjust the thermostat accordingly. One degree difference can make a significant impact on your energy bill, so be vigilant!

Minimise heat entry. Reduce the number of doors in your cold room (plastic curtains or high-speed motorised doors are popular solutions) to minimise the amount of heat entering the room. The more heat you can keep out, the more energy you will save.

Lastly – do the calculations. Many store owners think that their old, wasteful cold rooms and display fridges work just fine, but it might be more valuable in the long run to get an expert to evaluate the cooling infrastructure in your store and advise on the way forward.

A small saving today is massively compounded as well as consider that inflation will ultimately drive the costs of rejuvenating your cooling infrastructure up even further. Waiting could be very costly.

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