Have you ever thought about how much energy is wasted when you forget to turn off the lights?
If you leave a light on in your house, you’ll probably notice it fairly quickly. It won’t be a big deal unless you’re away for a few months. But what if the lights go unnoticed somewhere in your far-off suburban warehouse? After searching for the lowest rent so carefully, your warehouse can still end up at the top of your annual spending. Some greedy light bulbs can easily burn a hole in your budget.
In the United States, 657,000 retail buildings, including mentioned above warehouses, consume $20 billion worth of energy per year. But a modest budget likely won’t cover expensive upgrades to make a property high-tech and low-energy. And besides, you can’t close a store for long without losing customers. So you need to manage what you can’t change. By introducing commercial energy management solutions, retailers could reduce energy consumption by about $3 billion a year across the United States.
Where does all the money go?
There are two main groups of retailers: food and non-food. These two groups have different energy needs and consumption patterns. Food retailers spend the most on refrigeration, followed by heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC). Non-food retailers mostly spend on lighting and HVAC. These three categories – lighting, refrigeration, and HVAC – are the main targets of any energy-saving strategy.
How can retailers see what consumes the most energy?
Standard utility meters only show total energy consumed. A smart utility meter connected to the cloud, however, can recognize particular units that consume a lot of energy. Smart meters can be supplemented with energy monitors to visualize live energy usage and can be the starting point for an energy-saving strategy.
A smart energy management system lets retailers see near-real-time data – at half-hour intervals – via an app. This app uses a cloud service to collect and operate 48 measures a day. Let’s assume we have ten stores, each with three smart utility meters for lighting, HVAC, and refrigeration. In this case, we would collect 1,440 records a day. This volume of data is enough to quantify energy use and correlate it with factors such as time, place, and cost.
Big data saves retailers’ wallets
A big data approach to energy management technologies lets retailers clearly see less obvious sources of increased consumption – such as forgotten lights. Hidden sources of energy consumption can create chronic inefficiencies, isolation problems, and long-term increased load. Cloud-based solutions equipped with data from connected meters allows businesses to control consumption remotely.
For example, an app can automatically switch on a refrigerator at night when the electricity rate is lower. In the morning, it can switch the refrigerator off. During the day, a smart meter can regularly check the temperature of the refrigerator, keeping it off as long as it’s cold enough but automatically turning it on again if the temperature rises beyond a set point.
For showrooms and malls, smart meters can record inside temperatures and correlate them with the weather to optimize HVAC systems. Indoor lighting can also be optimized based on the time of day and the current level of sunshine.
At the end of the month, you surely would recognize the difference between energy consumption bills before and after the introduction of an energy management system. If you don’t, the system will do it for you. The app could show energy spending clearly so that businesses can allocate sufficient funds for each energy category. Moreover, you’ll be able to count your budget previously and enter the limits for usage of energy depending on allocated costs.
If you’re interested in sustainable energy management apps and solutions, you might want to explore our related projects. If you’d like to share your own thoughts, experiences, or challenges with energy management software, contact us and we’ll take a comprehensive look at your case.