As grocery stores and supermarkets approach the new year, they have to make important budget decisions. Since refrigeration and lighting account for more than 50% of total energy consumption for the average store, making sure these systems are running as efficiently as possible should be among the top priorities. Outfitting an entire grocery store with an all-new refrigeration system seems like a daunting, not to mention expensive, task; however, with rebates, incentives, and annual energy cost savings, stores could see a return on their investment in as little as one to five years. According to ENERGY STAR, every dollar in energy savings is equivalent to increasing sales by $59.

Long-Term Benefits of Upgrading Your Refrigeration System

The long-term benefits of upgrading your refrigeration system far outweigh the upfront costs. Equipment failures are minimized and maintenance and repair services are less frequent with a new refrigeration system. Modern refrigeration designs and technology also offer greater flexibility to adapt to any future changes the store might undergo, such as expansions or redesigns. Upgrading your refrigeration system could even protect stores against fines and future legislation regarding sustainable refrigeration.

Energy analyst Leigha Joyal says that upgrades encourage grocers to use refrigerants that not only cost much less but also have a lower global-warming potential. “What’s more,” Joyal said, “an upgrade that converts a supermarket to a sustainable CO2 refrigeration system protects that store against refrigerant phase outs, fines, and future regulatory requirements and penalties associated with synthetic refrigerants.”

What Makes Refrigeration Upgrades More Efficient

In addition to more sustainable refrigerants, other modern advancements in technology help to make refrigeration systems more efficient:

LED Lights

Replacing all refrigerated case lighting with LEDs can save supermarkets tens of thousands of dollars each year! LED lights use less wattage but produce the same level of brightness and last much longer. They also operate better in cold temperatures and produce less heat, which saves energy by reducing refrigeration cycling.

Motion Sensors

Motion-sense lighting minimizes energy costs by activating the case light only when a customer approaches.

Night shades

Night shades or curtains limit the amount of energy needed to keep open cases cool when the store is closed. Product remains fresh in the cold temperatures while the case consumes less energy.

Hydraulic cylinder doors

When customers retrieve product from freezers, the door shuts quickly and can cause adjacent doors to pop open. Borgen Systems’ hydraulic cylinder doors snap back initially after the door is released, but they slow down once the door is about a half inch from closing all the way. The soft closure prevents adjacent cases from popping open and improves overall efficiency.

Triple-pane glass

Borgen Systems engineered a triple-pane glass for refrigerated cases that is more effective at sealing out moisture and maintaining cooler temperatures than double-pane glass. The added layer eliminates the need for a heating element, which helps prevent fogging in double-pane glass cases.

Rebates & Incentives for Upgrading Refrigeration Equipment

The best part about investing in new refrigeration equipment is that a lot of your upfront costs can be offset by rebates and incentives—in some cases up to 40% of your total investment! The U.S. Department of Energy’s website is a great place to find  tax credits and rebates as well as incentive programs available in your area. The Database of State Incentives for Renewables & Efficiency is also a good place to find federal and state incentives. Store managers should ask their equipment provider about any rebates and incentive programs that can be applied to their specific project.The refrigeration vendor should be able to provide the necessary information to claim your rebate or incentive, or they should be able to refer you to an energy specialist who can. Regardless of your equipment provider, a refrigeration upgrade plan should always include researching and implementing energy rebates and incentives.

Proof Energy Refrigeration Upgrades Are Worth the Investment

Supermarket News released two case studies demonstrating the incredible ROI potential of upgrading refrigeration systems. Both of these supermarkets utilized rebates and incentive programs and saw a return on their investment in less than three years.

Case Study #1

A 40,000 sq. ft. supermarket in Massachusetts replaced over 40 single-condensing units with three modern, parallel refrigeration racks. The project took about nine months to complete and cost $234,800. The retailer received a $90,000 electric utility incentive that helped offset costs. After the upgrade was complete, the supermarket reduced energy consumption by 799,967 kWh per year, leading to an annual cost savings of $107,966. (Remember, ENERGY STAR says this cost savings would be equivalent to over $6.3 million in increased sales.) The grocer received its ROI after only 1.34 years.

Case Study #2

A 25,000 sq. ft. supermarket in Southern California replaced a water-intensive evaporative-cooling refrigeration rack with a new air-cooled rack. The project took about four months to complete and cost $265,000. The retailer received a $40,000 electric utility rebate as well as an $8,000 water utility rebate that helped offset costs. After the upgrade was complete, the supermarket reduced its energy consumption by 463,126 kWh per year and its water consumption by 2 million gallons per year. The energy reduction led to an annual cost savings of $69,469, while the decreased water usage led to savings of $18,372 per year. (Remember, ENERGY STAR says this cost savings would be equivalent to over $5.1 million in increased sales.) The grocer received its ROI after only 2.47 years.

Upgrading the refrigeration equipment in a supermarket is no small undertaking, but utility rebates and trusted equipment vendors can alleviate some of the burden from store owners and managers. Contact a Borgen representative today to learn more about modern refrigeration system upgrades for your store.