Energy saving tips for retailers

Whether you are a retailer on London’s high streets or in smaller communities, using your business energy smartly will help you save money and be resilient through economic hardships

In this post, we discuss some low- and no-cost ways to reduce your energy consumption, saving you money and reducing your carbon footprint at once. 

Turn off lights and equipment

Let’s start with an easy solution. If something is not being used, turn it off! 

Lighting alone accounts for nearly 50 per cent of energy costs for businesses. Apart from the obvious of turning off lights during closing hours, you should keep lights off in unused rooms. Each hour that a light is turned off can save you energy. For example, turning off a 60-watt bulb for one hour saves you 0.06 kilowatt hours per hour. 

Any idle computers, electronics, vending machines, scanners, printers, and signage should be turned off during closing hours. It is quick to turn off computers, registers, and other equipment, and doing so will compound energy savings for your business. Things like vending machines for non-refrigerated goods can be turned off, too, to save you money. Keep in mind to stagger when these things are powered up again the next day. Turning everything on at once spikes your energy load, which is costly. 

Stagger operations during peak times

Business energy is most expensive during peak hours. If at all possible, look to stagger the use of your equipment throughout different times of the day to avoid spikes in power usage during high cost times. 

In the UK, peak energy unit rates are different in each region according to the time of day and the Distribution Network Operator (DNO). These time bands for peak energy unit rates are known as red-amber-green (RAG) bands. If you do not know the RAG band for your business’ meter, you can look them up online. Smart grid-connected energy management software will include RAG bands in the application so you can instantly see how you are using your business energy during peak times.

Coordinating your operations to work at different times of the day will require extra planning at the beginning, but it will net you savings on your energy costs in the end. 

Heat and cool your shop sensibly 

Climate control inside retail shops is important to keep customers comfortable and happy. Shivering or sweltering shoppers in the winter or summer, respectively, may choose to stay longer in your business if the temperature is just right. With this in mind, however, it is important to set your cooling and heating systems to temperatures that will make everyone inside comfortable without draining your energy supply. 

The Energy Savings Trust advises us to set thermostats around 18–21 degrees Celsius during both winter and summer seasons. For every degree more or less, you risk spending 10 per cent more on your energy bills. 

A popular trick many business owners use to create an open and inviting vibe to their retail shops is to have an “open door” appearance. This may have to be reconsidered during the winter season if you want to keep warm air inside the shop. Keep your entrance doors (and all other doors and windows) closed as often as possible to avoid outdoor air coming to burden your cooling and heating systems. Plenty of energy is wasted when, for example, air conditioning set to 21 degrees is constantly trying to cool an area overpowered by 35 degree outdoor air. 

To recreate that welcoming appearance, invest in automatic or revolving doors for your entrances. If possible, build a draught lobby for your business. These are small rooms built at the entrance of a building that serve as a welcome area for customers before they enter the main part of the building. 

During the summer months, make use of natural ventilation to cool down your store. You can create a cross breeze by leaving some windows and doors ajar. When doing this, though, you should consider security implications. You do not want to make it easier for people to heist goods. 

Maintain HVAC systems

In order for you to cool and heat your shop properly, you will want to have your HVAC system, or your heating, ventilation, and air condition. If your HVAC system is dirty or rundown, it will not perform well and will consume more energy than necessary. 

Here are some things to consider when inspecting your shop’s HVAC system:

  • Change the filters – Dirty and dusty filters reduce the airflow of the system, putting unnecessary strain on your energy. Most systems have disposable filters – aim to change these every 1–3 months, depending on the air quality in your area.
  • Clean condensing units – Most air conditioners have outdoor condensing units, or heat pumps, outside that moves heat out during the summer. These units and their fans’ blades can get clogged with leaves, dirt, pollen, and grime. At the change of every season, give these units a good clean. Wash them out with water, but do not use a pressure washer as this could damage the unit. 
  • Keep the area around your outdoor unit clear – The area in which the outdoor units of your HVAC system is located should be clear of leaves, dirt, and other debris. 
  • Call in an HVAC professional – If you have doubts about the running state of your HVAC system, call in an HVAC professional. It is recommended to establish routine checkups with technicians. Plus, they will be able to address more technical issues such as checking drain pipes. 

Get employees involved

One of the best ways to motivate employees’ engagement with energy saving practices is to incentivise it with giveaways, competitions, or campaigns. 

Motivating your employees through challenges and awareness campaigns is a great way to encourage everyone to adopt energy-saving initiatives. For example, you can create a cycle to work day, wear recyclable clothing day, reduce plastic day, and so on. The winners could get cool (and environmentally friendly) company gear or other special perks. 

Our parent company, Northern Gas and Power provides energy training for members of staff as part of its energy management portfolio of services. Virtual and on-site training for your staff will guide them on practical energy reduction methods that give you real and on-going savings. 

Ensure there is proper insulation

Even the smallest of leaks in your store’s walls or windows allows heat loss that forces your heating system to work harder. That harder work consumes more of your business energy. 

Do a walk around of your store and assess the insulation of all windows, doors, and ventilation. Heat loss can add a strain to your office heating, requiring more energy to heat the same area. You may be surprised to discover how much heat can escape from your shop because of poor insulation. 

One way to reduce heat loss is to invest in double-glazed windows and in doors that seal shut when closed. 

Contact an energy professional today for expert advice on how to make your shop as energy efficient as possible. 

Install energy-efficient lighting and use them smartly 

Sales areas in retail stores are usually very well lit. If this is the case for you, it will be worth investing in energy-efficient light bulbs for your fixtures on the sales floor. Your staff rooms should have these kinds of lights, too. 

According to the Energy Saving Trust, energy-efficient lighting helps lower energy bills and reduce carbon dioxide emissions. The most popular energy-efficient light bulbs are CFLs and LEDs. Installing these in your shop is a win-win for your energy spend and the environment. 

Staff rooms and other non-customer areas should have LED or CFL lights as well. To reduce energy consumption further, look to have motion-detecting switches for lights in these staff-only areas, as that will give light to the rooms only when they are occupied. 

Be sure that all light fittings in your shop are updated. Outdated fittings drain energy. Call in a technician to inspect and update light fittings as required. 

Finally, your storefront and exit signs should be lit using LED bulbs. Unless you are situated in New York City’s Time Square, your signage does not need to be so bright (but certainly bright enough to attract attention). 

Use low-energy appliances in break rooms

The break room is an important area for staff to rest and relax. In the relatively short time they are there, lots of energy could be consumed in a short timespan, especially if microwaves, refrigerators, kettles, phone chargers, televisions, and any other break room goodies are running at one time. 

You can consider replacing break room appliances with energy-efficient models. These are cheaper to operate, and they likely will give your break room a sleek update. Your staff will appreciate the modern amenities, and you will appreciate a cheaper energy bill every month. 

Use tablet-based sale registers 

No retail shop is complete with a trusty till (or several). Traditional tills or cash registers draw power all day long. One way you can address this is to replace these countertop registers with software-based point of sales systems run on iPads. While there will be initial costs involved – such as purchasing tablets and subscribing to a point of sale software solution – these are cheaper to operate in regards to energy in the long run. 

Shop for a new business energy contract in minutes

It is your turn as a retail shop owner to do some shopping. If you are looking for a new business energy contract, go to and enter your business’ postcode and, optionally, your current contract’s end date and currently monthly spend. In seconds you will have a list of business energy tariffs to compare. Switching to one takes just minutes.

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