PHOENIX -- Abco Foods' new prototype store here, a 42,000-square-foot facility with a sales environment that's virtually airtight, will serve as the energy efficiency model for new stores.
The retailer anticipates the new store will consume less energy than its smaller format stores, thanks to an array of energy initiatives ranging from lighting and cooling to a climate control tactic called "neutralization."
Neil True, vice president of store development, said the 71-store chain will incorporate the energy conservation measures at 10 new stores it will build in the coming 18 months.
Neutralization of the sales area is a key component of Abco's energy strategy, True told SN. The positive air velocity achieved through neutralization results in a static store environment that can be regulated less expensively than traditional store systems.
"What we're trying to do is climatize the air the least amount of times possible," he said. "The only way you can do that is to create an airtight environment."
At the store's entrance, a "curtain" of recycled air circulates and serves as a barrier to prevent outside air from entering or regulated store air from escaping. In addition, special measures were taken at the receiving dock to ensure air does not enter or escape from the sales floor at that point.
"Any penetrations that are made to the sales 'envelope' are airtight. For example, any refrigeration pipe or electrical conduit that goes into this defined [sales] area is sealed airtight before we turn on our heating or air conditioning," True said.
Rick Hankins, supervisor of refrigeration and construction, said additional savings are achieved through a "dual path" air-conditioning system that draws in fresh air, dehumidifies and filters it more efficiently.
A more consistent airflow distribution is attributed in part to strategic placement of return air ducts, True added. "We've put return air [ducts] under the floor and on the perimeter walls to take the supply air that dumps from the ceiling through our sales environment more uniformly, rather than try to keep it up high where commonly it's returned at the back wall."
In the frozen food aisles, Hankins added, air return ducts were installed underground. Locating ducts in the floor, where cool air falls naturally, promotes more efficient airflow than conventional air ducts that pull air toward the ceiling.
True said the new store, which opened in May, also uses automated controllers that cycle anti-sweat heaters on freezer-case doors and regulate lighting during off hours. In addition, T-8 lights, reflectors and electronic ballasts are used throughout the store and in freezer cases, delivering better energy efficiency, illumination and lamp longevity.