SEATTLE (FNS) -- Lowering in-store energy costs continued to be the mantra for food retailers who convened at the Westin Seattle here last week to attend the Food Marketing Institute's annual Energy and Technical Services conference.
Setting the tone for the conference, H.E. Butt Grocery Co., San Antonio, dubbed the HVAC (heating, ventilation and air conditioning) design in its latest store plan as a "limbo, how-low-can-you-go?" design, noted Charlie Wernette, the chain's design engineering team leader, speaking at the conference.
The limbo initiative is aimed at reducing the total energy cost of a 75,000-square-foot H-E-B store, he explained. Under this initiative, "the majority of the equipment is on the fresh side [of the store]," he said. "We want to keep the fresh side cold, telling the customer all about freshness."
While the chain has used all types of HVAC systems, with the "limbo" store it is opting for roof-top units ranging in size from five to 25 tons. Six of the units have some dehumidification capabilities. "There is no ductwork," said Wernette. "We are not in the ductwork business; we want customers to focus on our merchandise."
To reduce air infiltration into the store, H-E-B designed separate areas for the storage room (wareroom) and receiving dock, Wernette said. The wareroom was moved to the sales floor, behind display cases and separate from the receiving dock. A single door is the access point from the wareroom to the receiving dock.
Wernette noted that the store's off-the-shelf units are easy to work on and start up. With all the equipment in the store, it is accessible to a subcontractor at any time. Still, "there are hot and cold spots," he said. "Our next step is doing that better."
For Albertsons, Boise, Idaho, controlling in-store humidity is a prime objective, particularly in stores located in the Southeast. As a result, the chain puts to work an enhanced dehumidification system using a desiccant wheel and variable speed fans on the condenser drive, Glenn Barrett, senior manager, DSM, said at the conference.
Using this approach, Albertsons has achieved a 45% overall energy savings, according to Barrett, who added, "Independent controls of the ventilated air also bring a much more comfortable store and an annual energy savings of $25,000."
Pittsburgh-based Giant Eagle uses a gas-fired desiccant system to control humidity in-store. "As stores got larger, humidity became a problem," said Cliff Timko, energy manager. "We have made targeted air-desiccant systems a standard in all new builds since 1998."
By targeted, Timko meant that within a sales area of 59,000 square feet, 6,000 square feet of refrigerated and frozen cases are targeted for dehumidification. "It's a good design for larger store formats," he said. The system discharges warm, dry air directly into those areas at a high velocity. Special care is taken to locate outlets four to five feet from open fixtures. An under-case system draws cool air off the floor.
"The system creates a very low humidity environment around the refrigerated fixtures," explained Timko. "It reduces case load, reduces defrost requirements and creates a comfortable environment for the customers."