GILROY, Calif. -- Nob Hill Foods here cut energy costs at least 20% at its new store in Gilroy, primarily from more efficient refrigeration, lighting and high-velocity air-conditioning systems.
A Nob Hill Foods store under construction in Redwood Shores, Calif., scheduled to open in November, will also contain the same energy-management systems as the 55,000-square-foot Gilroy store, which opened earlier this month.
"We've always had control systems in the stores to save energy with lighting, refrigeration and heating, ventilation and air-conditioning systems," said Bonnie Samuel, energy management supervisor at Nob Hill. She noted that such systems have typically yielded energy savings of close to 18% in other stores. "But this particular store is the newest generation and is much more efficient."
Refrigeration-system efficiencies account for 12% to 13% of the estimated 20% savings in the new store. Samuel explained that the refrigeration controller has graphic representations of all the refrigeration racks, making it easy to identify the ones that require attention.
This controller can be accessed on computers both at corporate headquarters and at Samuel's home to remotely address any problems. "I can tell from my personal computer exactly what pressure each compressor is running at and at what pressure I can change it," Samuel said.
"I can also tell if there is an oil leak on a compressor or a Freon leak somewhere in the line.
"I can also turn systems on and off much more easily without using a bunch of formulas, which I had to do before," she added.
The controller also allows the retailer to individually control the temperature of its cases rather than averaging them, which is less efficient.
The new refrigeration system at the store includes four main racks. One rack is designed for high temperature control, which is for produce and beverages; another is for medium temperature, which is for meat, cheese, deli and dairy; and two racks are for low temperature, including frozen foods.
The refrigeration control system is from Danfoss Automatic Controls, Baltimore.
The store is also achieving refrigeration efficiency by using closed, reach-in cases for ice cream and frozen foods rather than open "coffin" cases, said Samuel.
"Since we don't have open frozen cases, we're not putting a lot of cold air into the store that we would have to compensate with heat," she said.
When Nob Hill does have to heat the store, it uses reclaimed heat from the refrigeration racks instead of auxiliary gas heat. "The idea is to use as much reclaimed heat as possible before using the gas heat, which is what we pay for," she said.
To save energy on open refrigeration cases, the retailer is using energy blankets that Velcro onto a case to seal it at night.
This store is also making imaginative use of different lighting combinations to create a certain look and save energy. Skylights in the center of the store let in daylight, but the retailer also uses fluorescent lighting and metal halide lighting around the checkstand.
The store's lighting control system must balance lighting needs with energy savings. "We have the store circuited to cut two-thirds of the lighting in the area where the skylights are, when there is enough light coming through to do so," Samuel said.
"The lights do go on and off as the light level calls for, but it's not a drastic change."
Nob Hill also uses skylights in many of its stores' back-room areas.
The retailer also remains committed to recycling to reduce costs. It uses a compactor instead of a dumpster at the Gilroy store, and is involved with baling of cardboard and recycling at all its stores.
In addition, Nob Hill also participates in energy rebate programs for refrigeration and HVAC systems for its new stores.