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On many occasions, I have heard from people responsible for 24/7 operations — typically, convenience stores and restaurants — that energy management systems (EMS) do not make sense for them because there are no real opportunities for savings in a facility open for business all the time.
In fact, based on the number of times we have heard this, it would appear to be the conventional wisdom. But closer examination suggests this may be more of a common misperception than a common truth.
Consider the following four opportunities for savings in a facility open 24/7.
It is true that a major part of EMS savings in facilities that have standard open and close hours comes from adjusting the settings during the hours the facility is closed. However, there are also savings available from enforcement of company policies around HVAC settings that aim to balance customer comfort with energy spend.
Programmable thermostats do not accomplish this objective because there is no guarantee that the local staff will maintain the programmed settings; we have seen huge variations that can have a large impact on costs. As many operators have learned, even locking thermostats away does not eliminate the tendency for local staff to override the settings on a fairly regular basis.
Moreover, being open 24/7 doesn’t mean you need the same target temperature 24/7. The target temp may vary based on a variety of factors, such as time of day (fewer customers may enable you to skew the comfort/cost balance slightly) and season (perceptions of hot/cold vary by season).
Remote-controlled thermostats as part of an EMS, with flexible local lockouts that can maintain company policies and the type of “micro-targeting” described above, can have a surprisingly significant impact on energy costs.
"OFF HOURS" USAGE
Yes, it’s true that everything cannot be turned off at a standard closing hour in a 24/7 facility. But that does not mean everything needs to be on all the time.
For example, for a foodservice operation with multiple hot plates, griddles or other such equipment, it is likely not necessary to have all of them on during early morning hours or other low traffic periods during the day. In some cases, there may be services not provided at all after a certain time of day, so there are likely opportunities to turn things off, even in a 24/7 operation.
On multiple occasions, we have seen everything running all night at convenience store car washes that stop taking cars after 8 p.m. The unnecessary energy spend in these cases can be very significant.
Lighting is an area where the savings potential is clearly reduced dramatically in a 24/7 environment, but even here, savings are possible. There is no reason for outdoor lighting to be on during daylight hours, but we have often seen outdoor lights left on 24/7, or lights turned on at 6 a.m. instead of 6 p.m. due to a programming error with a mechanical lighting control system.
Even indoors, there may be areas where lights do not need to be on all the time; a storage area is one example, and the aforementioned car wash another. But this is, by no means, an exhaustive list.