Create an Energy Efficiency Optimized Auto Dealership

When it comes to energy-intensive industries, automobile dealerships are certainly in the forefront. It’s somewhat ironic that as the industry’s focus shifts toward fuel efficiency for vehicles, little has been done to decrease the carbon footprint of the facilities that sell them. But that’s beginning to change as car dealers realize how much energy—and money—they can save by making energy efficiency upgrades.

According to Energy Star’s dealers guide, dealerships consume about 110 kBTU per square foot, compared to prime office space which uses 93 kBTU per square foot. The difference in BTUs adds up to thousands of dollars in costs for the typical dealership per year. It’s a significant amount—but it can be reduced dramatically without much effort. Dealerships can save at least 20 percent on energy costs with simple changes; more advanced energy efficiency approaches save even more.

Initially, just aiming for a goal of a 10 percent reduction would have a huge ripple effect. Energy Star’s web page for auto dealers states: “If all dealerships in the United States were to reduce their energy consumption by just 10 percent, they would save approximately $193 million in energy costs and eliminate more than one million tons of greenhouse gases every year.”

With energy the third-highest overhead expenditure for dealerships, many are starting to research and implement ways of becoming tighter, leaner and cleaner operations. The best opportunities for saving energy can be found in the areas of highest consumption—lighting and HVAC systems. The building envelope, electric motors such as compressed air systems and office equipment are another area ripe for reduction. What follows are three areas specific to car dealerships that provide the significant opportunities for savings and increased energy efficiency.

Exterior Lighting

While outdoor lighting serves the dual purpose of both advertising and providing a 24/7 security system, it devours energy. Although high-intensity discharge systems (metal halide or high-pressure sodium) are still the predominant sources for parking lot and exterior facility lighting, LED lighting offers a radical—and increasingly viable—departure. LEDs not only reduce energy use and therefore costs, but also lessen light pollution while improving light quality. Another bonus benefit? Reducing exterior lighting levels also minimizes uncomfortable glare.

Exterior lighting levels of auto dealerships often exceed those recommended by the Illuminating Engineering Society of North America (which specifies 10 to 20 foot candles of illumination for auto dealership lots). The new cutting-edge model is for full cutoff luminaries that direct light downward instead of in all directions.

Heating With Waste Oil

Almost every dealership’s service department collects a great deal of waste oil, which can be burned in a waste-oil furnace or boiler to provide heat. This not only saves on fuel purchases but also eliminates potential off-site liability costs. Calculate the amount of waste oil collected each year to determine the cost effectiveness of this approach and consider all angles carefully, including state and local regulations, prior to investing in a waste-oil furnace. Choose the most high-efficiency units possible.

Compressed Air Systems

Pneumatic systems, otherwise known as compressed air, are critical to servicing automobiles. However, most compressed-air systems are inefficient, wasting energy through leaks, inappropriate uses and poorly designed components. They tend to circulate air at a pressure much higher than necessary. According to the U.S. Department of Energy, there is a 20 to 50 percent gain to be had when you optimize your compressed air system. There are several kinds of compressor systems to choose from, such as reciprocating, scroll and centrifugal compressors. When selecting compressors or replacing worn motors, specify National Electrical Manufacturers Association (NEMA) premium motors or other high-efficiency motor designs.

This is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to making energy-efficiency improvements in an auto dealership. For example, dealership facades have a lot of glass, which can be replaced with efficient windows with low-e glazing. Another prime savings opportunity lies in bay doors, ubiquitous in dealerships. These doors open and close dozens of times a day as motor vehicles enter and exit, increasing heating and cooling loads. The addition of a simple remote switch can prevent these doors from being left open unnecessarily for long periods of time. Countless opportunities, ranging from the simple to the complex, exist for cost-effective energy upgrades at auto dealerships. It’s time to take advantage of new technology and follow in the energy efficiency pursuits of the rest of the auto industry.

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