Retail Buildings


Retail buildings in the US use an average of 18.3 kilowatt-hours (kWh) of electricity per square foot and 34,300 Btu of natural gas per square foot annually. Nationally, in a typical retail building, lighting, cooling, and heating represent about 60% of total use (Figure 1), which makes these systems the best targets for energy savings.

Average energy use data

Figure 1: Energy consumption by end use
On a national level, buildings dedicated to retail sales and services typically see lighting consuming more than half of the total electricity used; the vast majority of natural gas used goes to space heating.
Pie chart showing electricity end uses: Lighting 26%; Miscellaneous 21%; Refrigeration 19%; Ventilation 16%; Cooling 14%; Other 4%.
Pie chart showing natural gas by end use: heating 84%; Cooking 8%; water heating 6%; miscellaneous 2%.
Top technology uses

When trying to better manage your building’s energy costs, it helps to understand how you are charged for those costs. Most utilities charge commercial buildings for their natural gas based on the amount of energy delivered. Electricity, on the other hand, can be charged based on two measures: consumption and demand (Figure 2).

Figure 2: Load profile for a typical California retail building
Hourly energy consumption data show that lighting and cooling present the largest opportunities for reducing peak demand charges in retail buildings.

The consumption component of the bill is based on the amount of electricity in kWh that the building consumes during a month. The demand component is the peak demand in kilowatts (kW) occurring within the month, or in some cases, during the previous 12 months. Demand charges can range from a few dollars per kW per month to upwards of $20 per kW per month. Since it can be a considerable percentage of your bill, take care to reduce peak demand whenever possible. As you read the following energy cost management recommendations, keep in mind how each one will impact both consumption and demand.

Almost all of the conservation measures discussed here represent good investments. Most will save you money while also enhancing both the aesthetics of your store and the amount of merchandise it sells.

Quick fixes
Longer-term solutions
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