The world is slowly learning to live with COVID as the pandemic changes to endemic status, so the High Street should be benefitting from increased consumer confidence.
Sadly though, there are other significant pressures on household budgets at the moment that are affecting the amount people can spend, with several news sources such as the Guardian showing consumer confidence in the UK sinking to record lows.
At the same time, the soaring costs of energy are affecting retailers just as much as everyone else and business owners need to find ways of minimising those monthly bills.
So, is there a way of maximising the attractiveness and comfort of your spaces whilst reducing how much you need to spend keeping your building warm or cool and, these days, VERY well ventilated?
Too often the building services get overlooked but as the pandemic has shown us, the way we ventilate and heat our indoor spaces has an impact on comfort AND confidence.
Equipment and maintenance
“The first thing Retailers should do is look at their existing equipment to make sure it is fit for purpose and not costing more to run than it should,” explains James Harman retail specialist at manufacturer, Mitsubishi Electric.
“I’d start by looking at your maintenance regimes,” adds Harman, “check when your equipment was last serviced and, if you haven’t already, bring your supplier in to look at systems that may not have been working fully since before lockdown.
“If there’s an issue with your maintenance provider, then talk to the manufacturer as often they will be able to help.”
This will help ensure that your systems aren’t consuming more energy than needed but are still operating as required and, once you’ve got your systems operating at maximum efficiency, it’s worth reviewing whether they are still the best solution for you.
“Ask yourself whether the shop space has changed since these systems were installed as even a slight reconfiguration can affect airflows and efficiency,” adds Harman.
“There are also now filtration systems that can be quickly added to indoor air conditioning units that will help tackle viruses and pollutants and give staff and customers more confidence in the quality and cleanliness of your indoor air.”
Harman then advises building owners to look at their ventilation and see if it can be improved or increased. The simplest way of increasing ventilation is to open doors and windows but all the energy spent keeping the indoors heated or cooled is then literally thrown out the door.
A specialist air conditioning unit called an air curtain can help here as it helps retain heat or cooling while stopping pollutants, insects and pollen from entering through your open door.
There are also systems called Mechanical Ventilation with Heat Recovery (MVHR) which bring in fresh air while extracting energy from the outgoing stale air. These can recapture up to 90% of the energy so that incoming air is already much nearer the temperature of the indoors.
MVHR does need ducting around the spaces so it will require planning for installation but there are also single ventilation units that can be quickly fitted to any outside wall which will bring in filtered outdoor air into any space. It’s all a question of finding what is suitable for your building.
Once you’ve reviewed your equipment, you may find that it’s time for a complete an upgrade of your air conditioning and ventilation and, this also provides an opportunity to see where any renewable equipment can be added, which can not only lower your carbon footprint but also help keep energy bills down.
If you’ve still got a gas boiler on site, this can now be removed as there are heat pump systems that can link to your air conditioning and take heat from areas being cooled, to provide you with all the hot water you need.
Even if you can’t link a heat pump directly to your air conditioning, adding one to your building and changing from gas to electric will help reduce the carbon footprint of your store and reduce energy bills over gas in the long run.
“The other area I would focus on is your control systems,” adds Harman. “Air conditioning, heating, cooling and ventilation can now all link together without the need for a costly building management system.
“Just as controls have improved significantly in the home, so they have in the commercial sector as well so there’s every incentive to take proper control of your building services.”
With modern, web-based controls you can not only help improve your energy efficiency by making sure your systems are operating effectively and timely, you can also get automated reports to help review and plan not only energy consumption but also service and maintenance schedules.
Legislation and regulation
Building operators in all sectors now face stringent legislation on energy use, carbon reduction and ventilation and retail is no different.
“The Building Regulations have just been reviewed and several regional plans are in development which call for different approaches in different cities,” explains Harman.
“That’s where it’s worth talking to someone with the expertise on legislation affecting buildings and indoor environments.”
FIND OUT MORE
With over a century of experience and a reputation for excellence, Mitsubishi Electric offers an advanced range of cooling, heating, ventilation and controls solutions that provide accurate, energy efficient comfort all year round.
Our Corporate Team can help provide your customers with complete comfort during their visit to your store, whilst also ensuring you meet today’s energy efficiency requirements.
To find out more about Mitsubishi Electric and the services they provide to the retail industry, click here.
This article was also published in The Retailer, our quarterly online magazine providing thought-leading insights from BRC experts and Associate Members.