The concept of chillers with doors opens up a wealth of money- and energy-saving opportunities for c-stores. Sarah Britton reports

Is it a bird? Is it a plane? No, it’s your energy bill that is soaring so high, and so fast, that it’s pretty much a blur. But don’t fret. There is something you can do that will guarantee a reduction in your energy use. By fitting doors onto your chillers you can save at least a quarter of your refrigeration costs. And when you take into account that refrigeration makes up 60% of the average store’s power use, that’s money worth saving.

Refrigeration specialist The Jordon Group has reported a marked increase in sales of chillers with doors. “More and more convenience stores are looking at putting doors on their chillers,” says general manager Alan Barwick.

Words of warning

Space: Always give careful consideration to space when thinking about adding doors to your chillers. “We’ve had a situation with a retailer where his store’s aisles only measure 80cm, and an open door will take up 40cm,” says Alan Barwick, general manager at refrigeration specialist The Jordon Group. In such cases, sliding doors may be an option. 

Savings:Don’t believe a supplier who promises they can save you a set percentage before they’ve assessed your store. “A lot of suppliers give a simple percentage figure for example, putting doors on chillers will save you 60%,” says Delta Refrigeration managing director Simon Robinson. “But it really depends on the kind of condenser units and how many are being used.” 

Lighting: Once you put doors on chillers, products may require additional illumination, according to LED supplier Nualight sales director Ben Brown. “Fitting doors will reduce ambient light by more than 20%, so retailers will need to consider additional lighting.” 

Funding: If you want to get a loan from the Carbon Trust to help pay for your installation, you need to apply before you fit the doors. Many refrigeration suppliers will help you to do this, or you can approach the Trust directly:

Communication: Explain the environmental benefits of using doors to your customers. When the chillers are installed, you can reinforce the green message via transparent stickers on the doors explaining how much energy is being saved.

Delta Refrigeration has also observed a growing demand for c-stores retrofitting doors on existing chillers, or installing brand new chillers with doors. “In this week alone, I’ve had two calls from retailers feeling that times are desperate and they can’t sustain their business with their current energy bills,” says managing director Simon Robinson. “The biggest energy saving a convenience retailer can make is putting doors on chillers.”

The figures speak for themselves. Take London-based Andrew Thornton, who retrofitted doors onto the dairy chillers in his Crouch End Budgens at the end of June. “Our energy usage is down 20% year on year, and 16% of that was down to the doors on our chillers, as well as the new ovens we’ve just bought,” beams Andrew. “The whole job cost £30,000 and we’re saving £8,000 a year. I’m expecting payback in less than four years.”

Spar wholesaler James Hall has also achieved extremely pleasing cost savings by adding doors to its stores’ chillers. The firm began by trialling doors at one store last year, which resulted in a reduction in daily energy use by nearly two thirds. “Before, we had 10m of dairy cabinets consuming 103kw. Now, they’re consuming 32kw a day. That’s a 60% saving,” says general manager store design & technical services Frank Frayling.

The doors achieved a payback in just over 12 months and James Hall is now rolling them out to all 90 of its company-managed stores, as well as about 60 independents. Other Spar groups have also been inspired to look into chillers with doors. “Trials are now being performed at Blakemore and Hendersons,” notes Frayling.

Mace retailer Mike Troupe, who owns Litcham Sub Post Office in King’s Lynn, Norfolk, is another fan of chillers with doors. “The problem was that our Britvic and Coke chillers were throwing out heat into the air, which meant that the open dairy cabinet had to work extra hard to stay cold,” explains Mike. “We replaced all three fridges with 2.5m and 3.7m multi-deck closed chillers with a remote condenser unit. It cost £13,000 and I’m saving about £320 a week.” The new units all but halved Mike’s energy consumption and he is expecting payback within four to five years. “Mace representatives have come to look at the new equipment and they were impressed with what we’d done,” he says. “They’ve said they’ll recommend it to others going forward.”

And it’s not just a cost saving that retailers will benefit from by using chillers with doors. “With open chillers, customers are cold from the knees down because cold air drops,” says Barwick. “But when you have doors, you aren’t chilling the space outside of the cabinets.”

Chris Walklin, business development manager at Cold Service Distribution agrees. “Because it isn’t as cold, people could be encouraged to stay longer in the aisles,” he says.

Andrew has certainly noticed a difference at his store. “The temperature in the aisle has been a problem ever since I’ve owned this store, but it has greatly improved as a result of the doors,” he adds.

With doors on chillers meaning a store is less cold, there are also additional savings in terms of a reduction in the energy needed to heat the store. “Our aircon units cost between £6,000 and £7,000 each. In a 3,000sq ft forecourt, we can now use two units instead of three,” says Frayling.

More energy saving refrigeration equipment 

EC fan motor: Conventional fan motors in cabinets run 24/7 and generate heat, which needs cooling down. EC fan motors are 40% more efficient and don’t give out heat. A conventional fan will often break down in 1518 months as they suck in air and dust, which weighs down the blades and the bearings fail. The performance of the cabinet will lower and it won’t perform to its optimum level. In comparison, an EC fan is maintenance free. 
Source: Delta Refrigeration 

LED lighting: Maintenance costs can be significantly reduced by investing in quality LED lighting as it generally comes with a five-year warranty. It’s brighter than standard light and doesn’t discolour fresh meat, which fluorescent light can tend to do. LEDs use 4060% less energy than flourescent lights. Payback is normally achieved in less than three years, and can be reached in under a year depending on operational hours and application. Source: Nualight 

Variable speed condenser: A standard condenser has a straightforward on and off setting, so it’s always working at 100% output. While 100% is able to deal with a worst-case scenario, on a day-to-day basis less energy is required. A condenser that uses a variable speed compressor is able to adapt automatically to deal with the specific demands of a particular load. It’s more expensive than a standard unit, but there’s an 1824-month payback period. Source: Bitzer UK



The counter-argument for spending less money heating the store is that you may have to spend more money keeping it cool come summer time. But weigh up the amount of very cold days versus the number of very hot days the UK experiences, and chiller doors make sense. In addition, using open chillers as a way of keeping the store cool is hardly best practice, says Frayling. “Relying on chillers to keep your store cold is like trying to plough a field with a double decker bus! It’ll do the job, but it’s not the right tool.”

Products can also benefit from a longer shelf like thanks to chiller doors. “Food lasts longer because it’s kept at optimum temperature, meaning there’s less waste,” says Frayling. “In an open fridge, the meat can go brown and tired-looking, whereas in closed-door chillers it will stay red and fresh-looking for longer.” Customers also get better life out of their products when they get them home, he adds.

Another plus is that retailers with doors on chillers can afford to leave their shop entrance doors open, which isn’t really an option with open chillers as it means they have to work even harder to keep products cold.

But despite the numerous benefits of chiller doors, there is still one big sticking point for many retailers: the fear of lost sales. “Every retailer is concerned about whether chiller doors will affect their sales,” says Robinson. “But we’ve put doors into 10 convenience stores so far across the UK and not one has been adversely affected.”

Barwick’s findings echo those of Robinson. “I can understand retailers’ fear of lost sales, but I don’t think it has come to fruition,” he says.

And it’s not just suppliers who have this mindset. James Hall saw no dip in sales when it added doors to the trial store. “We saw no problem with sales, even the older customers were accepting of them,” says Frayling.

In fact, some retailers have even witnessed a boost in sales because the new-look chillers make such a difference to the store’s appearance. “Customers have been ‘wowed’ by them,” says Mike. “We were amazed at the positive reaction. They look much better than the old chillers and it’s actually having a positive impact on sales.”

If you decide that chiller doors are the way forward for your store, then you need to make a call on whether to retrofit your existing chillers, or go the whole hog and install new chillers with doors. Ultimately, it comes down to how old your equipment is. “If your chiller is over eight years old, you seriously need to think about changing the whole case,” says Walklin.

Introducing doors to your chillers can seem daunting, but in the long-run you can save thousands. “This is the quickest, fastest way to save money,” says Frayling. “It’s good for the pocket, the planet, and the product it’s a case of sooner done, sooner saved.”

Retailer’s view:The doorman 
Londis retailer Dee Sedani had 11.25m of open refrigeration units retrofitted with doors, LED lights and EC fan motors at his Etwall store in Derbyshire. He talks us through the research and installation process and the impressive results it achieved. 

4 months were spent researching doors on chillers before making a decision. I asked various companies how much money it would cost, how much money it would save me, and what it would look like. Many of them couldn’t tell me the spec of the glass, and I specifically wanted toughened glass in case someone walked into the chillers, or slammed the doors. A lot of firms were also unable to tell me what the humidity level would be in my store. Delta Refrigeration put meters in the store to show me what the savings would be. They were able to tell me that the humidity would be up a little, but at the same time I had to take into account how often we have heatwaves in the UK not very! If you compare how much it costs to cool your store for those couple of days, compared to all the money you save by not having to warm your store in the colder weather, it’s clear that doors are the best option. 

1 month before the installation I had a staff meeting and told them about the doors. A couple were dubious about it as they thought the doors would be on a spring system, meaning that they might close while they were trying to fill the shelves. But these doors are on hinges so they stay open. 

£9,000 was invested in fitting doors to my existing chillers and updating the lighting and fan systems. My chillers are seven years old and good quality PastoFrigor units, so I was happy to keep them. 

1 day was all it took to install the new doors and lighting. It’s made the store look new again the glass doors reflect other products so it actually makes the shop look bigger. The tube lights were changed to LEDs, which are brighter and don’t discolour meat. 

£2,268 is the saving I’ll make in just one year. I used to pay £700 a month, which comes to £8,400 a year, and the doors have meant a 27% saving on my electricity bill. 

3 years that’s how long it will take to get payback on the investment. This includes the money saved on refrigeration costs, as well as that saved on heating the store. 

0 sales have been lost as a result of the new doors. My biggest fear was losing sales, but we haven’t seen a drop. I was also worried that kids would end up leaving the doors open, but that hasn’t been the case. 

100% of customers were pleased with the changes. In the first week we asked whether the doors were a hindrance and everyone said no. We had staff explaining that we’d done it to reduce carbon emissions and customers congratulated us. I didn’t think the doors would look as good as they do, but now that they’re in I think it’s the best thing I’ve ever done.