Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Close That Damn Fridge!

Do you kids think I’m made of money? And by “kids” I mean the supermarket. Does anybody out there own a supermarket, or at least have access to their books? I need to know the average monthly electric bill. It has to be astronomically high and I’m positive that as a customer, I pay for part of it every time I go in for a box of Captain Crunch or a pound of sliced turkey breast.

Some of the electric use is probably unavoidable, such as the power used for the lights or to run the checkout stations. But I have to think one place they could save a ton of kilowatt hours is in the diary and meat sections. Hear me out.

When you walk into the freezer section to get some ice cream or a box of “homemade” lasagna (hot in just minutes from your microwave) you have to look into the glass doors and find your selection, then open the doors, pull out the item and close the door back up. A supermarket would never think of having open air freezers (except Trader Joes and that’s a whole ‘nother story)! It would be a huge electricity drain and frankly the food would show some signs of melting especially toward the top of the case. Yet when you look for a cut of steak or to pick up a gallon of milk, you have to do nothing more then roll your cart up to the open refrigerated case and pull down your poison of choice. Why is that?

How much electricity does it take to power all of those cases of milk, meat, yogurt, cheese, chicken, etc? How much does that electricity cost the store and thus how much of it is hoisted on to the consumer?

The folks over at tell us that on average a single kilowatt hour runs about $.06. A 2007 Dutch study found that the average Dutch supermarket used 300-500 Megawatts (that’s a lot of What Whats!) per year. Put those numbers together and you can estimate that those markets ran up annual electric bills (just counting refrigeration) of between $18,000 and $30,000, and that’s in Amsterdam. Now take those numbers and double it for America where you have to figure the average market is considerably larger then our wood shoe-wearing friends from across the pond.

Now what would happen to those numbers (and the price of Fruity Pebbles) if the markets put the same glass doors that they have in the freezer section on all the refrigerated cases? That same Dutch study suggested that such a move could save 40-55% in costs, or over $7,200 saved per year! Take that kind of savings and you have the potential to keep food costs at the very least at current levels. Now that’s a lot of Frosted Mini Wheats!

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