The average car dealership consumes approximately 20% more energy per square foot than an office. That is, it has a higher energy-use-intensity (EUI). This isn’t surprising considering the power needs from on-site vehicle service equipment, showroom lighting, and the possible presence of paint booths, car washes, and kitchens.

Like any building type, making sure the building is functioning properly is a good starting point to reduce energy and water use and improve efficiency. Operations and maintenance (O&M) projects can lead to energy and water savings upwards of 20%. No-cost or low-cost O&M measures for car dealerships are presented in Table 1.

Table 1: No-cost and low-cost energy and water conservation measures for car dealerships

Measure Type Measure Name Measure Description
Lighting Exterior light scheduling using photocell sensors Use a photocell sensor(s) to turn exterior building lights on and off 30 to 60 minutes after sunset and before sunrise, respectively. Photocells detect sunrise and sunset more accurately than clock-based timers, reducing lighting waste.
Equipment Regular equipment maintenance Regularly check that air compressor belts, motors, lifts, and other equipment and parts are in good working condition.
Equipment Stager equipment startup Space out the startup times of shop equipment. This can help to reduce costs associated with “peak” power demand.
Envelope Eliminate Leakage (including bay doors) Use an infrared camera to identify and remedy building energy leak points. As-built drawings can also help in the leakage identification process.
Envelope Replace damaged door weatherstripping Especially on exterior doors, replace damaged weatherstripping and ensure drafts are eliminated.
Education / Training Employee education and training This measure involves energy and water conservation awareness and training for employees and building visitors as well. Empowering and engaging employees can go a long way in your efficiency improvement goals.
HVAC Repair leaky ductwork Repair ductwork leaks to ensure the HVAC system is operating efficiently with no duct leakage.
HVAC Calibrate HVAC air and water sensors Building operators should ensure the sensors (e.g., temperature, humidity, pressure, flow) that optimize building heating and cooling are calibrated periodically to ensure proper function.
HVAC Replace HVAC filters at optimal schedules Filters should be replaced regularly and/or if a pressure drop is detected in the air handling unit (AHU). Too large a pressure drop caused by a dirty or inappropriate filter can lead to inefficient processing of the air and more energy use.
HVAC Correct refrigerant charge In refrigerant-reliant heating and cooling systems, ensure the refrigerant charge level is at optimal levels.
HVAC Clean heating and cooling coils In the air handling unit (AHU), clean the heating and cooling exchanger’s coils and fins to maximize efficiency.
HVAC Eliminate unneeded HVAC processes during unoccupied periods If the HVAC can be turned off during unoccupied periods, do it! Outside air dampers should be closed as well.
Reducing runtime is one biggest “bang for your buck” opportunities to increase efficiency and reduce cost.
HVAC Integrate temperature-based HVAC lockouts to rooftop unit (RTU) Heating and cooling should not occur when the outdoor temperature is suitable for use in the building. Adding a temperature-based lockout to the RTU’s heating and cooling system can prevent mechanical heating or cooling when the outdoor temperature is right for use.
HVAC Inspect and repair damaged pipe insulation Making sure the heating and cooling system piping system, including the domestic hot water loop, is properly insulated will ensure maintenance staff safety as well as maximize system efficiency.
Lighting Add LEDs to exit signs Since they run 24/7, install LEDs in exit signs to maximize their efficiency.
HVAC Adopt a regular HVAC schedule HVAC systems should be inspected and adjusted twice a year to ensure proper functioning. In cold climates, this can be done before the winter and summer seasons.
Water Use Adopt water-friendly landscaping If the building has landscaping, landscaping with plants that have low water needs (such as native plants) can help reduce the outdoor water use on the property.

Beyond O&M measures, car dealerships can experience greater (deeper) energy and water savings through retrofits. Retrofit measures include initiatives such as lighting upgrades, variable frequency drive (VFD) installations, and building envelope enhancements. The table below expands on these retrofit measures. Take note that the most appropriate measures will depend on your unique building operations and conditions.

Table 2: Deeper energy and water conservation measures for car dealerships

Measure Type Measure Name Measure Description
Lighting Paint shop walls and floors white This measure can reduce the amount of light needed in the painted space.
Lighting Install occupancy sensors Install occupancy sensors in transient areas such as offices and lunchrooms to turn lights off when vacant. This reduces energy waste from “day-burning” lights that could be intentionally or accidentally left on.
HVAC + Electric Load Install variable frequency drives (VFDs) or variable speed drives (VSDs) On HVAC fan motors, water pumps, compressed air units, pressure washers, and other motorized building equipment, VFDs and VSDs can significantly reduce energy usage when constant speeds aren’t required.
Lighting Interior lighting retrofit There are different levels of lighting retrofits. A simple lighting retrofit involves light and ballast replacement with the latest LED technology. A deeper lighting retrofit is a broader lighting redesign that can include LPD and light placement optimization, daylight harvesting, and sensor controls.
HVAC Install HVAC Direct Digital Controls Installing digital controls throughout the HVAC system (i.e., from fresh air entry all the way to supply air zone distribution) can allow an operator to adjust settings automatically and optimize the equipment based on sensor readings. More optimized control of the system leads to more efficiency.
Lighting Exterior lighting retrofit Outdoor areas lit with high-intensity discharge (HID) lighting fixtures such as metal halide or high-pressure sodium (HPS) lights can be upgraded with newer, more efficient technologies such as fluorescent, induction, or LED.
In addition, the latest best practices encourage exterior lighting power density to be reduced by a minimum of 50% one hour after normal business closing and to turn off outdoor lighting within 30 minutes after sunrise.
Lighting Add daylight harvesting Implement daylight harvesting to leverage natural light. When daylight is sufficient to offset indoor lights, these indoor lights turn off automatically. This measure can be considered on its own or as part of a lighting retrofit.
Plug Load Purchase energy-efficient tools/equipment When compressors, motors, and other mechanical equipment are at end-of-life, replace them with energy-efficient models.
Plug Load Purchase energy-efficient office equipment When electronic office equipment is at end-of-life, replace it with energy-efficient rated products.
HVAC Reduce showroom ceiling height This measure reduces the overall volume of the showroom and reduces heating and cooling needs accordingly.
Envelope Add roof insulation Roofs are a key source of energy loss. Add to, or replace the existing insulation to increase efficiency. This is most economic when the roof is due for replacement.
Envelope Replace Windows Upgrading windows to the latest technology can have a meaningful impact on your building’s efficiency. When considering window replacement, additional strategies can be considered, including:
– installing a clearstory or additional windows to support a daylight harvesting lighting strategy;
– installing operable windows to help with natural cooling (when available) during warm summer months.
Heating penalties associated with these strategies should be factored in.
Envelope Replace HVAC system with the latest technology Replacing the HVAC system, whether a rooftop unit (RTU) or centralized boiler/chiller system, with the latest technology, can yield significant energy savings. This is most economic at the asset’s end-of-life, but can also make economic sense beforehand.
HVAC Automatic door closers on all exterior bays and pedestrian doors As an open door is an opportunity for conditioned air to escape, automatic doors reduce the amount of time service and bay doors are open.
Plug Load Install smart strips and power management software Install smart power strips at staff workstations to put equipment into sleep mode when appropriate. Install power management software on computers.
Water use Install washroom low flow faucets and toilets Installing low flow faucets and toilets can save water use within the building
Envelope Install air curtains on service doors For service and bay doors that open frequently, an air curtain can be a high-efficiency upgrade that prevents indoor air from escaping.
Grid Power Replace electric transformer The electric transformer that steps-down the grid power to a level suitable for building use could be considered for replacement with more energy-efficient models. This can be discussed with your local utility.
Generation Investigate onsite combined heat and power (CHP) opportunities Depending on input fuels available in your area (natural gas, biomass, etc.), a CHP system can allow your building to produce its own heat and power, reducing energy grid reliance. Discussion with internal O&M teams is a good starting point followed by preliminary technical, economic, and regulatory analysis.
Generation Investigate onsite solar generation opportunities Depending on the solar potential in your area and the layout and solar readiness of your building, installing solar photovoltaic (PV) cells for onsite generation could help offset your reliance on grid power and the power bill.  Discussion with internal O&M teams is a good starting point followed by preliminary technical, economic, and regulatory analysis.

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