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Venstar's Surveyor Saves Retail Chains Millions in Energy Costs

<p>After early deployments that saved AutoZone, Family Dollar and other chains more than $131 million in energy costs, Venstar Inc. broadly went to market this week with its Surveyor Energy Management System -- a package designed for small-box retail chains.</p>

After early deployments that saved AutoZone, Family Dollar and other chains more than $131 million in energy costs, Venstar Inc. broadly went to market today with its Surveyor Energy Management System -- a package designed for small-box retail chains.

The system enables companies to manage the energy used for heating, ventilation and air conditioning, lighting, and electrical and mechanical equipment at multiple locations on and off site using a PC, laptop or smart phone app.

The energy management system works this way: Sensors are installed on HVAC, lighting panels and other equipment that consume electricity. The sensors communicate with the Surveyor system via the Internet to provide data on energy use, and facilities manager can tap into the system, at their desks or remotely,Surveyor to set usage parameters, monitor consumption and more.

The Surveyor system can be adopted in a retrofit or in new construction. For example, HVAC manufacturers York and Carrier, offer Surveyor controls as a factory-installed option.

Using the system, a single facilities manager can control and monitor energy use at any one, "hundreds or even thousands of sites," said Steve Tudhope, the business director for the Surveyor at Venstar.

Field tests of the Surveyor show that the system typically delivers a 25 percent savings in energy costs within the first year, with a return on investment within 18 months, according to Tudhope, who oversees in-store testing of the energy management system in major small-box retail chains.

AutoZoneTudhope also managed the deployments of the Surveyor at more than 12,700 locations in the U.S., Puerto Rico, Canada and Mexico. The early rollouts grew out of work with major chains such as Family Dollar, whose nearly 7,000 stores in 44 states pull in $7 billion in sales revenue annually, and AutoZone.

The largest retailer of auto parts, AutoZone also logs annual sales revenue of $7 billion and has more than 4,500 locations. The chain was the host of the first Surveyor pilot, which initially involved 26 stores, in 2003.

Since then, the Suveryor has collectively saved its users $131,881,481 in energy costs (with company savings averaging $20 million a year) and almost 1.2 billion kilowatt hours of electricity, according to Venstar. That's equivalent to avoiding almost 860,000 metric tonnes of CO2e and taking 168,258 cars off the road, the company says.

With case studies and volumes of performance data to point to, "we think the system is solid," said Tudhope. "We have great testimonials and we're finally taking it to market."

Those testimonials include praise from Marilyn M. Morse, Family Dollar's vice president of facilities management, who selected the Surveyor after reviewing almost a dozen other products.

Before the Surveyor, Family Dollar didn't have an energy management system for any of its sites. Now, one project manager tracks and controls energy use at all the stories.

Using the system provides insights on energy costs and consumption as well as facilities operations and equipment maintenance, according to Morse and other users.

"Surveyor gives us unprecedented visibility into our stores, providing business intelligence about our energy usage," Morse said in a case study of Family Dollar's use of the system.Family Dollar

Venstar is an 18-year-old firm based in Chatsworth, Calif., that made its name as a thermostat supplier ("It's the third largest in the world," said Tudhope). The company developed the software, the hardware and the smart phone app for the Surveyor.

The system is designed to meet the needs of small-box retailers, which have multiple sites in leased or owned space, facilities that are small relative to universities or factories, and a range of energy needs within a location. For example, the type and intensity of lighting for a store is different for the sales floor, general work space, signage and site or perimeter lighting.

The system can provide big picture information as well as data for each piece of equipment at a single site, if needed. The customizable reporting (see example of a data display, below) enables companies to use the Surveyor as more than just an energy-saving tool, said Tudhope.

As Venstar CEO Steve Dushane said in recent interview with Chain Store Age magazine: "(I)n addition to the energy savings, an energy management system can contribute to ongoing maintenance benefits and associated cost savings, allowing better overall management of the entire facility."

data display

Top image of Venstar Inc. headquarters and all insets courtesy of the company.


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