If you stumble onto most automotive websites with articles discussing trends in the industry, you will likely see a number about the rise of electric vehicles and hybrids. There has been a shift toward environmentally-friendly fuel options for today’s cars. The use of electric vehicles is even being encouraged by state and local governments with opportunities for tax credits. However, the discussion of creating sustainable energy as a whole or even at the dealerships these cars come from has not entered the conversation, until recently.

In 2012, Honda took a step to encourage eco-friendly practices among its dealers by offering a Green Dealer Guide that if followed could lead to the dealer being given the Green Dealer Award. The manufacturer studied practices dealers could use to lower their energy consumption and energy costs; they shared the information with over 17,000 of their dealers. According to them, buildings account for a tremendous amount of energy consumption and carbon dioxide emissions at 39 percent, beating out transport and general industry operations. Since its inception, the manufacturer has awarded 30 Platinum awards and helped dealers save over $7.5 million in energy costs.

The program caused two Honda dealers in Connecticut to achieve grid-neutral status, meaning that they do not use net electricity from local utilities. One dealer installed solar panels that became responsible for 90 percent of the building’s power, and he also introduced LED lamps to the building to reduce energy consumption. Even a few Ford dealers have gotten in on the trend by using wind energy to power buildings, electric car charging stations, and lot lighting. While these practices are good for the environment, they also seem to be great for the wallet. Here are ways dealers can reduce their carbon dioxide emissions and save energy costs.

  1.   Change your lightbulbs – Regular 60 Watt bulbs can cost dealers a fortune. If they changed to LED light bulbs, it would likely reduce energy consumption from 3,000 watts used per hour to less than 500. Depending on the number of bulbs used and how long they are operating, this could save hundreds of dollars a year.

  2.    Install an energy efficient HVAC System – Heating and cooling a building can account for almost half of energy costs. Dealers can do something as simple as filling leaks and holes with weather stripping and caulking, installing window films, or adding additional insulation within walls. They can also go the extra step of installing a certified Energy Star HVAC System to reduce monthly utility bills.

  3.    Switching from desktops to laptops – Desktop computers consume a lot of energy, almost 300 Watts an hour. After a year, this amount of energy consumption can add up and cost a lot of money. If possible, dealers should think about how they could replace these computers with portable ones. Laptops only consume around 15 or 60 Watts leading to considerable savings.

  4.    Install solar panels – The average U.S. Household uses 11,000 kWh of electricity in a year. According to 2016 energy costs, American families spend $1,400 a year in electricity. Now, think about how much higher these numbers likely are for a typical dealership, and you have some astronomical costs per year. Depending on where you live, how much energy you consume, and the number of solar panels ordered; savings can reach the thousands in a year. Rossi Honda in New Jersey, a Honda Green Dealer Platinum Award Winner, was able to shift 90 percent of their energy to solar power.

  5.    Reduce water usage –  According to the Honda Green Dealership Guide, high-efficiency interior water fixtures use 30 to 50 percent less water than conventional counterparts. They advise using low-flow fixtures for toilets, faucets, and showerheads. Dealers can also recycle car wash water or use municipal gray water for non-potable uses.

There are a lot of other creative ways dealers can save on energy costs at their dealerships. They can grow vegetative matter on the roof to better regulate building temperature and preserve green space, collect rainwater for car washes, and apply automatic controls to lighting and cooling systems for optimal energy efficiency. To begin the process, dealers must first track what their current energy consumption is to see what the most significant contributing factor is for high costs. Once dealers have that information they can make informed decisions about how they want to utilize green methods to not only help the environment but reduce overhead.  

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