You have surely noticed it already: in supermarkets, a mix of fridges and freezers with and without doors coexist. But this type of open furniture raises questions, particularly regarding the excessive energy consumption that this entails. But, is there a law in Belgium that regulates their use? Or are the supermarkets themselves the ones who have the freedom to choose? That’s what we tried to figure out.
“Is it normal than today, with the measures for lutter against energy waste and global warming, do you find open freezers in department stores?”, asks Loïc via the orange Alert us button. This Liégeois was somewhat challenged by the number of freezers and fridges with open doors in this supermarket, the Cora de Rocourt (Liège).
With practice, you don’t necessarily realize it anymore… But in this supermarket, a large majority of fridges and freezers don’t have doors. These fridges are 20 years old, the brand is well aware of the problem and intends to invest in new furniture fairly quickly. “We’re going to put doors everywhere so it’s going to be great for our energy savings”estimates Gilbert Debes, director of Cora Rocourt, who specifies that fridges are generally changed every 20 to 25 years in supermarkets.
Behind these tarpaulins, 1,000 m2 of surface are currently under construction, he tells us: “From June 20, this entire part will be renovated. It is under construction, but we are installing new furniture which will all be equipped with doors”.
Investment cost: 3.5 million euros for savings of several hundred thousand euros each year. “We are initiating 5 different construction phases to change almost all of our furniture, which will be equipped with the most modern technologies. Everything will be equipped with a CO2 cold plant which consumes much less energy than the current one”, explains the manager of the supermarket.
No rules for fridges without doors in Belgium
Unlike France, which requires that 75% of fridges and freezers in its supermarkets be equipped with doors, there is no legislation in Belgium that would regulate their use. It is therefore the supermarkets that make the decision, often depending on the products found there: “For this type of family, poultry or marinade, cabinets with doors are a barrier to purchase and we still hesitate today to put them on or not to put them on”, explains the director of Cora Rocourt.
In general, here are the rules that supermarkets respect, especially concerning food safety and respect for the cold chain, but also in relation to the sale of the product: “For negative temperatures, the door must be closed. If the temperatures are positive, it varies according to the weight of the product. For example, for a fixed weight like yogurts, the doors must be closed, and if the weight varies like for meat, the doors are open to allow the consumer to look at the different weights”, details Karima Ghozzi, spokesperson for the Delhaize chain. In these supermarkets, 1/3 of the fridges are without doors, while the rest are equipped with doors.
The right balance between marketing and energy consumption
For his customers, Geoffrey Demoulin, refrigeration specialist at Refreco — a major player in commercial refrigeration in Wallonia — is therefore forced to find a balance between marketing and energy saving. Because having the products at hand is an added convenience for the consumer: “We take the products, we have direct access to the goods, and it is perhaps more customer-friendly”, he believes. Then adds: “It is therefore necessary to find the right balance between the practical side of the sale and energy saving. Doors can be a problem in terms of sales”.
For example, some categories of products are placed directly in an open fridge, precisely for the ease that this implies: “In general, all the fruit and vegetable fridges are open”says Geoffrey Demoulin.
Cold food can represent 40% of a supermarket’s energy consumption. To save money, this Delhaize supermarket has installed modern furniture: “Here, for example, we are on a latest generation fridge, equipped with doors, LED lighting and electronic regulation. So we can achieve great energy savings with this type of fridge”details the refrigeration engineer.
The impact of doors can therefore be enormous: if fridges and freezers are closed, energy consumption can be reduced by 60%, explains Geoffrey Demoulin. A considerable saving, both in energy and in cost, for large surfaces.
“This fridge, for example, is open. There are no doors, but you can see, which people don’t always see, that they are still equipped with automatic night blinds. The lighting is also cut when the store closes“, adds Geoffrey Demoulin
These night shutters reduce the bill by 20%. “Customers are very sensitive to energy saving, even large groups because they have substantial energy bills. There is also a heat recovery system which allows the store to be heated with what is recovered from the fridges”, explains Geoffrey Demoulin. Less energy-consuming, these fridges are therefore also more respectful of the environment.
In the future, it is estimated that 9 out of 10 refrigerators will be equipped with doors. Manufacturers, on the other hand, receive instructions to make products that consume less energy in order to preserve the planet.