Waitrose to launch ‘invisible door’ that could save retailers £1.5bn on energy bills

Waitrose & Partners will introduce an "invisible" door" to combat the amount of avoidable energy that is lost at entrance doors to retail stores, with research suggesting that a widescale rollout could help British retailers save £1.5bn annually on energy bills.

Waitrose to launch ‘invisible door’ that could save retailers £1.5bn on energy bills

Plans are in place to roll the AirDoor out to more Waitrose stores

Waitrose & Partners will trial the first “invisible door” at its Berkhamsted store later this year. Developed by Wirth Research, the AirDoor concept places an archway outside of the frame of the existing entrance that prevents conditioned air from being lost when the door is opened or stays open. The solution is inspired by Formula One racing technology to guide air towards appliances to heat or cool appropriately.

The AirDoor uses sensors to detect airflow in both directions and counteracts it with self-generated wind to create a barrier that stops heated or cooled air inside the store escaping and outside air flowing in. According to Wirth Research, this negates the need for revolving doors or lobbies.

Waitrose & Partners senior manager for technical services Jim Burnett said: “We are always looking to find innovative ways to reduce our impact on the environment and while we know we still have a lot of work to do, the potential of the AirDoor could be key in helping us make our shops even more sustainable in the future.”

The retailer had confirmed that is the trial is successful, plans are in place to roll the AirDoor out to more Waitrose stores.

Wirth Research has calculated the energy loss caused by wind infiltration, weather and door openings range between £5,000-£10,000 for each retail store. If a £5,000 loss was applied to 299,415 retail stores across the UK energy losses would total almost £1.5bn. The AirDoor was co-funded by Innovate UK.

Wirth Research’s president Nick Wirth said: “AirDoor is a response to a global and increasingly urgent issue – and there is no direct competition. It represents a solution that improves the customer experience, delivers annual energy savings and reduces carbon emissions – exemplifying Waitrose as a standard-bearer in the supermarket industry when it comes to ‘green’ thinking.

The UK high street is facing ever-greater competition from online retailers, but AirDoor combats this by incorporating the energy-saving advantages of an actual door without creating a physical barrier to the customer.”

Rethinking refrigeration

Waitrose & Partners has previously worked with Wirth Research technology that will reduce the energy consumption of its refrigerators by up to 25%. The retailer will install new fridge shelf-edge strips across its 353 UK stores by the end of 2019, in a bid to slash refrigeration-based energy consumption.

The technology, developed by Wirth Research, is based on devices used in Formula One racing cars. These use the principles of aerodynamics to guide cold air across an application more efficiently.

Called the Ecoblade, each system consists of two recyclable polycarbonate blades, which slot onto the front of fridge shelves and minimise the amount of cold air which ‘leaks’ out into shop aisles.

Waitrose & Partners joins the likes of Sainsbury’s and Asda in investing in Formula-One-inspired fridge technologies. The latter estimates that installing Aerofoil Energy at 187 of its supermarkets will reduce its energy consumption for refrigeration by 17%.

Matt Mace

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