Energy Saving Tips for Small Business: Vehicle Dealers

Picture of ENERGY STAR certification mark in front of new cars

Vehicle dealerships are known for open space, bright lighting, and large windows. They also have areas of high energy use such as compressors, paint booths, lighting, HVAC, and certain other services. These distinct features make them ideal candidates for cost-effective energy savings and emissions reductions.

Profiling Your Energy Use

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The National Automobile Dealers Association (NADA) has partnered with EPA since 2007 to help dealers save energy and money through cost-effective energy efficiency opportunities. NADA has worked with EPA to facilitate data collection that was used to develop a 1–100 ENERGY STAR score for vehicle dealerships. The score applies to dealerships that sell new and used light-duty, medium-duty, and heavy-duty cars and trucks, and enables dealership owners to evaluate their energy performance relative to their peers. Additionally, those who demonstrate superior energy performance can earn ENERGY STAR certification for their dealerships.

Tips for Energy Saving at Your Dealership

EPA has created an ENERGY STAR Treasure Map for vehicle dealerships that provides a quick checklist of energy-saving tips and covers all common areas in dealerships such as lighting, HVAC, water use and office equipment. Additional information on dealership-specific energy use functions such as compressors, vehicle washing, paint booths and bay doors can be found below.

Picture of new cars lined up in a vehicle dealership

For energy efficiency information on lighting, HVAC, building envelope (windows, walls, doors and roof), office equipment, kitchen equipment, and water use, please download the ENERGY STAR for Small Business Action Workbook.


When selecting a compressor, it is important to remember that in addition to your specific performance needs, compressor types consume energy at different rates. Take a look at the following list to see what each compressor type offers: 

  • Reciprocating compressors. This design uses a piston to maintain pressure in a tank. It is prone to heat build-up in the compressor head and condensation build-up. Reciprocating compressors are available in a variety of capacities, require moderate maintenance, and are easy to rebuild.
  • Scroll compressors. Use a rotating scroll to compress air. They generally are more efficient than reciprocating designs at higher volumes and more frequent use and deliver greater volume and good pressure.
  • Centrifugal compressors. Typically used for large shops, they provide large quantities of air at relatively low pressures. They are low-maintenance and can be energy-efficient when run at 80 percent or greater of peak capacity throughout the day. They are extremely inefficient at lower capacities.

For efficient compressor operation:

  • Periodically check belts for wear and tension
  • Lubricate moving parts per manufacturer’s maintenance recommendations
  • Frequently empty water separators
  • Change air-filters at manufacturer-recommended intervals. Consult a compressor product and service provider to determine the most appropriate system size and energy efficiency for the facility.

Paint Booths

Paint booths are energy intensive. Automotive refinishing often involves HVLP (high-volume, low-pressure) guns that require large volumes of air and ventilation systems necessary to remove vapors and particulates from the booths. However, today’s paint booths are much more efficient than those available just 5 to 10 years ago, with manufacturers offering premium motors, improved airflow and ducting, variable speed drives and controls, and more efficient lighting. When selecting a new paint booth, ask suppliers if they incorporate these features and if they have data comparing the efficiency of their booths to other manufacturers’. For existing booths, consult booth suppliers and/or a qualified electrician to determine if cost-effective energy-efficient features can be retrofitted.

Vehicle Wash and Detailing Facilities

Many dealerships have on-site vehicle washing centers or bays, as well as mobile washers. These range from simple pressure washers to automated car washes with rollers and dryers. These washers can be extremely energy- and water-intensive resulting in significant energy costs.

For any new construction, consider the following:

  • At a minimum, HID lighting such as metal halide lamps should be specified and, in many applications, T8 lamps will provide better energy efficiency.
  • Where electricity is the only fuel available, consider heat pumps for water heating. By concentrating existing heat, heat pumps cost much less to operate than electric resistance heating and sometimes even gas heating units.
  • Where gas is the primary water heating fuel, carefully evaluate boiler efficiencies, looking for a minimum 8% annual fuel use efficiency (AFUE).
  • Maintain boilers regularly, checking for combustion efficiency and sediment.
  • Specify NEMA premium motors and consider variable speed drives.
  • Evaluate water reclamation systems as they can reduce water use by up to 60 percent.

Electric Vehicle Supply Equipment (EVSE)

Vehicle dealerships have an opportunity to meet the EV charging needs of customers, their fleet (if they carry EVs), and employees, while experiencing other benefits. There are three major categories of EV chargers, based on the maximum amount of power the charger provides to the battery from the grid: Level 1, Level 2, and DC Fast Charge. All three types are currently ENERGY STAR certified. All ENERGY STAR certified EV chargers use 40% less energy than a standard EV charger in standby mode.

  • Vehicle dealerships will be most interested in DC Fast Charge models. Learn more about ENERGY STAR certified EV chargers
  • Consider separately metering the charger’s energy use to better measure and manage how much electricity is used to charge vehicles.
  • EV chargers may require periodic inspection, testing, and preventive maintenance typically performed by a qualified electrical contractor. Annual maintenance costs can vary but are generally low. Many EV charging service providers offer optional maintenance plans.

Bay Doors

Bay doors may open and close dozens of times a day as vehicles enter and exit, increasing heating and cooling loads. In some facilities, these doors are left open unnecessarily for long periods of time. To reduce energy losses from bay doors:

Picture of mechanic holding equipment

  • Check seals to minimize air infiltration. Replace missing cracked or hardened seals.
  • For new doors, specify interior and exterior thermal breaks and R-10 or greater. 

  • For new installations, specify automatic sensor-driven bay door actuators to ensure that doors close immediately after vehicles or persons enter or exit. Newer high-speed units safely close doors in a fraction of the time older units take.
  • Educate employees on the energy efficiency value of keeping doors shut. Since bay doors may open and close dozens of times a day and be left open, train employees not to leave these doors unnecessarily open for long periods of time.

Specialty Task Lighting in Shop Areas

Shop areas require a variety of specialty task lighting. These include mobile task lights, such as the work or “drag” lights used to illuminate vehicles during servicing. Older drag lights use incandescent lamps or halogen bulbs, both of which are energy-intensive and inefficient; instead switch to LED illuminated drag and mobile lights. The advantages of these energy-efficient drag lights include:

  • Reduced energy consumption. Incandescent drag lights use 60 to 100 watts while LED drag lights use 5 to 8 watts.
  • Increased safety. Incandescent and halogen drag lights can cause severe burns; LED drag lights will not. Find ENERGY STAR certified lighting.
  • Improved Durability. Incandescent and halogen drag lights are prone to filament and lamp breakage. LED lighting, which is solid state, is very resistant to impacts.