Custom solutions help local businesses do more for Vermonters
From restaurants to offices to production facilities, small- and medium-sized businesses in Vermont have vastly different energy needs. That’s why Efficiency Vermont works closely with businesses to design custom energy solutions. In a competitive environment, savings from energy efficiency can make a big difference in a business’s operating expenses each year. These three businesses chose to invest in efficiency and are benefitting from cost savings as well as comfort for their employees and patrons.
Adams Granite Company in Barre, Vermont’s leading and oldest producer of customized granite memorials, is building a rock-solid future by reducing energy costs.
Processing granite uses a significant amount of energy. The 50 people who work at Adams Granite Co. use massive saws and an array of pneumatic hand tools to shape and polish the stone. Large air compressors are kept running to provide power to the hand tools, while a large overhead duct system sucks granite dust away from each workstation to keep the air nearly dust free.
But for years, energy use at the company was inefficient. The 70,000 square-foot steel granite shed included an exhaust system used to vent granite dust outdoors. That resulted in large volumes of heated air being pumped outside, which created drafts inside and required more fuel to maintain a comfortable indoor temperature. The shed remained chilly in the winter, despite burning thousands of gallons of fuel oil to heat the space.
In addition, the building’s interior lighting was dim, making conditions even harder for employees – especially when doing precision cuts.
“Today’s granite industry is faced with several challenges, from attracting younger workers to competing with imported, cheaper granite products. We’ve needed to keep our manufacturing costs as low as possible to remain viable. Fortunately, the energy and cost savings have helped keep our business successful for the long haul.”
By working closely with Efficiency Vermont, Adams Granite was able to design a custom solution that fit the unique needs of their business, including:
- An advanced filtration system that allows warm air to be returned to the granite shed
- Efficient variable-speed exhaust fans that reduce the power usage from large motors
- High-efficiency overhead lighting that improve working conditions and reduce maintenance costs
- Efficiency upgrades to the compressed air system including controls, a variable frequency drive (VFD), and leak detection and remediation systems to optimize the power usage
The results have paid off, as the exhaust fans and filtration system saved the company 1,700 gallons of fuel oil per year. Other noticeable benefits include improved lighting in the granite shed to make it a brighter and more welcoming work environment. Meanwhile, the new filtration system and exhaust fans keep the shed warm in the winter and the staff more comfortable.
With the energy efficient upgrades, Adams North Barre Granite has taken to date, the company will save more than $763,000 in lifetime energy costs, making business operations more affordable well into the future.
Since opening in 2013, Twiggs Gastropub in downtown St. Albans has managed to stay lean and profitable while quickly becoming a downtown favorite. Success in the restaurant industry isn’t easy—overhead is high and margins are slim. That’s where energy efficiency can be a big help.
Efficiency Vermont reached out to Twiggs soon after it opened and, after an in-depth tour of the facility, was able to recommend solutions to save energy and keep expenses down.
Twiggs didn’t have the capital to knock out everything at once, so Efficiency Vermont worked with the owners to prioritize the projects that would have the quickest return on investment.
“We’ll just keep doing what we can, when we can. It’s worked out so far, and the future looks good.”
When they had available funds, they had a customized project list that they knew would be worthwhile.
- Lighting: Lighting usually offers a quick return for a small cost upfront, so Efficiency Vermont recommended that Twiggs start there. Working with a local supplier, they switched all of their lighting over to discounted high-performance bulbs. The project paid for itself within months, and the new lighting looks and works better, too.
- Refrigeration: A year later, the restaurant was ready to tackle the refrigerator/freezer overhaul recommended by Efficiency Vermont. Working with a local contractor, they installed high-performance refrigeration components, using a rebate to help offset project costs.
Addressing energy efficiency over time, as part of other necessary upgrades, has been a great strategy for Twiggs. “The savings may seem small at first, but it adds up,” says co-owner Kristin Murphy. And that savings is amplified in a restaurant, due to long operating hours and heavy energy needs. “I don’t know if other restaurants realize how quickly their electric and fuel bills can add up.”
When Dan and Michelle Brown bought the Swift House Inn in 2004, the 1880s building was expensive to heat and cool. The Browns knew that in order to provide a high level of service to their guests, they needed to make the inn more energy efficient.
“In this business there are two ways to make money: raising your rates and reducing costs. Energy efficiency allows us to cut costs without cutting services, and I think our guests understand and appreciate that.”
One solution was installing a guest room energy management system: a wireless control network that automatically adjusts guest room temperature based on occupancy. Guests control the thermostat when in the room, but empty rooms return to a preprogrammed temperature to save energy. Upon the guests’ return, the system resets to the temperature most recently selected, and most people never even notice the difference.
The Browns worked with Efficiency Vermont to evaluate the system before investing, to get a solid understanding of how much energy and money they would save. Efficiency Vermont’s savings projections consider building specifics, heating systems, and even local weather patterns. The innkeepers then hired local contractor J.W. & D.E. Ryan to install the system, and to help them get it up and running.
The savings are already being put to good use. Updates to the rooms—including new furnishings, linens, and bathroom renovations—are ongoing, as are improvements to the building exterior and grounds. Says Dan Brown, “Our guests enjoy a sense of history, but they don’t actually want to feel like they’re in the 1800s.”