Publyk House serves up big savings with energy efficiency

3 min read
Bennington, VT

Many of the qualities that make the Publyk House Restaurant "the most beautiful restaurant in Vermont" are the ones that made the establishment an energy nightmare. The old horse barn, repurposed as a restaurant, was largely uninsulated. It came with all of the other challenges one might expect: old lighting, poor ventilation, inefficient heat and hot water systems. Steven and Lauren Bryant, husband-and-wife proprietors of several local establishments, were up to the challenge.

When Marcus Jones from Efficiency Vermont reached out to the Bryants, the business savvy couple were hopeful an energy retrofit would make the restaurant more profitable and sustainable. "Publyk House is a fixture of the community in Bennington. We serve over 70,000 people a year and have community members who come through here two to three times a week even,” said Steve Bryant.

“We felt like we had an opportunity to demonstrate for the community that we could run a successful business and cut our carbon footprint – but it had to be cost effective in a tough business environment.”

Steve Bryant, Co-Owner
Going deep for energy savings

The Bryants worked with Efficiency Vermont through its Deep Energy Retrofit program, which helps businesses cut energy use by at least 50%. They added insulation, heat pumps, and new high efficiency propane furnaces to heat the building for less money and with less energy. New LED lighting maintained the aesthetics of the old decorative incandescent lighting, but with far lower wattages. High efficiency evaporating fan motors were placed in the walk-in refrigerator units to make the refrigeration more efficient and cost-effective.

Finally, the old and unreliable water heating system was replaced with two new heat pump water heaters. The heat pumps use the natural refrigerant CO2 instead of more common hydrofluorocarbon refrigerants. Natural refrigerants significantly reduce the greenhouse gas impact of leaks. The new heaters were installed in the kitchen. This allowed the cooling fans to take in heat from the kitchen to heat water and push out “waste” cold air. Now the cook line has a year-round source of air conditioning, without adding to the restaurant’s electric bills. This new system is far more reliable and uses 70% less propane.

"These heaters actually use the heat we’re generating on the cookline to heat our water, then turn around and blow cool air on us. On hot summer days over a hot stove, that makes a huge difference in the quality of work in this kitchen." – Frank Stone, Head Chef

Increasing business without increasing the bills

Business has been booming at Publyk House. But thanks to the retrofit, their energy bill is not. Since the retrofit was completed, the restaurant serves 42% more meals but uses 52% less energy per meal. "Our focus and expertise is in creating a great dining experience. We wouldn't have had the resources, the time, or the knowledge to complete this project without Marcus and the team from Efficiency Vermont," said Bryant.

“This project has proved that you actually can do it all; reduce your carbon footprint, save money and energy, and have a successful business”

Steve Bryant, Co-Owner

After the Deep Energy Retrofit was completed and their total energy demand was reduced, the Bryants took their energy upgrades to the next level and added solar panels on the roof. They’re now generating the majority of the electricity they need on site. In the future, they're excited to add storage to reduce demand on the grid at peak times and increase the benefit of their solar system.

Project Partners:

Weatherization Works (Pawlet)

High-Tech Plumbing and Heating (East Dorset)

Noveo (EcoHood System manufacturer)

Sanden (SanCO2 Heat Pump Water Heater manufacturer)