Vermont furniture maker switches to 100% LED as a powerful way to save
Pompanoosuc Mills has been a fixture of the Upper Valley for nearly 50 years. The furniture maker handcrafts its custom artisan pieces in its workshop in East Thetford, Vermont. East Thetford is also home to the flagship two-story showroom. Walking into the showroom feels a little like stepping into the home of your dreams. It is warm and inviting. Beautifully crafted wooden desks, tables, and chairs are arranged to evoke living spaces.
What helps with that warm, inviting atmosphere? Lighting. In a showroom like the one at Pompanoosuc Mills, lighting is critical. Bright enough to see details on the furniture, warm enough to highlight the grain and shine of the wood.
Pompanoosuc Mills has been committed to environmental practices since its founding in 1973. They use sustainable harvesting practices for the wood used in their furniture. They generate building heat from waste wood. They design furniture to last for decades, reducing waste throughout its lifespan. They have prioritized efficiency in their facility before, working with Efficiency Vermont on a compressed air system.
LED lighting should just make sense in a building like this. But when owner Dwight Sargent first investigated LEDs, he wasn’t convinced. When LEDs first came on the market, their light was mostly on the blue end of the color spectrum. That creates a cold, somewhat harsh, lighting environment. They weren’t what Dwight was looking for to show off the warm tones of the wood furniture. He decided to stick with energy-intensive halogen lights for the facility.
In 2021, Dwight was meeting with Green Mountain Power (GMP) about power usage throughout the facility. GMP recommended bringing in Efficiency Vermont Account Manager Chuck Clerici to recommend energy saving solutions. Stepping into the showroom, Chuck immediately saw the savings opportunity of upgrading the lighting. Halogen lights use 4-5 times as much energy as LED lights. They also emit far more heat, which increases the need for cooling in the summer. There were over 600 lights in the facility. That was like running over 20 space heaters in the building while simultaneously running air conditioners.
In the years since Dwight looked into LED lighting, the options have improved. Today, there are bulbs that offer a range of color temperatures and better Color Rendering Indexes (CRI). Bulbs with a high CRI reflect most accurately the true color of the object being lit. That’s key for displaying handcrafted wood furniture. And there are products to meet nearly every lighting need and installation location. But Chuck knew that Dwight had to be convinced that the lights wouldn’t affect the atmosphere in the showroom.
Dwight brought in local lighting distributor Barre Electric, a member of Efficiency Vermont’s Efficiency Excellence Network. They installed a few LEDs in the showroom to demonstrate the warmth and quality of the light. And Chuck worked with Barre Electric and Efficiency Vermont’s Engineering team to model potential savings. The team showed Dwight that installing 100% LED lighting in the entire building would save Pompanoosuc Mills $30,000 per year.
“Going 100% LED was the right choice for my business. I am saving thousands of dollars every year on my electric bills at no impact to the quality of light for displaying our products”
Once Dwight saw the potential for savings and the high quality of the LED lighting, he was all in. Pompanoosuc Mills decided to replace every halogen bulb with an LED bulb The LEDs use a fraction of the electricity the halogen bulbs used. They also emit less heat, which helps reduce the need for cooling in the summer. And they last for years longer than halogen bulbs, meaning fewer replacements are needed. Outside of the showroom, the improvement in the quality of light made a big difference. The manufacturing space was lit with aging fluorescents. Furniture makers would bring their pieces outside to gauge the quality of the finish. Now the LEDs allow them to stay inside and see their work properly.
All that added up to saving 15% on their electric bills each year. The total electric savings are estimated at 175,928 kWh per year, equivalent to the electric usage of 25 homes.
Replacing less efficient lighting with LEDs is an easy way to save for any business. The more inefficient lighting the business has, the more LEDs will save. Going 100% LED helps maximize efficiency, reduce the business’s carbon footprint, and save money.
And LEDs are only the beginning for Pompanoosuc Mills. The compressed air system is being tuned up to help improve its efficiency. They are planning to replace the wood heat system with a newer, more efficient model. Dwight is working with Chuck and our Engineers to look across the business for opportunities to invest and save.