Energy efficiency improvements make good sense for Good Health | PostIndependent.com

Energy efficiency improvements make good sense for Good Health

Staff reportPost IndependentGlenwood Springs, CO Colorado

For horizontal lighting photo “Steve and Howard at Good Health”:Customers and employees are enjoying the softer and more energy-efficient lighting at Good Health Downtown Market and Deli.

GLENWOOD SPRINGS, Colorado – Early last year, Good Health Downtown Market & Deli in Glenwood Springs was using 38 percent more energy than the national average for use in a similar building. The business had an annual electricity bill of more than $13,600.Market owner Steve Swanson and his staff were throwing away more than $200 in ruined produce each month because the food was either freezing or staying too warm while stored in a hodgepodge of old coolers with faulty doors.And, a longtime market employee was suffering from headaches about four times a week.This year, the owner and employees are happy to report that those problems have turned around for the better at the downtown market and deli.Energy efficiency has led to an average monthly savings of $200, a 17 percent reduction.Headaches stopped for employee Stephenie Riggs after the store’s lighting was upgraded from inefficient and prone-to-flicker T12 fluorescent lights with magnetic ballasts to more efficient T8 lights with electronic ballasts.”It’s definitely improved my quality of work life and sometimes after work,” said Riggs, who could develop a debilitating migraine at home after a headache on the job. “It really does make a huge difference.”The lighting upgrade, replacement of food coolers and other energy-saving improvements were made possible in part by a free energy audit and rebate funding through the CARD project, or Commercial Audit and Retrofit Demonstration project. CARD was a pilot program of Garfield Clean Energy, run by Clean Energy Economy for the Region (CLEER) in partnership with Glenwood Springs Electric Department. Garfield Clean Energy has since expanded the program to all businesses in Garfield County, now called the Clean Energy Challenge for Business.As a former financial officer at the Rocky Mountain Institute in Snowmass, Swanson realized the market building, built in 1973, was a bit of an energy hog. The building was constructed inexpensively and operated as several other businesses through the years. Swanson thought the first step to saving energy would be to upgrade the single-pane windows. However, a commercial-grade energy audit conducted by Schmueser Gordon Meyer engineers showed that combining and replacing the old cooler and freezer units would save the most electricity. The store now uses a commercial walk-in cooler and freezer units with highly insulated walls for optimum efficiency. The market has greatly reduced food waste, and the employees are more productive because the perishable food storage area is larger and better organized, Swanson said. The SGM audit also pointed out no-cost energy saving measures such as establishing a quarterly schedule to vacuum cooler coils and air conditioning filters.Employee communication has even improved, as the staff no longer has to yell over the loud compressors, which were running the outdated 1960s coolers in the dry food storage room.Customers have noticed positive changes at the store, too. The new lighting creates a warmer and more natural feel. Swanson opted for one bulb per ballast, which emits plenty of soft light and uses less electricity. The new lights have longer bulb life, reducing ongoing maintenance.The energy savings are paying for capital improvements and maintenance Swanson would have needed to upgrade aging equipment and deal with business growth. The new coolers use less energy, but have doubled the amount of food storage space and reduced losses from spoiled food. “These simultaneous business improvements make the energy upgrades at Good Health a win-win-win situation,” said Mike Ogburn, energy engineer for CLEER.The upgrades completed in summer 2010 totaled about $26,000, Swanson said, and the store received $17,916 in energy improvement rebates through the CARD program. Swanson’s out-of-pocket costs were $8,084. The upgrades are saving the business up to $200 a month on electricity so far. “If the $200 per month – which works out to $2,400 per year – continues, that’s an investment that pays for itself in just 3.5 years, including the rebates,” Ogburn said.”Even without rebates, a 10-year simple payback represents a responsible investment, and the payback will likely be even faster in both cases because energy costs usually rise over time,” Ogburn said.Swanson now plans to adopt more efficiency measures, such as window coverings to reflect summer heat and a new Energy Star-rated back door, as funds allow. He said he “absolutely” would recommend a commercial-grade audit with some hands-on engineering advice to other busy business owners.”The audit was extremely enlightening,” Swanson noted. “The items I thought important were lower on the list. The windows were the fifth or sixth priority. The lighting surprised me. I didn’t know what the biggest energy savers were.”