Partners in savings
Nestled in the rolling hills just outside Athens, wholesale beer distributor Leon Farmer & Company has a proud history of being a leader in deploying advanced technologies. From installing one of the first Controlled Environment Warehouses (CEW) in 1978 to using a Mobility Computer selling system today, the company has continually invested in equipment, hardware and software to increase efficiency and reduce costs.
The company moved into its state-of-the-art Athens facility in 1988 – a 136,000 square-foot climate controlled warehouse that today dispatches 32 trucks daily to deliver more than 170 brands throughout 27 counties. Over the years, Leon Farmer & Company had made ongoing improvements to the facility to increase its efficiency, including re-lamping the facility, applying a heat-reducing coating to the roof and had just upgraded its coolers when Director of Operations Hal Pruitt called Jackson EMC for an energy audit.
“Our company is always searching for opportunities to increase our efficiency, productivity and profitability,” notes Pruitt. “Leon Farmer III, our company president, had introduced the Green Pastures program in an effort to minimize our energy costs while maximizing our sustainability, so having an audit fit right in with our business objectives and corporate philosophy.”
The audit, conducted by Commercial/Industrial Engineer Mark Zoller, produced a number of recommendations, but held some surprises even for a state-of-the-art company. Lighting was the issue. “We were shocked that the lighting in our modern building could be so inefficient,” says Pruitt. “The audit was an education for us.”
Fluorescent lights in the office and workshop areas, metal halide and high pressure sodium fixtures in the shipping and storage areas were burning 24/7. Incandescent EXIT signs around the facility and the more than 130 metal halide fixtures were energy hogs.
The audit recommendations started with the smallest lights and worked up. LED bulbs in the facility’s exit signs would use 90 percent less power and last 25 times longer. Metal halide lights should be replaced with induction lighting, which could do the job using 60 percent less energy and with a longer life-span. Upgrading T8 fluorescent lamps to high-output T5 should be considered in the administration areas. Finally, the audit recommended motion detection sensors on all task lighting throughout the facility, so lights would come on only when people actually needed them.
Although the improvements required a capital investment, Leon Farmer & Company implemented lighting and other recommendations for thermostats, computer power management and refrigeration condensing units. “Being fully committed to the conservation of our natural resources and the most cost-effective management of our company, the investment was a simple decision,” explains Pruitt. “We’re seeing savings of more than 28 percent over our previous four-year average electric use, and if we hadn’t had a record cold winter and hot summer, I can only imagine what our savings would have been in comparison.”