For the past 27 years, Favorite Foods, a New Hampshire based food distribution company, made it its mission to provide superior quality food distribution and service to their clients, typically independent restaurants, in New Hampshire, Maine, and central and northern Massachusetts. Family owned and operated by son Kelly, father Chris Barstow, and mother Petra Barstow both have always held a strong belief that Favorite Foods could run both profitably and efficiently, with a company-wide focus to improve its overall environmental footprint.
Favorite Foods has had many green successes to date, including a massive 572 Panel, 140 kW Solar installation, and the Barstow family is focused on continuously lessening their impact on the environment, increasing energy efficiencies and continuing their mission to maintain a sustainable business. Locally, Favorite Foods has had a longtime relationship with the Green Alliance, a union of local, sustainable businesses and members working to unite the green community.
The company’s latest ‘green’ effort was prompted not only by its continuous drive to improve efficiencies, but also by the realities of the significant energy use involved in large-scale refrigeration.
In order to best serve their customers, Favorite Foods relies on a large refrigerated warehouse complex located onsite in Somersworth. The building consists of industrial scale refrigerated and freezer space, and refrigerated cooled loading docks, which serve as their cold storage as well as their primary distribution center. Such a large, climate controlled space requires a significant amount of time, money, and, in particular, energy to operate. Keeping consumption and costs down benefits both the company’s sustainable mission as well as their bottom line.
Kelly Barstow, Favorite Foods’ Director of Process Improvement, began working with John Guidotti of Biotek Environmental LLC, an efficiency solutions company based in Lebanon, N.H., to audit the facility and offer suggestions to improve operations.
Working together, they were able to identify three high value areas of improvement: Evaporator Control, Motor Efficiency and Power Factor, which is a measure of electrical efficiency.
During periods of peak summertime energy use, energy (electricity) comes at a premium. Not only does each unit of energy cost more, but utility companies also work harder to manage the energy grid to ensure demand is met. As a result of their analysis, the team was surprised to learn that not only were they paying for the energy consumed, often times at peak rates, but also for its transmission – which includes a constant back and forth as the energy providers relocate power to areas where it is needed.
“In this kind of work, there are always surprises. We started with a deep look at the refrigeration systems, and identified a more significant and serious electricity efficiency issue with Power Factor at the Facility that we were capable of addressing as well,” says Guidotti.
When dealing with large scale refrigeration, loss of power is simply not an option. To mitigate risk, Favorite Foods has an onsite generator so the company can sustain its own energy demands, whether to take itself off the grid at times of peak electricity usage, or in case of a blackout/brownout when energy is unavailable.
A particular challenge the company faced was maximizing the power coming in from its supplier by improving the electrical efficiency, or Power Factor, a unit to determine how efficiently power is processed, as it affected the ability for the facility to effectively use a back-up generator.
Peak Power Factor was 78 percent prior to the project with Biotek, and peak facility demand (the total energy draw of equipment operating during peak periods) potentially exceeded the capacity of the back-up generator system. By installing precisely sized and tailor made KVAR Energy Controllers to store energy onsite, the facility’s peak Power Factor improved to 95 percent with peak demand being reduced to allow for stable and reliable use of the backup generator system.
“[The increase] made it possible for Favorite Foods to participate in a responsive demand system of utility,” says Barstow.
The next step for the team was to improve the cooling system efficiency itself. A product recommended by Biotek, The KE2 Therm Evaporator Controller, actually reduces the energy used by the refrigeration system by providing control of cooling fan cycling, accomplished by monitoring with sensors for demand defrost and reducing compressor run times. This enhanced control also came with performance logging and network access with alerts 24 x 7.
“The key is to make the evaporators smart, and generate the maximum amount of refrigeration for the least amount of energy, and provide data for analysis and adjustment,” according to Guidotti.
The third measure was to install modern multi-speed efficient motor technology in the Dock Evaporators that use less energy at the same high speed and reduce motor speeds between cooling cycles. By operating at low speeds when cooling power is reduced, the fans circulate about 40 percent as much air but only use about 10 percent as much energy. The motors run hard when they have to, and ratchet back when less power is needed. This act not only uses less energy (motors traditionally run at top speed indefinitely) but also decreases heat generated by the motors, reducing compressor run times.
“We’re very excited to have the system online, we are always looking for ways to be more green, and this is another step forward in that direction,” says Chris Barstow, Favorite Foods’ President and Founder.
Additionally, while performing these upgrades, the company made a conscious decision to lay the groundwork for future improvements. The cabling and network of controls built for the upgrade will allow for even more controls to be applied in the main cooler when the time is right.
Though it is early in the data collection phase, it is estimated that an overall average savings of 12 percent has been recognized on Favorite Foods’ energy costs.
“It was all part of the plan to lessen our overall environmental impact by reducing the amount of energy consumed.” He adds that though it is likely, though not guaranteed, to return a financial investment, “it really wasn’t about financial benefit, it was more about furthering the mission of reducing our footprint,” says Kelly. Though he added that financial savings is certainly is part of the reward.
Guidotti also found value working with the Barstow’s operation, watching his company’s technology directly improve operations.
“High Quality Efficiency work requires a partnership. Favorite Foods has been a great partner for us with a purpose of identifying issues, finding and implementing best solutions, monitoring and making adjustments and evaluating the results in detail from many perspectives,” says Guidotti.