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Armstrong-area small businesses plug in energy savings

| Friday, April 26, 2013, 11:44 a.m.
Bill Shirley | For The Leader Times
Wilson Prichett, a senior energy engineer under contract with West Penn Power, stands near a refrigerated section of Foodland holding two pieces of fruit to show the extreme lighting advantages where older flurorescent bulbs have been replaced by energy efficient LED lights, on Thursday April 25, 2013
Bill Shirley | For The Leader Times
A view of a refrigerated section of the Foodland grocery store in East Franklin where older flurorescent bulbs have been replaced by energy efficient LED lights, Thursday April 25, 2013

Area grocery stores have brightened up by going green thanks to a cost and energy-saving program offered throughout the region by West Penn Power.

The program has helped small businesses reduce energy costs while increasing efficiency with facility lighting and refrigeration, a utility company spokesman said.

Wilson Prichett, a senior energy engineer under contract with West Penn Power, said the company has paid up to 80 percent of the project cost to area grocery stores through the Small Business Direct Install Program.

“That's a half-million dollars being poured into the community,” said Prichett, referring to locations in Armstrong County and portions of Butler and Westmoreland counties.

Incentives are based on energy cost savings.

“The program pays a certain amount of dollars for every kilowatt saved,” he said.

On Wednesday, Prichett walked through the Foodland grocery store in East Franklin and pointed out the difference between the old fluorescent bulbs with their yellowish cast and the new bright white LED (light-emitting diode) lights that were being installed.

The Ecobrite LEDs lining the refrigerated cases don't emit any heat and are 28 watts compared to the old tubes which were 110 watts, said Prichett.

A teller working at the S & T Bank in Foodland said before the new lighting was installed it was difficult to see what was in the freezer cases from her vantage point behind the bank counter.

Now she can clearly see row upon row of ice cream illuminated through the glass doors.

“The new lights make everything sparkle,” said Prichett.

And, he said, a new device on top of the freezer cases keeps the doors from fogging up.

George Hathaway, the store owner, should see thousands of dollars in savings after all the interior and exterior lighting is replaced, said Prichett.

Randy Sprankle, owner of Sprankle's Neighborhood Markets in Leechburg, Kittanning, Apollo and Vandergrift, said he already had been working toward making his stores more energy efficient before he heard about the program being offered in the area.

“The old lighting wasn't bringing out the product on the shelves,” he said.

So he was already starting to gradually change out the old light bulbs when Prichett stopped by.

“Energy consumption is big in this business,” said Sprankle. “And the program almost sounded too good to be true.”

But after putting together a plan for each of his four locations – which included new LED lighting in all the refrigerated cases and new interior and exterior lights – Sprankle said he anticipates saving around 19 percent on power use.

“We're looking at considerable savings,” he said. “It's a good program that West Penn Power put together.”

And even though the program is winding down with all work to be completed by April 30, Sprankle said he plans to continue to look at more ways to reduce energy consumption in his stores, like replacing compressors with newer, more efficient models.

Kevin Kronen, owner of Kevin's Quality Meats in Kittanning, anticipates saving around $3,000 a year in electricity costs.

“That's almost a whole month's savings,” he said.

More than 120 full unit energy efficient lights have replaced the old ones throughout the 6,000 square-foot building, said Kronen.

“We should start seeing savings right away,” he said.

Other facilities that have participated in the program include Riverside Market, Ford City; Whytes Market, Parker; Naser Foods, Apollo; Spagnolos, Ford City; Friedmans in Butler and Saxonburg; Leechburg Area School District.

Brigid Beatty is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 724-543-1303 or bbeatty@tribweb.com.

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