Cream Of The Crop: Guernsey Farms Dairy Takes Fresh Approach To Energy Efficiency

When John McGuire established Guernsey Farms Dairy in Northville in 1940, he had a simple philosophy: produce exceptional products, maintain quality and provide excellent service in delivering those products to customers. Son Marty McGuire and his family are still making good on that commitment over 75 years later. They’re churning out premium small-batch ice cream in 75 flavors, a variety of milk products – including, in many people’s opinion, the world’s best chocolate milk – plus chocolate syrup, butterscotch, caramel and hot fudge toppings.

Since 1966, the family-owned business has been located in a 28,000-square-foot facility on Novi Road, which is where the magic happens. The raw milk is received, processed into various products and served up in the McGuire Family Restaurant and in the Scoop Shop and Specialty Store. It’s there that we met Mr. McGuire and discovered that, while very little has changed in the family’s efforts to preserve their recipes, a lot has changed in their efforts to conserve energy.


The Inside Scoop on Their Energy Efficiency Journey

In 2000, Guernsey Farms Dairy invested in their first energy efficiency upgrade, discarding their inefficient portable freezers and building a new blast-freezer room that is a bone-chilling -20°F, with a -40°F wind chill. Although Mr. McGuire now had an efficient freezer, it was lit by less-efficient high pressure sodium lamps that had to remain on to operate consistently, due to the cold. “Because of the freezing temperatures, if someone shut the lights off we’d have to call an electrician to get them back on,” he says. So they stayed on 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

Fast forward to 2015 when Mr. McGuire consulted with Craig Wright of Wright Energy Partners – and a recognized DTE Energy Designated Trade Ally – about replacing his inefficient lights with high-efficiency LEDs.

“Our business focuses on warehouse, office and retail space – and Guernsey happened to be all three, so it was a perfect opportunity,” says Mr. Wright. “There was also good chemistry between us.”

When Mr. Wright visited the 28,000-square-foot facility, he figured the retrofit would require 600 LEDs. In many places throughout the facility, there were four fluorescent tubes per fixture, but because the LEDs are much brighter, only two were necessary. “We want to sell the least amount of lamps as possible to help a client quickly pay off their investment,” says Mr. Wright. “I’ll always take a four-lamp fixture and make it a two-lamp fixture to save clients money, as long as the light levels are sufficient to perform the tasks.”

Mr. Wright told Mr. McGuire that, with incentives from DTE Energy and interest-free financing available to all Michigan businesses through the Michigan Saves program, the payback would be about eight months with significantly lower utility costs. He would also complete all the papework and the DTE Energy incentive would arrive in a timely fashion. At first Mr. McGuire was hesitant. “If it sounds too good to be true, it usually is,” he says. “But I had a gut feeling this was the right thing to do.” It was.

Mr. McGuire turned the project over to Stacey Sharp, Guernsey’s Senior Accountant, who ran the numbers and figured out the payback. “She confirmed everything Craig said was true,” he says. “She also said that, even if we paid for it ourselves, it was worth doing.” While some small businesses might not replace 600 good fluorescent tubes, Mr. McGuire didn’t hesitate. “I was listening to Stacey about all the money we were going to save once we got these new lights, so I said, ‘Let’s get it done’.” Additionally, Mr. McGuire paid $200 to take all the old tubes to a recycling center.

“Next, we set up a meeting between Mr. Wright and our electrician, Colin Tunison, from Ott Electric,” says Mr. McGuire. “Together, they counted the lamps that needed replacing, and DTE Energy came in and conducted their inspection to verify that the job qualified for incentives. Then Ott installed the lamps.” When you change fluorescents to LEDs, you may have to rewire the fixture or bypass the ballast (best to consult an electrical contractor first), which is why Ott Electric got involved.


Getting Their Just Desserts

The LEDs were installed from July through October 2015. Ironically, the last of the inefficient lights to be replaced were in the blast freezer, which is where Guernsey saved the most money.

“We saved Guernsey over $25,000 in lighting bills in the freezer alone,” says Mr. Wright. “Their yearly bill for the freezer will now be about $686 because of the LEDs and a reduction in usage from 168 hours a week down to 50.” Being forced to leave those lights on 24/7 not only ratcheted up the utility bill, they also generated a lot of heat. The new LEDs substantially reduce the heat load in the blast freezer, which also saves energy on the cooling system since it isn’t working as hard.

While Guernsey is in the early stages of payback, the savings are significant. A comparison of October, November and December of 2014 with 2015 revealed they’re saving 20% a month in electric bills. And the incentive check for $17,028.20 they received from DTE Energy which included rebates and multi-measure bonus, was used to pay Ott Electric. That, coupled with the Michigan Saves 0% financing, meant Guernsey didn’t even have to go out of pocket.

“Over a ten-year period, Guernsey will save over $326,000 on its electric bills,” Mr. Wright says. “That takes into account the utility incentives from DTE Energy.”

When you figure Guernsey Farms Dairy will get about 20 years out of these new LEDs (up to 30 years in certain areas of the facility), it’s an amazing amount of money saved. “It’s one thing to save money, but to save money and brighten everything up at the same time is terrific,” adds Mr. Wright.

Other upgrades included replacement of exterior pole lights and the dairy’s sign with LEDs. LED strips were installed to illuminate refrigeration cases and Electronically Commutated Motors replaced the old inefficient motors in several refrigeration units.

Guernsey Farms Dairy is well on its way to becoming the cream of the crop in energy efficiency.


This article was originally published in DTE Energy’s magazine EnergySmarts.

For more tips and inspiration for small business owners, visit CBS Small Business Pulse Detroit.


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