On a just-above freezing Friday morning in Burlington, the walk-in cooler at Waggy’s Store and Deli, at its customary 40 degrees, feels downright cozy.
It would feel much cozier without the constant roar of its refrigeration fans.
The cost of refrigeration, rather than its noise, prompted proprietor Pat McCaffrey to sign up for a new Burlington Electric Department program that helps small businesses make up-front investments in energy efficiency — and then pay back the loan with a portion of subsequent savings on the monthly bill.
When the upgrades are completed later this year, the same chillers will circulate air at beverage-friendly temperatures, but they’ll roar less often thanks to more efficient fans and the introduction of cooler, outside air.
This is not a vanity, “green” project.
“We’re small,” McCaffrey explained. “We’ve had to look for ways to run fewer months in the red. We’ve had to try harder.”
Efficient, LED lighting is also a part of the upgrades at Waggy’s.
The store is the first of up to 150 small businesses in the city that will benefit during the next three years from what is called on-bill financing, said BED Director of Energy Service Chris Burns.
Waggy’s loan is for about $7,000, Burns said.
A $1 million grant from the U.S. Commerce Department, secured by Sen. Bernie Sanders, I. Vt., — coupled with another $1 million from BED, established the pilot project that is designed to direct repaid money into yet more “revolving” loans.
“With the projected energy savings, the project will be paid for in 38 months and will produce monthly positive cash-flow for the owner,” Sanders said at a news conference outside the North Avenue convenience store and service station.
“After the loan is paid in full, the owner will continue to see about $2,500 annually in electric savings,” he added. “I’m going to do everything I can to make this a national program.