Hiller’s markets add energy-saving features through state program.
There’s something new in the frozen foods section at Hiller’s markets and up on the roof and in other hidden places — improvements that are making the longtime supermarket chain more energy efficient and Earth friendly.
In December, Justin Hiller, the third-generation owner of Hiller’s, gave Gov. Rick Snyder a guided tour of his Northville store with the governor’s bodyguards, camera crews and reporters in tow.
Hiller, 31, of Bloomfield Hills, currently serves as the company’s vice president; his father, Jim Hiller, is president/CEO; and his grandfather, Sidney Hiller, started the independent grocery store chain in 1941.
Hiller’s also has markets in Ann Arbor, Berkley, Commerce Township, Plymouth, Union Lake and West Bloomfield.
“This gives us an opportunity to reduce our carbon footprint,” Justin Hiller said. “For us, it’s really important that we help to better society.”
In all, $110,000 in energy-saving modifications were made at the Northville store alone. Some of the changes are simple. Hundreds of light bulbs were replaced with energy-efficient bulbs, new fixtures were added throughout the store, motion sensors now turn off lights when various rooms are not in use, and “night curtains” are used in refrigerated cases.
“Simply pulling down the curtain holds the cold air in the case overnight,” Hiller explained. “This alone will save more than $1,000 a month.”
Hiller’s was one of the first to take part in a program through the nonprofit group Michigan Saves, designed to help companies across the state reduce energy costs.
Businesses that use authorized contractors can take advantage of low-interest financing (from $2,000-$150,000) for energy-efficient lighting, heating and cooling systems, insulation and other upgrades. Special incentives of $2,000 are also offered to restaurants, convenience stores and grocery stores.
Michigan Saves was established in 2009 with a grant from the Michigan Public Service Commission; it became independent in 2011. Its programs are expanding thanks to several grants awarded by state agencies and the U.S. Department of Energy.
“This is a win-win-win for Michiganders,” Gov. Snyder is quoted as saying. “It helps businesses save on costs, creates good-paying jobs and moves us toward a greener energy future.”
Dollars And Sense
While some changes, like the new lighting, may be noticeable to shoppers, others are less obvious. Hiller’s replaced its condensers on the roof with new technology expected to save the company $500 per month. Reach-in freezer doors are now equipped with anti-sweat controllers and sensors that keep track of how frequently the doors are opened and closed. So far, the changes have only been made at certain locations. The company expects to save 25 percent on energy costs at the Northville store.
“We’re upgrading one store at a time with most of the larger equipment like the condensers,” Hiller said. “The lights and sweat controllers were added to three stores, Commerce, Northville and Plymouth. The effort is ongoing.”
By reducing operating costs, Hiller added, they’re able to pass along the savings to customers.
“It’s a penny-pushing game,” he said. “Any changes we make to the bottom line have a significant impact on the price structure in stores and allow us to offer a better customer shopping experience.”
Homeowners are also saving energy and money through a similar program called Better Buildings for Michigan. In southeast Michigan, organizers say more than 2,800 homeowners have received $100 home energy audits (professional inspections to pinpoint where homes are losing energy) and are taking advantage of rebates and incentives to make improvements like adding insulation or replacing furnaces and hot water heaters. Participants also get energy-efficient light bulbs, showerheads, faucets and programmable thermostats free of charge.
“Homeowners who’ve made upgrades are saving an average of $475 per year and report improved comfort in their homes,” said program director Sue McAlpine. “More than 30 communities in Wayne, Oakland, Macomb and Washtenaw counties are eligible to participate, including Huntington Woods, Farmington Hills, Royal Oak, Detroit and Ferndale.”
By Robin Schwartz, Contributing Writer