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Neil Kudrinko, a grocer who has had political aspirations.
Kudrinko began the major upgrade of his store and its energy and refrigeration components in 2008, a process that took about two years, at a combined cost of about $600,000. To make the cost more palatable to his dad, still the owner at that time, and manageable for himself, Kudrinko spread the renovation over two years and multiple contractors. “We did it one project at a time so we could see the results,” he said. “I would say [to his father], in order to maximize the potential of the renovation and maximize the payback, we can’t stop half-way. We need all the systems working together.”
Kudrinko considered building an entirely new store but decided to stick with his existing building, even though that was a more challenging choice. “If you have a structurally sound building, there’s a lot to be said for working with what you have,” he said. “You already have the ecological footprint — all the cement and steel.” Retailers who choose to build a replacement store “should be cognizant of the ecological impact of walking away from that.” He also valued the downtown location of his existing store.
Kudrinko acknowledged that it is difficult to look at the store renovation as a whole and precisely forecast the payback period for his investment, adding that, given the magnitude of the overhaul, the payback could be 10 to 15 years. “You have to have some faith that we’re going to do this and it’s going to work out,” he said. “And it certainly has worked out.” For evidence of that, he points to his energy costs, which since 2008 have stabilized, even though the price of energy has continued to rise. By comparison, during the previous five years, his energy costs almost doubled. “I’m probably saving easily $25,000 to $30,000 in energy costs annually,” he said.
Maintenance costs have dropped $20,000 to $25,000 per year. “Now that the systems work efficiently together, we’re seeing very few maintenance calls,” he said. He also attributes that to the better air quality in the store, which puts less stress on his compressors.
One of the more remarkable upsides for Kudrinko has been the installation of a back-room Hussmann Protocol refrigeration system (left) that has yet to spring a refrigerant leak in three years. (It uses R-404A refrigerant.) He credits his refrigeration contractor, Hamilton Smith, Belleville, Ontario, for doing a good installation job. “It cost more to install than to buy, but if that’s the kind of operation you get, you don’t mind,” he said. His only refrigerant loss this year was two pounds of R-22 from his office air conditioning system.
Kudrinko previously used a standard DX refrigeration system with two pipes coming out of each of its compressors. By contrast, the Protocol unit, containing six scroll compressors, has only two pipes going out to all medium-temperature and low-temperature cases. The DX unit had “much more piping, many more joints and welds, and therefore more potential for leaks and equipment failures,” he said.
To supplement the capacity of the Protocol system, Kudrinko also has a rooftop compressor supporting his fresh meat counter and another rooftop compressor for his walk-in freezer. For his frozen food cases, Kudrinko recently replaced fluorescent lighting in 21 doors with Immersion RV40 LED lights from GE Lighting Solutions, from which he expects a 2.4-year payback after rebate.
Kudrinko has also upgraded his HVAC technology, replacing an oil-based system with a two-unit Lennox L series system that uses less expensive and more environmentally friendly propane and is more energy efficient. He also installed a custom-built coil in the Lennox system that reclaims heat from the refrigeration unit, thereby supplementing the propane fuel.
Next to the store, Kudrinko built a 800-square-foot receiving warehouse (cost: $100,000) with a roof that could support the condenser for the Protocol system and the new HVAC system. He also rewired the store and upgraded the electrical service from 400 to 600 amps.