05-11 Vista Bob Fitzpatrick

Bob Fitzpatrick pulls down one of the shades that Vista Supermarket uses at night to help reduce refrigeration costs. The store was one of 13 that was recently given a "Golden Grocery Cart" award for sustainability practices. (Adam Drapcho/The Laconia Daily Sun)

LACONIA — By now you’ve probably heard that switching to more efficient lighting can save on your electricity bill. If you’ve got a thousand lights, it turns out, the savings can be substantial.

That’s what Bob Fitzpatrick, manager of the Vista Supermarket in Laconia found out when he switched to LED lights last year.

The lighting upgrade was part of a storewide analysis that Vista performed last year, for which Laconia’s downtown grocer was among 13 stores in the state given a “Golden Grocery Cart” award last month by the NH Small Business Development Center and the nonprofit Manomet, recognizing grocery stores that took steps to ensure their sustainability.

Vista, one of Associated Grocer’s stores, engaged the services of Energy LB Resources, a Nashua-based firm, to analyze its energy use practices. As a result of the audit, Vista replaced nearly every light bulb in the store – of which there are more than 1,000 – from fluorescent or incandescant to light-emitting diode, or LED. Fitzpatrick said the store immediately became noticeably brighter, and that the new lights better illuminated his fruits, vegetables, meats and other products offered for sale.

Perhaps more importantly, the LEDs use far less electricity than the bulbs they replaced.

Vista made a few tweaks to its refrigeration system, also a result of the energy audit. Replacing bulbs and optimizing refrigeration units might sound like small potatoes, but it added up to about $15,000 per year of savings on Vista’s electricity bill. Most of that savings is from the lights alone and, because LED fixtures tend to last longer, they should also save the store money through their longevity.

Fitzpatrick said the savings is a big deal for the store. Electricity is one of the store’s greatest expenses, and the recent upgrades shave that bill by about 15-percent. For a business that is notably hard to make a profit in, that savings is welcome, he said.

“Anything that we can save will go right down to the bottom line,” Fitzpatrick said. He also likes the way the lights make his store look. “Now, you go in and it pops,” he said.

Vista occupies an unusual place in the local supermarket landscape. It competes for regional and tourist business with nearby Hannaford, Wal-Mart, and two Shaw’s, stores, yet it is the only store accessible by foot for people who live in or near the city’s downtown. The electricity savings will help the store stay competitive, Fitzpatrick said.

“People see that we’re putting money back into the store. You can’t be complacent in this business, that’s for sure. You always have to keep going,” Fitzpatrick said.

It’s not just dollars and cents, though. Vista also takes measures to help lessen the store’s environmental impact. Cardboard and paper are separated from the waste stream for recycling, and spoiled produce is sent to a pig farm. According to LB Resources’ figures, the recent electricity savings will reduce the store’s carbon footprint by about 113,000 pounds of carbon dioxide per year, or the equivalent emissions of ten vehicles.

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