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Westaco serves up savings by implementing energy-efficiency upgrades

Home / Energy advice / Westaco serves up savings by implementing energy-efficiency upgrades

SRP to Honor National Energy Efficiency Day Oct. 5 with ways business customers can save money
By Kathleen Mascareñas

Arlen Korer, Vice President of Westaco Inc.

Being one of the most successful Taco Bell franchise owners in Arizona means you’ve dished out excellent, long-standing customer service while successfully managing the bottom line in an insatiably competitive industry.

When Tempe resident Arlen Korer started his career in the quick-service restaurant business in 1992, energy efficiency wasn’t much of a consideration as a technique to save and succeed. Twenty-five years later, he says it can be a key driver in maintaining a healthy budget.

“Back then there weren’t the type of steps that you can take today,” said Korer, vice president of Westaco Inc. “LEDs (light bulbs) were just a fleeting thought, but it has progressed — as technology does — to the point where being energy efficient is very cost efficient. It just makes sense to do these things.”

Korer and his partners own Scottsdale-based Westaco, which includes 47 restaurants in Arizona — they started with just two. Through the years, they have found it quite beneficial to implement minor and major energy-efficiency modifications to each of their locations. Westaco has partnered with Salt River Project, its utility provider, to benefit from rebates and minimize upgrade costs.

“October 5th is National Energy Efficiency Day, which is a coast-to-coast collective effort to promote saving energy,” said Dan Dreiling, SRP’s director of Market Research and Customer Programs. “On this day, we want all of our customers to know SRP is here to help them become more energy efficient and give them cost-effective opportunities to improve their businesses. Westaco is a model of that successful collaboration.”

Strong customer participation in SRP’s energy-efficiency programs helps conserve precious resources and surpass corporate sustainability goals. Last year, programs for both residential and commercial customers resulted in a savings of more than 570 million kilowatt-hours, which is equivalent to powering about 30,000 Valley homes for one year.

“We do between two to four major remodels a year,” said Korer. “We upgrade aesthetics, inside and outside lighting — as well as HVAC units — the major consumers of electricity.”

The first, and perhaps Korer’s favorite, energy-efficient upgrade involved installing an energy management system that controls the HVAC system. Westaco started with the restaurant that was the biggest energy user. Within one year of implementing the HVAC change and taking advantage of SRP rebates, Westaco saved about $2,000 that year in just one restaurant.

“We now control our stores’ temperatures from the home office via the Internet. We have found it’s easier on the equipment. The units aren’t getting overloaded by employees who turn down the thermostats so they freeze over during the summer and break down. We are not replacing as many units as we did before,” said Korer. “We have since converted all of our stores with multiple HVAC units and control them from the home office.”

Westaco’s subsequent money-saving modifications involved upgraded lighting, both inside and out. Korer recommends using certified contractors familiar with the SRP rebate process to handle improvements and make the entire process run smoothly.

“We changed out all the lighting in the buildings. We had fluorescents in most of the stores and some had CFLs,” added Korer. “Now when we go in to do a remodel, everything is converted to LEDs in the kitchen and dining room. In addition, we converted all the exterior building lighting, as well as our parking lot lights. In the summer months, I’m saving about $500 a month off of a $3,000 bill.”

With improved lighting, Korer says his stores now look better and are much safer at night. With nearly four dozen restaurants, improvements take time, planning and budgeting, but Korer said he is sold on the energy-efficiency programs and the quick return on investment.

“These programs are great. With additional costs that are laid on consistently, whether it’s government regulations, increased minimum wages or healthcare costs, we feel pressure from a lot of directions,” Korer added. “Anywhere we can improve the guest experience and have a short-term ROI, it helps the bottom line. We definitely would not have been as aggressive on some of the things had the rebates not been there.”