RCEA energy audit reviews/Food for People

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Figure 1 Food For People 14th Street Entrance Eureka, CA Photo by Rebecca Ransom

RCEA Energy Audit Review/Food For People

Food For People is designated as Humboldt County California's food bank. Food For People operates 13 food distribution programs throughout Humboldt County, including The After School Snack Program, Backpacks for Kids Program,The Gleaning Program, and direct food distribution on Wednesday's and Fridays to an average of 1000 households per month. [1] The Redwood Coast Energy Alliance (RCEA)was contracted by Anne Holcomb, Executive Director of Food For People, to implement an energy efficiency upgrade, consisting of lighting retrofits. A retrofit is the addition of new or modified parts or equipment not available or considered necessary at the time of manufacture.[2]

The Retrofits

The retrofits were completed on 9/8/2008. The RCEA and contractors replaced one four foot fluorescent lighting ballast and lamps with a four foot T8 fixture, eight incandescent floodlight lamps with Compact Fluorescent Lights (CFL), and two regular incandescent lights with Compact Fluorescent Lights(CFL). The RCEA estimated the client would save $217.50 per year and offset an estimated 783lbs/year CO2. The cost of the upgrades was $324.21. RCEA paid $224.09 and the client paid $199.40.[3]

  • The client did not change their lighting habits after the retrofit, but according to Anne Holcomb, the office employees have been making an effort to turn off all the computers in the evenings when no one is working.
  • According to Holcomb, Food For People would not have done the lighting retrofits without help from the RCEA. The RCEA approached the client about the retrofits.
  • The client moved forward with the project in the event that they could save money by using less kWh. A kWh is a unit of energy used by electricity companies to measure electricity usage.[4] The client is considering a Photovoltaic Solar Power System for the future, therefore it is important to the client to make the business's energy usage as efficient as possible. According to Holcomb, utilities are one of the highest costs for this client. The client has two walk-in freezers and one walk-in refrigerator, as well as three newer refrigerator units in the lobby. The majority of Food for People's energy usage comes from the refrigeration units.

Data Analysis

  • The Lighting retrofit was completed on September 8, 2009. The overall energy usage from Sept 2008- Sept 2009 went up 3% from the same time period in 2006-2007. This is most likely due to the malfunctioning refrigeration units discovered by the Engineers without Borders, as well as the additions of new upright refrigerators in the lobby.
  • According to the Customer Report prepared by the RCEA, the client should have saved 1,506 kWh/yr. The simple payback calculated by RCEA was 0.9 yrs.
  • Food For People's energy demand has been rising. It is not possible to tell if these retrofits contributed any energy savings to the business. Table 1 shows the three months in 2009, June, July, and August, in which the energy usage was down from the previous year. Currently, all of the refrigeration units are working properly, and therefore the client should expect to continue to see energy savings.
  • For the months of June, July and August; the energy demand dropped 314 kWh from the previous year, and saved 164.54 lbs of CO2. These results are summarized in Table 1. Also, an increase of $0.02/kWh in 2009 should be noted.
  • At this time, it is unclear as to whether the lighting upgrades completed in September of 2008 provided the client with energy savings. The energy usage for this client has been increasing over the years for which data was provided.
  • More energy savings for the client are expected after the refrigeration upgrades are completed.

Table 1 Summary of the RCEA Predictions

Simple Payback Estimated Energy Savings Estimated Monthly Savings
0.9 years 1,506 kWh/year $18.12

Table 2 June July and August kWh use and savings

Month 2008 kWh 2009 kWh kWh savings COOffset in lbs (.52lbCO2/kwH)
June 2418 2241 177 92.75
July 2228 2137 91 47.68
August 2239 2193 46 24.10
3 month totals 6885 6571 314


Fig. 2 The Green Line is the kWh/month for the year after the Retrofits.
Figure 2 The Green Line is the kWh/month for the year after the Retrofits.

Future Retrofits

  • Food For People is currently planning refrigeration retrofits. These upgrades will include timer controlled evaporator fans and new Electronically Commuted Motors(ECM's). The ECM (Electronically Commuted Motor) is an ultra high efficiency programmable brushless DC motor utilizing a permanent magnet rotor and built-in inverter.[5] Local engineers from Engineers Without Borders came performed a data monitoring project using KW meters to record the energy consumption of the refrigeration units in order to diagnose potential problems. The engineers located a refrigeration unit that was low on coolant and was running constantly. With an estimated savings of 6435 KWH/year, and a $965.21 savings per year, the Food for People Executive Director, Anne Holcomb, is ready for the refrigeration retrofits to happen. The RCEA and the people from Engineers Without Borders have been helping get the grants to do the refrigeration upgrades, which will cost $3,306.86, with a simple payback of 0.6 years. This is a predicted 173% return on the investment each year.


  1. Food For People, Retrieved on Dec 12, 2009 from http://www.foodforpeople.org/Programs.html
  2. Merriam-Webster Online, date:1953, Retrieved on May 11, 2009, from http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/retrofit
  3. Lou Jacobson,Redwood Coast Energy Authority,July 28,2008, Customer Report
  4. Wikipedia, Kilowatt Hour, Retrieved on Dec 12, 2009 from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/KWh
  5. Nailor Industries Inc., The ECM Motor Story, Retrieved 12/11/2009, http://www.nailor.com/pdf/ECM_1.pdf