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Saving energy saves greenbacks

Tom Moloughney charges his car at one of two electric vehicle charging stations he had installed in front of his restaurant, Nauna's Bella Casa, in Montclair.-(AARON HOUSTON)

It’s never too late for a business to boost its cost efficiencies.

Tom Moloughney and partners opened Nauna’s Bella Casa restaurant in Montclair in 1987, but it was many years later that he discovered that purchasing a few energy-saving devices could save money in the longer run.

“I have solar electric at my house and I drive an electric-powered car, so I guess it’s in my DNA,” Moloughney said. “But it’s harder to bring this approach to the workplace, since it can mean more upfront costs and it’s not easy to commit a chunk of your budget to something that you hope will have a long-term payback. So before we undertake an initiative, I try to do some research to be sure the project will be good for business as well as supporting sustainability.”

One big step was in 2009, when Nauna’s became one of the first businesses in New Jersey to install public charging stations for electric vehicles.

“Since then we have expanded on our commitment to electric vehicles by installing new, state-of-the-art EV charging stations,” Moloughney said. “And in 2015, we installed the very first public Combined Charging System DC Fast charge station in the state.

“CCS lets multiple kinds of vehicles, including passenger cars and trucks, plug in and charge up in as little as 30 minutes,” he explained. “It gives owners the freedom to travel long distances without the inconvenience of having to wait for the long recharge times when charging on 240-volt public charging stations.”

The quick-charge EV stations cost about $12,000, including the costs of “trenching,” or boring under the parking lot to lay electrical supply conduit. The longer-term benefit: Charging stations help to drive restaurant customers to Bella Casa.

“It actually inspires people with zero-emission vehicles to come here,” Moloughney said. “Dozens of people coming here for business meals or for pleasure have told me that their phone apps show the locations of EV charging stations, and they decide to enjoy a meal while they charge their vehicle. It happens all the time.”

Other green steps followed.

“We’ve always recycled customer waste, but then we realized that if we extended it our food prep and other operations — like the tin cans that olives, tomato products and roast peppers are packed in — we could take advantage of the recycling that the town provides, since we could reduce the volume and cost of our commercial dumpster pickup,” recalled Moloughney. “We were eventually able to use a smaller commercial dumpster with less-frequent pickups, and cut our bill by about $800 a month.”

The recycling activity means more work for the 35-employee staff, “but the added labor costs were worth it,” he said.

Added Moloughney: “We were upgrading our 53-vehicle parking lot about two years ago, and thought we might as well improve the parking lot light fixtures too, with LED lighting. The cost for about 25 fixtures was around $5,000, but our electric bill is much lower and the new LED lights provide more illumination across the property at night, which also improves safety. We’re also saving on labor and material costs since the LED bulbs don’t have to be replaced as often.”

Conventional lights generally last up to 24,000 hours, while LEDs can last up to an estimated 200,000 hours, he noted.

“We installed low-flow touchless water faucets and low-flow toilets throughout the restaurant,” Moloughney said. “The touchless faucets in the customer bathrooms save a considerable amount of water, since they only flow while the customers hand is under the faucet. Before we had these faucets, we would occasionally check the bathroom at closing and find a faucet running at full blast, which may have been wasting water for an hour or more. The hands-free touchless faucets — along with motion-sensor lighting in the bathrooms so the lights go off if no one’s in there — don’t allow this kind of waste to happen.”

Crafting green savings

Gene Muller, president of Flying Fish Brewing Co., also found that going green could save money.

“Since we opened in Cherry Hill in 1996, our craft brewery has engaged in recycling efforts,” Muller said. “But when we moved to our current location in Somerdale in 2012, we saw an opportunity to do more, especially since we were no longer leasing and were going to retrofit the Somerdale building anyway.”

The “total overhaul” included a new roof for his 45,000-square-foot facility, so Muller took the opportunity to have about 500 solar panels installed on the rooftop.

“It was expensive, but the energy savings will eventually pay for the project,” he said.

Muller also had a natural gas-powered energy-efficient boiler installed at a cost of about $200,000 compared to the $50,000-$60,000 tab of a traditional boiler.

“We’re easily saving $20,000 a year in energy costs with it, so this investment will also pay itself off,” he said. “We’re also looking at reconfiguring our refrigeration system, adding ventilation so when the outside temperature drops below 45 degrees, we could use outside air to keep the systems cool. We may also be able to set up a kind of loop system to take heat that the refrigeration system compressors give off and route that to help heat water in the restrooms.”

These kinds of eco-friendly efforts are about more than just saving money, he added.

“People who drink craft beer or buy craft cheeses often support sustainability efforts,” Muller noted. “They’re not looking for mass-market products. Also, we make an agricultural product, and we recognize that you need clean space and soil, or you don’t have the barley that’s necessary for beer.”

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