Efficiency Vermont’s Efficiency Excellence Network (EEN) Contractor Spotlight
Interview with Chelsey Lawyer, CEO, and Micah Murray, Operations Manager
Efficiency Vermont Staff
Dick Soule Refrigeration has been servicing dairy and commercial businesses in New England and Eastern New York since 1967. The company recently received an Energy Leadership Award from Efficiency Vermont.
Can you tell us a little about the company and its recent history?
CL: The company has two names: R. Soule and Sons, and Dick Soule Refrigeration, which is how most people know us. In 2017, Nathan Hale purchased the company from Richard Soule III after working here for many years. I’ve been with the company since October 2019. I support Nathan with day-to-day operations, strategic planning, and budgeting.
Dick Soule Refrigeration specializes in both agricultural and commercial work. In fact, we’ve been able to incorporate a lot of our commercial work into the agriculture world. We want to be a leader in both markets.
MM: We are using the evolution of commercial technology to apply to agriculture. We have pretty open conversations with our farmers and suggest ways to help them run the farms more efficiently. They’re looking to cool their milk fast and keep it cool. We can do a new install or make custom parts to swap out in existing systems and make them run more efficiently.
Where does the emphasis on efficiency come from?
CL: Nathan Hale is very focused on R&D projects. He lives and breathes refrigeration. He loves thinking about how we can do it better. Because of this, we now install a lot of custom-built equipment and use our own Dick Soule custom-built controls on many projects. That means we’re able to control refrigeration systems better and more efficiently. We are able to really dial in on the systems.
MM: Yes, and these control boxes are always data logging. So, we can see [patterns in] what’s going on with the equipment, and we can adjust it remotely. That’s a huge advantage for both us and the farmers, as we don’t have to travel to the site. For example, we can modulate the glycol pump and make adjustments to our head pressure settings (controlling how much liquid refrigerant or glycol is flowing through the system) remotely. We’ve found lowering the head pressure settings can make the system function 15–20% more efficiently.
Controls also affect the washing systems for milk tanks and milking parlors. We can make an adjustment remotely, and the farmer tells us what effect it’s having.
CL: Farmers also get a lot of bang for their buck by repurposing water using free heaters, which is fairly standard in the agricultural world now.
How has the pandemic affected your business?
CL: It changed our internal precautionary measures. We make sure the trucks are cleaned and wiped down, and we keep the same drivers in the same trucks as much as possible. We have two teams, the installation team and the service team, who come in at 6:00 am and 7:00 am respectively, which keeps them segregated from each other. Our team members also always mask up when they go to customer locations. I am in the office full time, but we have limited staff in the office—just myself, an inventory specialist, and our accountant once a week. Honestly, we have been incredibly lucky.
You never had to shut down?
CL: We really couldn’t shut down. We have a 24/7 paging service, and people have emergencies regardless of the pandemic. Farmers couldn’t stop milking, which means our service team needed to be there to support them. If their cooling goes down for their milk, they need service immediately to ensure that milk temperature remains within the regulatory standards, or they will have to dump it.
We also service restaurants, food manufacturing plants, and convenience stores, which, for the most part, remained open as well. Some customers were maybe more cautious, and deferred doing some work, but service work was still imperative. If our commercial customers have a cooler or freezer go down, they too are at risk of losing costly product. We need to get there quickly.
Can you tell us how Efficiency Vermont and the EEN are helpful for the company?
CL: We often reach out to Efficiency Vermont for help calculating return on investments for customers, figuring out “How long before you pay off this energy-efficiency investment?”
Right now, we are working on doing another rack system for a store. We think, “What are ways we can build on the last work we did? How do we continue to improve this product for our customer?” Efficiency Vermont can be a sounding board for those questions. Efficiency Vermont is also invaluable for its financial support, having incentives for products and projects that helps us help our customers. We completed a large CO2 rack installation and had members of the Efficiency Vermont team supporting that project.
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