Chroma Happy Being Green

Dec 1 2004

By investing in energy efficiency when it built its new facility in Rockingham last year, Chroma Technology is now saving money as well as protecting the environment.

"Chroma takes great pride in being a 'Green' company," said facilities manager Rick Holloway. "And our efforts in building our new facility are not only paying off in dollars and cents but in cleaner water, cleaner air, and knowing that we have reduced our overall impact on the environment. Although it did cost a little extra up front, the long-term payback is significant."

Chroma, an employee-owned company that designs and makes high-tech precision optical filters and coatings for microscopes, was founded in Brattleboro in 1991. When it started work on its new, 28,000-square-foot Rockingham building, it teamed up with Efficiency Vermont.
Efficiency Vermont is a non-profit agency that handles energy efficiency projects for most of Vermont's power companies. Funded by a small percentage of ratepayer's bills, the agency helps Vermont businesses identify energy-savings opportunities and reduce their energy costs. Sometimes, as it did with Chroma, it provides financial incentives to offset higher costs.

Efficiency Vermont worked closely with Chroma on its new heating and cooling systems, its lighting, the compressed air that runs most of Chroma's equipment, and several other things.

State-of-the-art upgrades included:

  • High-efficiency heating and cooling.
  • Premium-efficiency electric motors throughout the facility. "All fans and pumps are run by electric motors, and not all electric motors are created the same," said Gabe Arnold, Efficiency Vermont's technical coordinator. "Some are more efficient; you have to pay more for them, and Chroma did that."
  • Heat recovery wheels on all the ventilation systems to recover lost heat and cooling from exhaust air and return it to the ventilation system.
  • An energy-efficient lighting system that uses 40% less energy than the maximum allowed by Vermont's Act 250 energy guidelines.
  • A high-efficiency compressed air system.

"All told, these upgrades will save the building 475,000 kilowatt-hours of electricity and 6,000 gallons of propane per year," Arnold said. "This works out to $49,000 in electrical savings annually, and $10,000 in propane savings annually. The cost to Chroma of all of these upgrades was $130,000. Efficiency Vermont provided $32,000 to offset this cost." At current rates, this investment by Chroma will pay for itself in 1.7 years, Arnold said. "The electricity and propane savings do more than save Chroma money on utility bills," Arnold said. "They also help the environment by reducing the greenhouse gases and pollutants put into the air by power and refining plants."

The estimated annual greenhouse gas and pollutant savings will be:

  • Carbon dioxide (CO2) - 75.1 tons
  • Nitrogen Oxide (NO) - 90.7 lbs
  • Carbon Monoxide (CO) - 11.9 lbs
  • Sulfur Dioxide (SO2) - 1.1 lbs
  • Nitrous Oxide (N20) - 5.4 lbs
  • Volatile Organic Compounds (VOC) - 3 lbs

"These are significant numbers," Arnold said.