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NMSU College of Engineering Helps Small Businesses With Energy Efficiency

LAS CRUCES, NM – A team from New Mexico State University (NMSU) has spent the past year providing technical assistance to two small businesses in Truth or Consequences, NM. Funded under a two-year grant from the Environmental Protection Agency, the work has focused on encouraging pollution prevention, and economic and energy efficient practices among rural hospitality-based businesses in the southern portion of the state.

Through the Engineering New Mexico Resource Network in the College of Engineering, Chris Campbell, senior program manager, and Jalal Rastegary, research scientist, along with Amirreza Barin, a computer sciences graduate student, worked with the R & C Sumthins Ice Cream Shop and Desert View Inn to assess and recommend pollution prevention and energy efficiency best practices.

“Our objective was to identify hospitality-based businesses that had an interest in participating in the project,” Rastegary says. “The technical assistance we are able to provide involves a non-regulatory assessment that results in tangible recommendations for cost-savings.”

The NMSU team met with Hans Townsend, owner and operator of the Desert View Inn, to evaluate the motel, which includes 11 rooms and was built in the 1950s. The NMSU team found that Townsend had already taken initial steps to adopt energy efficient and pollution prevention best practices including weatherization of windows and most doors, equipping lighting fixtures with LEDs or energy-saving fluorescent bulbs, recycling cardboard via on-site pick-up, and benefiting from other recycling offered at a city transfer station.

Enhancements to current practices included recommendations to replace appliances such as televisions, refrigerators and air conditioners with new Energy-star models. Additional suggestions included installing occupancy sensors or motion sensors for lights and appliances, and enhancing recycling of materials at the city transfer station.

The NMSU team also worked with Laurette Towne, owner of the R & C Sumthins Ice Cream Shop, which is located near downtown T or C in a 1930s building. Current energy best practices and disposal and recycling activities within the shop included weatherized windows and doors, unplugging of electrical devices when not in use, most lighting fixtures were equipped with CFLs or energy-saving fluorescent bulbs, cardboard is recycled weekly via on-site pick-up while other recyclables are disposed because recycling is only offered at a city transfer station.

Following an onsite assessment, the NMSU team recommended replacing all older freezer units with Energy-star replacements, removing a water softener unit to increase storage, scheduling regular trips to the city recycling station, continuing to unplug devices when not in use, and to use only CFL, LED or energy-saving fluorescent bulbs.

Despite their locations in older, non-efficient buildings, the NMSU team was impressed with both the Desert View Inn and R & C Sumthins Ice Cream Shop’s adoption of good energy best practices and commended the owners for their attempts at energy efficiency.

“Traditionally underserved portions of rural New Mexico provide us with wonderful opportunities to practice pollution prevention and energy efficiency especially in small businesses that can readily benefit from the resulting cost-savings,” Campbell says. “Recommendations for the two T or C businesses, if adopted, could result in over $28,000 in savings over the next three years. Since 1999, NMSU and our partners at EPA have been able to provide these services free-of-charge to all New Mexico communities.”

“Engineering New Mexico is committed to expanding the pollution prevention and economic energy efficiency services to businesses across the state. This upcoming year, we are focused on expanding our collaboration with the New Mexico Manufacturing Extension Partnership to provide a portfolio of business assistance services statewide,” says Patricia A. Sullivan, associate dean for outreach.