Gifford’s becomes more efficient, expanding after Efficiency Maine grant

Production supervisor Joe Ramsdell takes some quart-sized containers to the filling machine at the Gifford's Ice Cream plant in Skowhegan in 2009.
Production supervisor Joe Ramsdell takes some quart-sized containers to the filling machine at the Gifford's Ice Cream plant in Skowhegan in 2009. Buy Photo
Posted Sept. 04, 2012, at 9:31 a.m.

SKOWHEGAN, Maine — Gifford’s Ice Cream’s efforts to become more efficient has increased production thanks to new technology.

Gifford’s was awarded $33,821 by Efficiency Maine’s Business Program. The incentive was about 20 percent of a $172,875 project to upgrade Gifford’s production and cooling equipment.

“It allowed us to buy better equipment and make ice cream faster and longer and freeze it better at the same time while using less electricity,” said Gifford’s Maintenance Manager Carl Smith.

Four years ago, Gifford’s contacted Efficiency Maine to evaluate its existing cooling system, which was struggling to maintain desired temperatures.

“Gifford’s obviously takes a fair amount of energy to manufacture its ice cream,” said Paul Badeau, Efficiency Maine Director of Communications. “Through our program, they installed a computer-controlled freezer compressor to cool the ice cream that they make, as well as a variable frequency drive for their condensor fan for their operation.”

Efficiency Maine recommended installing a computerized control system, two new water-cooled freezer compressors to cool the ice cream faster and a variable frequency drive for the condenser fan in the plant’s engine room.

Gifford’s had previously been using condenser fans that always ran on full speed, whether they needed them to or not, and that wasted electricity, said Badeau.

“By installing these variable frequency drive condensers, it’s a lot more efficient operation process,” Badeau said.

Lindsay Gifford-Skilling told Efficiency Maine that she estimates the company is using 56,000 fewer kilowatt hours annually, resulting in about $8,500 savings on their electric bill each year. There should be a 4½-year return on investment, she said.

Being more efficient has allowed Gifford’s to expand, said Smith.

“Our volume goes up every year. Before, we could never do that. We didn’t have enough refrigeration capacity. We topped out,” said Smith. “Without the money [from Efficiency Maine], I would never have convinced the owners to go the extra step to get the super efficient machines like we did.”

Smith said the company recently stepped back production to four days a week because the peak summer season as passed. The summer production is five days per week. That may change next year.

“Starting next year, we expect to go a shift and a half in the summer,” said Smith. “We’re growing fast.”

Badeau said Efficiency Maine has helped many small- to mid-sized companies in Maine become more efficient.

“These kinds of incentives make a huge difference for a company,” said Badeau of Efficiency Maine’s investment to Gifford’s. “This kind of thing can push them to do this and have them realize significant savings year after year. It’s an important economic benefit for the state.”

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