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Cinde W. Ingram

Green pays off for Northeast retailer

Green pays off for Northeast retailer

Customers find energy efficient products in practice when they visit Palace Aids Fireplace, Pool & Spa Center in Torrington, Conn.

"We sell wood, gas and pellet stoves, and it certainly makes sense to practice what you preach and heat with that," President Mark Berns said. "As a sales tool, it's real nice that you're telling somebody they can heat their home and save on the use of the oil, and they literally see us doing the same thing. They're seeing the stove burn and feeling the heat off the stove."

The retailer began heating with renewable wood pellets three years ago. When it bought a building and relocated across the street, the empty oil tank was never filled. Showroom stoves burn to heat the first floor retail establishment. On each of the building's other three levels, stoves provide heat for employees. The building also relies on a well rather than city-provided water.

Taking its eco-friendly position a step further last year, Palace Aids responded to Northeast Utilities' invitation to perform an energy audit. After conducting an analysis, the retailer accepted the electrical company's offer to help pay for the labor and cost of replacing its lighting fixtures with energy efficient ones.

"It's a great plan, we took advantage of it and I think we've saved 28 percent of our electrical use," Berns said.

Berns' staff has seen no difference in the amount of light supplied. Meanwhile, their customers are feeling good about buying products that are energy efficient. "They're not spending money on foreign oil; they're spending money on renewable U.S. energy," he said.

Growth in the popularity of outdoor rooms started before the Sept. 11 attacks, but the lifestyle shift toward staying at home and investing in the home continues. Increased expense of oil last winter was another factor spurring on the green movement.

"When we first started, I think we came before the 'green' wave," Berns said.

While the construction industry set parameters to identify green buildings, the pool, spa and casual furniture industries are still developing guidelines. "I think the average person is just trying to be as energy cautious as possible," Berns said.

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