Before New Horizons Baking Co. installed a heat exchanger in its Norwalk, OH, bakery, Mike Porter, vice-president of sales administration and a big proponent of the company’s sustainability effort, went to work on obtaining government assistance that reduced the initial investment substantially. Mr. Porter filed the paperwork with the state of Ohio for a grant through the federal stimulus program two years ago.

“Because we were able to include this heat recovery system with the overall project we were doing with our bakery, it made our application a little bit more intriguing to the government,” Mr. Porter said. “It awarded us extra points to our overall grant process.” The sustainability effort also garnered bonus points with its major food service and retail customers, many of which are leading the charge on sustainability as another way to improve plant efficiencies, according to Mr. Porter.

With natural gas prices much lower today than they were several years ago, the payback for heat recovery can be a little longer than most companies want — especially if a system is being retrofitted into an existing bakery, acknowledged Scott Houtz, president of Air Management Technologies, Lewisburg, PA. For new installations, the ROI is much quicker, especially if the bakery doesn’t need to install a boiler.

At New Horizons Baking’s Norwalk facility, adding heat recovery to its new oven made sense in the long run. “Everybody wants a 2-year payback, but people today are still pretty comfortable with a 4-year payback,” explained John Widman, New Horizons’ senior vice-president of operations. “The government wants us to save energy. In the long run, we should all save our resources. There is just a lot of energy that’s being wasted, and it doesn’t have to be the case at all.”