SUNBURY, Pa. — Weis Markets  here has recognized half of its 20 in-house refrigeration technicians with cash rewards for achieving refrigerant-leak-reduction goals at its 163 stores during 2012.
The 10 technicians all individually exceeded the company’s leak-reduction goal — set as part of its participation in the Environmental Protection Agency’s GreenChill partnership — and each also attained a leak rate under 10%.
In addition, one technician, Scott Sutton, won first prize for having the lowest individual leak rate in the company; his name was inscribed on a permanent plaque that hangs publicly in Weis’ store development office and that will also display the names of future winners of the lowest leak rate award.
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The awards were presented at Weis headquarters earlier this month.
Weis exceeded its GreenChill leak-rate  goal in 2012, putting it among “the top few [food retailer] performers” in the program, said Charles Dinsmore, director of engineering for Weis. He declined to cite its 2012 leak rate or the amount paid to the technicians.
Weis’s overall leak rate has been “trending downward,” Dinsmore said, noting that “the lower you go the harder it is to make improvements.” He added that it will be “fun to watch” whether the incentive program will help drive still lower company leak rates in 2013.
The roughly 8,000 stores in the GreenChill program, which focuses on preventing emissions of supermarket refrigerant gases into the atmosphere, were able to limit their leaks to a cumulative average of 12.95% of total refrigerant charge in 2011. Industrywide, refrigerant leaks average 25% annually. The EPA requires retailers to repair any systems that have a 35% annual leak rate – a threshold that the agency has proposed lowering to 20%. Refrigerant gases contribute significantly to global warming when they enter the atmosphere and HFC refrigerants  (being phased out by the EPA) also deplete the ozone layer.
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Weis’s technician incentive program stemmed from the retailer’s involvement in the GreenChill program and the recognition the company has received for obtaining one-year GreenChill certification at several of its stores for meeting leak-rate and other criteria. (Weis currently has gold certification at two stores and silver at three.) “We’re fortunate to have received awards and publicity for emissions reductions and we wanted to reward the service technicians who are the ones who do the real work of stopping leaks,” said Dinsmore.
More technicians qualified for cash prizes than the company expected. “We exceeded our budget, but we’re happy about that.” Dinsmore said, adding that the incentive program “generated a buzz and excitement” among the technicians.
While Weis relies primarily on its in-house technicians to maintain its refrigeration systems, it occasionally hires outside contractors, Dinsmore noted.
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