Carol Brzozowski 2016-08-03 10:47:33
Ever since he was enlisted by his father and grandfather to help out with their construction business’ electrical tasks, Jeff Dummermuth has been intrigued by saving energy. That includes keeping tabs on everything from the low-hanging fruit of lighting efficiencies to the larger efforts encompassed in an energy management system. Dummermuth now does so as Big Lots’ director of energy and engineering from its Columbus, Ohio, headquarters. The retail sector of energy focuses on lighting and comfort, Dummermuth says. “Lighting for our customers and employees involves a level of security as well as product visibility,” he says. “For the air conditioning and heating part of the business, it’s important to have comfort, or they won’t hang around to shop. Employees need a comfortable place to work as well.” There’s a lot of opportunity to maintain savings and keep the business competitive. He leaves no stone unturned. “The best way to save energy is to not have it on when you don’t need it. That’s what an energy management system does for you,” he says. In addition to his day job, Dummermuth helps his wife, Keriake, with a real estate management firm they own, serving 12 rental units. What He Does Day to Day Dummermuth oversees four HVAC technicians who provide support to the 10,000-plus HVAC units in Big Lot’s 1,500 locations. His department also supervises electric devices such as lighting, feeds to POS equipment, and receptacles. Dummermuth monitors the energy management systems and the actions needed to keep the energy savings flowing. “You just can’t ‘set it and forget it,’” points out Dummermuth. “You have to have a team on an ongoing basis capable of monitoring and fixing a device to make sure it’s working or looking at exceptions to make sure whatever device it controls, gets fixed.” Dummermuth also oversees new initiatives such as implementing refrigeration in the stores that expanded from 100 stores in 2013, to 1,300 stores today. Dummermuth engages in energy procurement through the support of two consultants. “We buy energy on the open market to reduce our annual energy costs,” he says. “That saves a considerable amount of money each year.” What Led Him to This Line of Work Dummermuth had his sights set on electrical engineering. He provided drawings and work support for the electrical subcontracting aspect of the construction business operated by his father and grandfather. He earned two associates degrees from Kent State University in electrical and electronic engineering technology, general studies, and business administration. Following college, Dummermuth worked for 23 years at American Electric Power, the first nine years in the engineering group and the balance in marketing positions. At one point, Dummermuth served as a national accounts executive, calling on multiple national accounts to help them save electric energy through technology the company supported, such as energy management systems, high-efficient lighting, and high-efficient HVAC systems. One of those national accounts was Consolidated Stores (Big Lots’ former name), which offered Dummermuth a position in 1999 as energy manager as the company grew through acquisitions. Dummermuth went to work to save the company money by saving energy through initiatives such as replacing T-12 lights for existing T-8s. He was promoted to director and given responsibility for the energy and engineering group. Dummermuth has leveraged his past electric utility work contacts in using them to support and validate various technologies and ideas as well as collaborating with colleagues and partners. “We’ve continued to find new lighting technologies to lower energy and experiment with different types of HVAC conditions,” he says. “We selected SIT-Controls/Siemens for our EMS partner. Because we lease space, we do not have a particular partnership on HVAC equipment. We tend to use Trane on new sites that we are taking over and Hussmann for our refrigeration needs.” What He Likes Best About His Work While there’s consistency in terms of the energy matters, such as HVAC or electric issues that require Dummermuth’s attention to help stores solve issues, every day presents something different. “There’s no boredom on the job,” he says. His Biggest Challenge “Making the right decisions to implement technology that doesn’t change at a pace where what you’ve just invested in is no longer of value is one challenge,” says Dummermuth. “Another is finding a good fit with various partners to meet our expectations relative to maintaining the HVAC equipment and electric devices for the stores, and to keep all of that operating seamlessly behind the scenes so our store associates can focus on taking care of the customers.” BE Carol Brzozowski specializes in topics related to energy and technology.
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