Banks Hardwoods Inc., headquartered in White Pigeon, MI, with additional facilities in Newberry, and Menomonie, WI, is a supplier of sustainable, quality hardwood lumber. The company ships about 65 million board feet annually from its 28 drying kilns to customers making a variety of products, including moulding and furniture, throughout the Midwest. And, like most small to medium-size businesses, they are always on the hunt for energy efficiency and cost-effectiveness. Addressing energy waste has proved to be a viable way for them to cut costs without cutting jobs.

“Energy use is our largest variable expense after employee wages. We needed to be more efficient with our variable costs so we wouldn’t be negatively affected during the down economy,” explains Jim Clarke, the company’s chief financial officer. “Becoming more energy efficient also better aligns with our other sustainable business practices, like utilizing wind energy credits and selecting sustainable timber for our product lines.”

Since 2010, Banks Hardwoods has implemented three major energy efficiency projects through the Energy Optimization Commercial and Industrial program offered by Midwest Energy Cooperative. Twelve electricity providers throughout Michigan offer Energy Optimization (EO) rebate programs for residents, businesses and farms (visit to see all participating utilities).

Thanks to the Energy Optimization program, Banks Hardwoods now saves 256,000 kilowatt hours (kWh) or $24,000 in energy costs every year!

Project Details
Banks Hardwoods chose projects that would have the biggest impact on their expenses. First, they replaced 18 high-bay HID (high intensity discharge) light fixtures with 6-lamp T8 fluorescent fixtures. Next, their kiln fan controls were upgraded with variable speed drives. This simple step not only proved to be more energy efficient, but provided a higher quality wood-drying process. They also outfitted the combustion draft fans on one of their wood-fired boilers with variable speed drives to allow the fans to run at a rate consistent with demand. In other words, fans no longer run full-speed all of the time.

“The energy savings from these projects have substantially exceeded our expectations,” notes Clarke. “We are saving 25 to 30 percent on energy costs associated with the project work areas, so we are very pleased.”

Looking Ahead
Now that Banks Hardwoods has seen a significant return on investment from its energy-saving efforts, they plan to keep going, and three more projects are underway. They will add variable speed drives to seven more wood-drying kilns and another boiler, and are experimenting with replacing outdoor HID lights with light emitting diode (LED) fixtures. Occupancy sensors installed throughout the plant will automatically shut off lights if no one is in a particular area.

The company also intends to improve the energy efficiency of their two satellite facilities, most likely starting with lighting retrofits at the Newberry plant, which is served by Cloverland Electric Cooperative. Another project they are considering is adding variable controls to their dust collection system in the mill room, which would allow the system to slow down based on the equipment that is operating at any given time.

Claim Your Reward
Find out how saving energy can benefit your business. There are programs and rebates with your name on them. Call 877-296-4319 or visit to discover energy-saving options that are ideal for your business, farm or home.

Co-op Member Spotlight
Company: Banks Hardwoods Inc.

Energy-Saving Actions:

  • Replaced high-bay high intensity discharge (HID) light fixtures with T8 fluorescents
  • Installed variable frequency drives (VFDs) on four boiler fan motors
  • Added VFDs on circulation fan motors for six kilns Rebate

Amount: $17,160


  • Stopped wasting 256,000 kWh of electricity per year
  • Saving $24,000 in energy costs per year