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Steveston Hotel: diary of a business energy walkthrough

Dana Kutny doesn't normally need to know her MR16s from her cold cathode bulbs. But as the food and beverage manager at Richmond's historic Steveston Hotel, she does know the value of saving energy.

That's why she jumped at the chance to sign her workplace up for a Power Smart and LiveSmart BC energy walkthrough, offered free of charge to help BC Hydro's business customers find ways to cut energy costs.

Built in 1895, the two-floor, 25-room Steveston Hotel presents some unique energy challenges. For one, the building's four main divisions – the hotel itself, the café, the liquor store, and the Buck & Ear Pub – each have their own distinct lighting and heating needs. For another, the age of the building means wrangling with a mix of renovations and retrofits from different eras.

Fortunately, as Dana and the Power Smart representatives quickly discovered, these challenges also mean plenty of opportunities – ranging from easy, low-cost solutions like switching out light bulbs, to bigger projects that could mean even bigger savings. And thanks to the rebates offered under Power Smart's Product Incentive Program, those energy savings are closer than ever.

Lighting changes: keep it sparkling

Even though it was her idea to sign up, Dana was clearly a little unsure of herself as the walkthrough began.

"Some of this might go over my head," she warned Grant from Power Smart. "So just keep recommending the simple stuff!"

The liquor store and the adjacent café were first up.

"You've already put in CFLs in a number of places," explained Grant, pointing out the recessed ceiling lights furnished with reflector-style compact fluorescents. "But there are a number of other things that you notice as soon as you walk in. Like the exit signs and the halogen track lighting in the liquor store."

For the signs, the team suggested super-efficient LED bulbs, a simple screw-in replacement that uses 90% less electricity than the old-style incandescents.

"If there's only one thing that you're going to replace in the entire hotel, that's it," Grant said. "Basically, the lesson here is that the longer the lights are usually on, the quicker you'll see a payoff with a more efficient lighting product."

Over in the liquor store, the team pointed out the inefficient halogen track lighting that was being used to highlight the product shelving. To retain the attractive "sparkle" that MR16 halogens provide, they suggested two options. Super-efficient LEDs, while relatively expensive, would slash the required wattage from 50 watts to 6 watts. The more affordable option is halogen infrareds, or HIRs, which retain the warm colour of MR16s while using 33% less electricity. The best part is that going with either option is as simple as replacing the bulbs – no change to the fixture required.

"To tell the truth, the track lighting is looking dated and is probably going to get replaced sooner or later," Dana said. "It might be a good time to look at something better."

Lighting basics: From CFLs to T8s

Out with the old, ugly light

By the time they reached the café's kitchen, the team had already counted a large number of those older "T12" fluorescent tubes, the kind that don't get much love in schools and offices due to their flickering and unappealing light.

For these types of applications, the team suggested going with newer, slimmer "T8" tubes. In addition to being more efficient, they give you more attractive, more accurate colour rendering, making them an especially good option for food preparation. When coupled with new electronic ballasts, they also have virtually no flicker – something that the kitchen staff will certainly learn to appreciate.

The café washrooms were the final stop on the way up to the second-floor hotel rooms. There, Grant recommended installing occupancy sensors to automatically turn off the lights when the washrooms are empty.

"That's cool. That's a great idea," said Dana.

Save more by replacing bulbs now

Moving up to the rooms, the walkthrough team noticed that some of the lighting fixtures already had CFLs, while others did not. Dana explained that the hotel had been thinking about reducing their energy costs for quite a while, but they were waiting for old bulbs to burn out before making the switch.

"Do you think we're better off waiting for things to burn out, or switching to CFLs right away?" she asked.

"We always recommend getting that old technology out the door so that you can get the new stuff in and start saving right away," said Grant. "The great thing about CFLs is that they just save a tonne of power – 75% less power than incandescents."

Help with fridges, air conditioners

Lighting wasn't the only energy-saving opportunity the team found. Some room configurations included compact fridges; the Product Incentive Program includes a modest rebate on new ENERGY STAR® models should the old fridges need to be replaced. And for the air conditioners, occupancy sensors would guard against guests neglecting to turn off the units when they leave their rooms.

In the pub, an alternative to CFLs

Down in the recently renovated Buck & Ear Pub, the team faced a challenge: how to maintain the welcoming, intimate atmosphere created by traditional, glass-enclosed ceiling fixtures in a pub area that utilizes a dimmer control.

As regular CFLs are not designed to work with dimmers, the team considered dimmable CFLs, but felt that the current models would be too bulky for the fixtures.

Fortunately, Grant had another, lesser-known option to recommend.

"Not a lot of people have heard of cold cathode lights, since you can't just go down to the local hardware store to get them," he said. "They're usually available through commercial lighting suppliers."

Cold cathode lights work perfectly with a dimmer controls, are roughly the same size and shape as regular incandescent bulbs, and put out a comparably warm white light. While they are more expensive than the standard options, they can last upwards of 25,000 hours – three times longer than even long-lived CFLs.

Also in the pub are recessed halogens, which highlight the architectural detail along the walls.

The team decided that LEDs would probably not put out the right colour of light, so they opted for high-efficiency halogen infrareds.

By the way, your doors are leaking

On the way out of the pub, the team paused at one of the heavy double doors leading out onto the patio. In the room's low light, it was hard to miss the sunlight shining through the gap between the doors.

"Here is a good opportunity to talk about weatherstripping," said Grant. "You can see the large gap right here. In the wintertime, heat is just shooting out of that crack."

"We typically estimate that weatherstripping all of your doors can net a 4% reduction in your heating costs," Grant explained.

For the Steveston Hotel, that 4% could easily add up to well over a thousand dollars a year. The team also cited insulation of bare copper wires from the hotel's retrofitted gas boiler as a savings opportunity.

Dana did note that the hotel was using programmable digital thermostats in parts of the building to automatically turn down the heat at night. And most of the hotel rooms already had low-flow showerheads to help reduce hot water use.

After the walkthrough, the work begins

Armed with the walkthrough report from Power Smart representatives, the hotel's managers and owners will soon have everything they need to start mapping their energy future – from technology recommendations, to projected electricity savings, to a full breakdown of Power Smart's product incentives.

"I think it's definitely something that we can develop a budget for," Dana said. "You know, maybe we won't start seeing savings until a full season from now. But I think there's lots of potential."

About the Power Smart/LiveSmart BC walkthrough offer

Power Smart and the Province of British Columbia's LiveSmart BC Program provides free walkthroughs that include:

  •  A detailed report with suggestions customized to your business;
  • Estimates of what you can save with each upgrade;
  • Access to rebates on all kinds of products, including savings through Power Smart's Product Incentive Program;
  • Upon request, referral to registered Power Smart Alliance distributors and contractors to carry out any upgrade work for you.

The program has already helped nearly 2,000 businesses discover the power of conservation, saving enough energy annually to power almost 6,500 homes.

Lighting choices, from CFLs to T8s

The Power Smart incentive program includes offers for dozens of efficient lighting technologies. Here are just a few:

  • Compact fluorescent lights (CFLs) leave energy-greedy incandescent bulbs in the 20th Century. Sure, they cost a little more up front, but a single bulb can save you up to $30 over its lifespan.
  • LEDs cost significantly more than other options, but use up to 90% less energy. And since they can last 15 to 25 years, they mean a whole lot less maintenance.
  • Halogen infrareds (HIRs) offer the same attractive sparkle as old-fashioned halogen lights, but use a third less power.
  • Cold cathode fluorescent lights are perfect for screw-in replacement of incandescent bulbs wherever warm light and dimmability are needed.
  • T8s are fluorescent tubes done right, with improved efficiency and virtually no flicker.

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Source: BC Hydro News