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Kids drive Castle Fun Park's upgrade to LEDs

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At Castle Fun Park in Abbotsford, you can race go-karts, crash bumper cars and test your skills at three different mini-golf courses. You can also take your pick of batting cages, bowling or more than 200 different arcade games.

The 22-year-old, family-owned company emphasizes "clean, safe fun" for kids and the grownups who tag along.  The owners are also dedicated to energy efficiency.

Taking up about 10 acres of land, Castle Fun Park runs from 10 a.m. to midnight every day except Christmas. The owners must rely on quality lighting throughout  to ensure parents feel their kids are safe.

"Lighting is a critical part of what we do, to create ambience and provide safety," says Brandon Bahris, the park's director of operations. "And that certainly is not without its costs."

Those electricity costs helped drive Bahris to examine energy efficient options when he entered his role five years ago. But it wasn't all about saving money.

"You are continually nudged by your conscience to make ethical business decisions that support your personal directives, especially when you espouse that kids are paramount," he says. "We talk about how important children are and what we can do to provide less of a negative impact on their future; by providing an environment where they can have healthy, clean, safe fun with their families.

"You can put on a great show, but if you really don't care about the inner workings of your organization then it's all just a weak veneer."

CFL or LED?

Bahris started by replacing old T12 fluorescent fixtures with energy efficient T8s and introducing LED exit signs. But what could he do with the hundreds of incandescent bulbs across the site?

"Compact fluorescents offer a significant improvement in energy usage, but it was hard to get beyond some of the drawbacks," says Bahris, citing potential damage of lights by rambunctious kids as key to his decision to opt instead for LED lights.

"As an example,  on our three mini-golf courses it's not uncommon to see a few broken bulbs," he says. "For the cost, compact fluorescents are just as delicate as incandescents, but carry with them a significant increase in price: often between 10 and 20 dollars a lamp originally.

"Prematurely replacing these was taking away from the efficiencies we were trying to get."

Bahris liked the idea of using LEDs, but the costs were prohibitive. Then BC Hydro brought in new incentives for LEDs.

"It was the right thing to do for some time, and with BC Hydro's generous rebate program, it became an impossibility to disregard any further," he says.

1,500 bulbs later, $19,000 in annual savings

To date, Castle Fun Park has replaced about 1,500 incandescent and halogen lamps with LEDs.

The upgrade qualified for incentives of $48,000 (including a 10% additional incentive from LiveSmart BC). The park is saving an estimated $19,000 per year on its electricity bill, and since it falls in the Large General Service rate class, Bahris says the new conservation rate structure – which provides credits for decreased usage compared to a company's own three-year baseline – has added even more savings.

Castle Fun Park continues to grow - they've already added more games since the lighting upgrades and will continue to add new attractions. The LED savings have combined with the conservation rate structure to take the sting out of that growth.

"We're seeing very sizeable credits each month on our account," says Bahris. "It's proof that no matter how we spin it, this has been a very attractive incentive and has given us the assurance that we're headed in the right direction."

Singing the praises of LEDs

The park will also save on maintenance costs – LED lights last 25,000 to 50,000 hours, as compared to 800 to 2,000 hours for incandescents.

"The longevity is there, it's got a remarkable energy footprint, we have dimmability, there's no mercury, and the bulbs for the most part are very hardy – they're not impervious to damage but they stand up to abuse a great deal more than the mere touch that seems to break a compact fluorescent or an incandescent." says Bahris. "So everything that it offered was part and parcel of what we were looking for in this business."

Next up, parking lot lighting

Bahris says the park is now working on replacements for their parking lot lighting – replacing metal halide and high pressure sodium lamps with energy efficient options that will reduce energy usage by about 30%.

Again, he says, they'll make use of a Power Smart incentive. "It's by no means as aggressive a rebate as some of the others, but it's enough of a push to say, 'It's a great incentive to do the right thing – to work toward finishing what we started.'

"There's a lot that we're doing that the public will never be aware of, and there's still a lot behind the scenes that needs to be completed," says Bahris. "But when we get to a point to be able to say, 'We've done everything in our power to reduce our energy footprint, to do what we say we do, and to espouse some of the ethics that are important in preserving the next generation's best interests,' then I think we'll feel satisfied with what we've done."