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Quesnel laundromat gets lighter and brighter, saves $700 a year

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Super Suds didn't win the Energy Fix contest, but still got their makeover

The co-owners of the Super Suds laundromat in Quesnel are in the business of helping people get their whites white and their colours bright. But until recently, aging, dim, and energy-intensive fluorescent lights cast everything – the laundry and the space – in dull shades of grey.

That's why Vera Bishop and Carol Pitkin entered BC Hydro's Energy Fix contest last spring.

"We knew we qualified," says Bishop. "We use a lot of energy. It's the nature of the business – hot water, AC units, lighting, and other electrical appliances. It was also dark in the space, and we'd heard the new lighting was a lot brighter."

The Energy Fix contest invited small businesses across B.C., to demonstrate the many ways they can save money on energy. The first prize was a $35,000 energy makeover, and Super Suds was named one of the three finalists.

Then it was up to an online vote to declare the winner.

"When they called to tell us we didn't win, they said they liked our application and they would see what they could do," says Bishop. "But we were so disappointed and we didn't really think anything more would come of it."

Bishop was surprised when a few weeks later, they got a message from BC Hydro asking if they wanted to have a lighting audit. "And the next thing we know, a local lighting supplier called to say they were going to proceed with a lighting makeover."

'Blown away by the difference'

For the lighting makeover, local electrical contractor James & Sons Electric Ltd. changed all their old lighting to thin, bright, energy-efficient T8s.

"We were blown away by the difference," says Pitkin. "It's brighter, the place looks cleaner and bigger, and the best part is the difference it has made for the staff – they love it."

Bishop adds, "The girl who operates the press is pretty sure she had SAD [seasonal affective disorder] working all the time under the bad lighting, but now she has no strain and feels happy.

"We actually phoned the woman from BC Hydro right away and said, 'It's so bright, we need sunglasses.'"

On top of how great everything looks, Pitkin and Bishop are excited about the energy savings. "We hear it will save up to $700 in a year," says Bishop, "So that's substantial.

It's better for the earth to be energy smart – and it's cost effective."

A bonus makeover helps spread the word

Pitkin and Bishop were pleasantly surprised that even though they didn't place first in the contest, they received a fabulous lighting makeover.

BC Hydro's Janis Tong, creator of the Energy Fix contest, explains how they got so lucky, "All the entries to the contest were really strong, and even though Super Suds didn't win, we wanted to do something to help the runners up."

BC Hydro recognized that helping Super Suds with a lighting upgrade would establish a relationship with the business community in the Quesnel region, and create a local demonstration project to promote the value of energy upgrades.

Pitkin and Bishop both serve on the board of the Quesnel Downtown Association, and between them they own two businesses and an office space in addition to the laundromat, making them good ambassadors for energy efficiency.

To help spread the word, Pitkin and Bishop gave a presentation to their local Rotary club about their lighting upgrade and what it entailed. They also hosted an energy efficiency social event at Super Suds in September, and have plans to make a presentation to their Business Improvement Area (BIA).

In addition, after seeing such great results at Super Suds, Pitkin and Bishop invested in a lighting upgrade for one of their retail spaces.

Tong sums it up, "They are great advocates, with high interest in energy efficiency, so we wanted to help them reach their conservation goals."