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Oak Bay Dental Clinic cleans up on energy savings

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'One two-month period I paid more than $700 for my energy bill'

Going to the dentist just got a whole lot cooler.

At least it has at the Oak Bay Dental Clinic, where recent energy efficiency upgrades include new LED and fluorescent lighting that is helping the clinic stay cooler on warm days.

The Oak Bay Dental Clinic was one of the finalists in the 2011 Energy Fix contest, and although they didn't win the big $35,000 energy makeover, BC Hydro's Innovation Technology Group has been working with them to reduce some of their biggest energy draws.

Dr. Adam Pite is a health care practitioner and the owner of the clinic. He says soon after he bought the clinic in 2010, he realized how some of his energy habits, together with the clinic's energy intensive fixtures, were adding up to big energy bills.

"It was winter time when I first took over the clinic and in one two-month period I paid more than $700 for the energy bill," he recalls. "I thought it was a terrible expense to have to pay when making a few changes would easily reduce it. And I'm a young guy, so I knew there would be a lot of years of paying bills like that going forward."

Step-by-step savings

Not long after receiving that first bill, Dr. Pite put plastic over his single-pane windows and started to implement energy-saving practices in the clinic, such as turning the computers and other electronics off at night and turning down the heat.

He heard about the Energy Fix contest in an email from Power Smart, as well as from some of the clinic's patients who work for BC Hydro. The Oak Bay Dental Clinic was selected as one of three contest finalists, and was chosen to try out some leading edge technologies.

Innovative upgrades

Most of the clinic's lighting has been replaced with LEDs and some new fluorescents.

"In summer it used to get really hot," says Pite. "I'd have to leave the doors open. With these [lighting] changes it's still warm, but not hot."

The lighting upgrade included some strategic LED placements, such as illuminating the area where the instruments sit.

"Most of the instruments are stainless steel and with the LEDs they look polished and new. The lighting gives the place a feeling of being modern and professional. Everything looks better."

Smart lighting, outlets add to savings

There are also occupancy sensors on all the lighting at Oak Bay dental. And there's a dimming sensor that detects the levels of external light and adjusts the brightness of the lights accordingly.

The electrical outlets have been fitted with wireless modlets that eliminate phantom loads — the power that things draw even when they are turned off. The modlets can be controlled remotely and can keep track of usage patterns for equipment at a particular outlet, enabling them to calculate when to shut down.

That leaves one more big upgrade, and it's already in progress. Oak Bay Dental is making efficiency modifications to the compressor that runs many of the clinic's tools.

Even without the compressor upgrade, savings are adding up.

"It depends on the season, but in the winter we're saving at least several hundred dollars over a two-month period, and that's before the modlets were installed, and before the changes to the compressor, says Pite.

Customers can view energy usage

Monitor lets staff and public know costs in real time

Clinic staff and patients are enjoying the green shift at the clinic, thanks to a power monitoring station in the reception area. It monitors electricity use and costs in real time.

Because Pite bought the clinic from a retiring dentist, some of the patients have been going into the clinic for 15 years. And they've noticed the difference.

"They'll ask, 'Did you change something in here?' 'What's going on?' which makes an easy transition to talk about what we're up to," says Pite.

Energy efficiency has become a hot topic at the clinic.

"People love the conversations, especially about how to save money. And patients often tell us about the changes they've made to their homes."

The next step for the clinic is to install an LED screen in the waiting area that gives information about energy efficiency and tips for patients on how to save energy.