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Relocate or retrofit: what's the right decision for your business?

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Sky-high lighting costs prompt a family business to move to a new location

Jas Bains knows the value of a dollar. That's why she used to cringe every time the BC Hydro bill arrived for the Family Dollar Store she co-owns in Kamloops.

Bains knew her electricity costs were sky-high because of the store's outdated lights and lighting fixtures. To make matters worse, the store's halogen bulbs were burning out on a weekly basis and Bains had to climb a wobbly extension ladder to replace the burn-outs.

Tired of high electricity bills and non-stop maintenance, she consulted customers, friends, relatives and neighbours. Should she stay and spend the money to upgrade the store's lighting, or should she relocate?

Then a competitor set up shop close by. Suddenly, Bains had a decision to make: close the store, or move to a smaller location to remain competitive.

Meeting with Power Smart Alliance expert proves pivotal

For Bains, walking away from the family business was not an option, and she was determined to find a new, smaller location with energy-efficient lighting.

In October 2013, after visiting potential locations with her daughter Hamreet, she decided on a 3,000-square-foot store just 10 blocks from her old store. "The location was great, and the size and layout of the store were perfect, but we noticed the store had the exact same lights and fixtures as our old location," says Hamreet.

The landlord must have sensed the Bains' disappointment. He agreed to defer rent for three months if the pair wanted to renovate the store to meet their franchise agreement requirements and retrofit the lights.

"Honestly, we knew next to nothing about construction or energy-efficient lighting," admits Hamreet. "We talked to a lot of different contractors and lighting companies. It was tiring and confusing because the proposals and cost estimates we received were so different."

They expressed their frustration to their landlord. That's when he put them in touch with Allan Crawford, a Kamloops local whose company is a member of the Power Smart Alliance.

Mom, daughter surprised that lighting upgrade qualified for a Power Smart rebate

Crawford talked to the Bains at length about their requirements: they wanted contemporary-looking, energy-efficient lighting that required little maintenance. The lighting layout in the new store also needed to be reconfigured to suit a retail environment.

Crawford submitted his project proposal, which, to the Bains' surprise and delight, included a Power Smart rebate. "None of the other proposals we reviewed included a Power Smart rebate," Hamreet recalls.

In early January 2014 the store's renovations were almost done, so Crawford and his team got to work. They installed 135 four-foot T8 lamps using electronic ballasts. Electronic ballasts operate at roughly 1,000 times the frequency magnetic ballasts, which means you get the same amount of light for a lot less electricity.

The lighting installation took just three days and the upgrade qualified the store for a $1,562 Power Smart rebate. The rebate, combined with the projected annual cost savings of $1,613.52 per year, gives the store an estimated payback period of just nine months.

Even better, not a single light bulb has had to be replaced since January, which, Hamreet says happily, means her mom's extension ladder is right where it should be — collecting dust in the maintenance closet.