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Strata resort in Tofino saves $1,050 a year with switch to LEDs

Image of Cox Bay Beach Resort in Tofino, B.C.
The staff at Tofino's Cox Bay Beach Resort tired of doing light bulb replacements each week. A switch to LEDs will pay off in immediate energy savings, plus a big decrease in maintenance costs.

Energy costs, frequent bulb replacements, prompt Cox Bay Beach Resort to upgrade

Multi-mile beaches, top-notch fish tacos and cozy resorts make Tofino one of B.C.'s most spectacular getaways, but its remote location adjacent to Pacific Rim National Park Reserve had become a bit of a catch-22 for Sarah Curtis, manager of Cox Bay Beach Resort.

"It's incredibly beautiful here, but the edge of Canada's west coast isn't an easy place to find low-cost replacements for halogen light bulbs," Curtis says with a smile.

Cox Bay Beach Resort, which opened in 2008, is a strata resort made up of 40 individually owned, condo-style guest units. Overseeing a team of 20, Curtis is responsible for owner and guest relations, filling vacancies, plus  the resort's physical upkeep, including housekeeping, grounds and maintenance.

"Before we switched to LEDs, I was ordering replacement bulbs for the pot lights and lamps in our guest suites on a weekly basis," says Curtis, who estimates the resort was replacing a whopping 15 to 25 burnt-out halogen bulbs a week. "Our light bulb supplier in Victoria was very responsive, but as you can imagine, we were paying a premium for the lights to be delivered to Tofino.

"I knew there had to be a better way to deal with our never-ending burn-outs."

Curtis reached out to the light bulb supplier to talk about her options: could she keep using her existing fixtures, but use a different light bulb? Or was she tied to halogen light bulbs forever?

Alliance member tip: let customer test the LEDs to see the difference

The bulb supplier — a member of BC Hydro's Power Smart Alliance — travelled to Tofino.

"After an initial consultation, the Alliance member suggested we replace the 100 halogens in our guest suites with screw-in, GU10 LEDs because they're dimmable. He also recommended that we replace the 40 halogens outside and above each unit's front door with multifaceted reflector (MR) LEDs because they're suited for directional lighting," recalls Curtis.

The Alliance member also helped Curtis apply for a Power Smart Express incentive. Power Smart Express is a replacement program that offers financial incentives to business customers to ease the cost of upgrading outdated lights, fixtures and equipment.

Curtis admits she was a bit hesitant about the upgrade. After all, LED bulbs cost so much more than halogens. Would a Power Smart incentive really lower the cost per bulb? And would the LEDs emit the same warm-toned hue that she and her guests were used to?

Sensing her concern, the Alliance member left a handful of the suggested LEDs for Curtis to try. Her maintenance staff promptly screwed the GU10 LEDs into the pot lights and lamps in one of the guest suites.

"It took just 15 minutes to install the test bulbs and the impact was immediate," says Curtis. "The quality of light was excellent. Not a single LED burnt out during our two-week trial. It was clear from the test that our replacement costs would go down."

In October 2014, Curtis and her team completed the resort's lighting upgrade. To save costs, Curtis' maintenance staff installed the new LEDs. Because the work was done unit by unit, during vacancies, it took about six months to install the new lights.

The lighting upgrade qualified for a $1,543 Power Smart Express incentive and Curtis expects to save resort owners $1,050 a year in energy costs, plus hundreds of dollars a year in replacement and maintenance costs. It just goes to show that you can be in a remote location, but have energy savings close at hand.