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In Whistler, catering company goes on a quest for brighter light

Image of Grant and Hilary Cousar of Whislter Fine Foods
Grant and Hilary Cousar of Whistler Cooks Catering enjoy the improved light in the kitchen and prep area. A move from T12s to T8s, with electronic ballasts, did the trick.

You may not realize how dark your environment is until you brighten it up

Until recently, T12 fluorescent lamps lined the ceiling of Whistler Cooks Catering. After years of putting up with fading light in his kitchen and prep area, Grant Cousar, the company's owner, decided it was time for a change.

A few years earlier, Cousar had taken part in a Green Table Network waste and energy audit. He was well aware that his T12s (using magnetic ballasts) were inefficient and out-dated, but with the 2010 Winter Olympics right around the corner, he wasn't in a position to change his lights.

Fast-forward a few years, and the time was right. Cousar was coming off of a busy holiday season, and his neighbour – a member of the BC Hydro Alliance of Energy Professionals – had a window of availability. The pair scheduled a walkthrough of Cousar's facility, and prioritized the issues, among them: dealing with fading light in the kitchen and food prep area, as well as lighting in the staff room and Cousar's office.

"I learned a ton on that walkthrough," says Cousar.

Incentive and annual energy savings by-products of brighter light

That day, the Alliance member explained how a T12 fluorescent lamp with magnetic ballasts loses about 30% of its lumen output [the ability to produce light] over its median lifetime. A T8 or T5 lamp with electronic ballasts loses about 5% by comparison. What that means, he said, is that a T8 won't slowly get dim and dingy as the lamp ages – it'll continue to produce steady light until the day it gives out completely.

Two other things Cousar learned that day:

  • With the higher frequency of electronic ballasts, the humming and flickering some people perceive with fluorescent lights is virtually gone
  • Electronic ballasts generate less heat than magnetic ballasts, which could lower his air conditioning costs in summer months.

After the walkthrough, the pair crunched the numbers.

By switching from T12s using magnetic ballasts to T8s using electronic ballasts Cousar would save about 4,500 kilowatt-hours a year, the equivalent of about $420. He also qualified for a  $490 incentive, which would help ease some of the up-front costs of the upgrade.

"When I started this process, all I wanted was brighter light in the kitchen and prep area," says Cousar, "I didn't think replacing the T12s would save me $420 a year on my BC Hydro bill. The incentive amount was a surprise too. It was a big help – icing on the cake, so to speak."