Windows manufacturer gets cheerier lighting, saves big

Nina Winham

You could say that Starline Windows' business is all about helping people see clearly. (After all, they manufacture custom vinyl and aluminum windows.) But even they were surprised at the impact a lighting retrofit had on their workspace.

"It's a very bright cheery atmosphere in there now, and it went from being a cave," says Pat Murphy of Starline. "You just don't notice how dark it is until you brighten it up."

Starline has been in business for 40 years. The company has more than 500 employees based in manufacturing facilities located across B.C. The lighting retrofit was carried out at their three facilities in Langley.

"The cost of energy is never going down," says Murphy. "So it makes a lot of sense to tackle the sort of things that you consider fixed costs, but they're not necessarily." Starline's retrofit saves the company an estimated 600,000 kWh of energy a year – a reduction of 40-50% on their costs for lighting at the various locations (and enough electricity to power 54 B.C. homes).

"It's something that people don't really look at," says Murphy. "They turn the lights on and it's always been that way they don't really think about it. They're running around their plants finding ways to save money, and this is a really obvious one, but no one seems to know about it or think about it."

The retrofit included replacing 8-foot slimline T12 fluorescent tubes and metal halide lamps with energy efficient T8 lamps. For task lighting, HID high bays were replaced with T5 high output (T5HO) high bay fixtures and lamps.

And Starline went a step further.

"Normally you'd just do a ballast and lamp swap and put the old reflectors back up. With that, you'd get the energy efficiency and you'll get some improvement in lighting levels," says Murphy. "But we actually improved the luminaires by replacing the original white painted reflectors with highly reflective specular aluminum directional reflectors. Not only did we save a ton on energy, we increased our light levels in the general plant by 40% and in the task lighting areas by 50-60%."

Working on the retrofit during the economic downturn, Starline used its own crews to craft new reflectors. "We have a sheet metal shop here, so we purchased some high end specular aluminum lighting sheets, and fabricated custom reflectors," says Murphy. "There's actually much less glare from the same fixtures now even though they are substantially brighter. Product quality is very important for us and having extra light in our plants can only help with that. We do painting work here, and assembly work. Now, it's so much easier for everyone to see what they're doing. Like I said, you don't realize how dark it is until you make improvements."

Murphy expects maintenance costs will drop too, since the T5HO lamps are guaranteed for five years and have a life expectancy of about 13 years. "They were a little bit more expensive, but they should last 4-5 times longer," he says. "They also maintain their light output; they don't get dimmer over time."

Starline's retrofit was supported with a Power Smart project incentive that brought the payback down from eight years to just a bit more than two years.

"We used the program and it worked out really well for us," says Murphy. "BC Hydro was able to accommodate us in doing the work ourselves and their incentive program paid for quite a bit of the work and shortened the payback. But even just doing a retrofit all by yourself, the energy savings are there, so the payback is there.

"There's a large push for environmental sustainability in the company," he says. "We've made a lot of moves to make ourselves greener. That was part of the reason for this, to become more efficient with our lighting. We want to be as green as we can possibly be."

Source: BC Hydro News