Casino cuts maintenance cost with long-lasting LEDs

Grand Villa Casino

The 119 sparkly lights on the tower of the Grand Villa Casino in Burnaby are a local landmark, an eye-catching part of its identity and marketing efforts. But when it came time to replace burned out lamps, they created an annual maintenance ordeal.

"People suggested that I just hang someone over the edge of the tower," chuckles Jeff Lee, the energy operations manager for Gateway Casinos, owner of Grand Villa. "But you can't do that. To do maintenance properly, you need a swing stage [hanging platform]. That costs $5,000 — before you even replace a light."

The hassle, and the cost, led Lee to investigate an upgrade to energy efficient lighting. Now the Casino is saving money — and Lee doesn't expect to replace a lamp for years.

LED lighting looks better, lasts five times longer

The signature lights on the Casino's exterior facade and tower used to be metal halide lamps. With their prominent positioning, Lee would hear from anyone who drove past whenever a lamp burned out.

Worse, as the lamps aged, their colour would change. "When you're looking at five lights that were replaced at different times, they wouldn't all look the same," says Lee. "Everybody was critiquing, 'Can't you guys get your light bulbs straight?'"

The fix was LED lamps, with custom-built inserts to suit the Casino's existing fixtures. The LEDs have a lifespan of 50,000 hours, about five times longer than the metal halides, giving them a life of 7-10 years at the Casino. And although LEDs dim slightly over time, the sparkly lights will maintain their colour and brightness far more consistently than the old lights did.

$23,000 per year on maintenance, plus energy savings too

Lee says renting a swing stage and a boom lift (for replacing lower lights), hiring an electrician, paying to block a city street, and buying new lamps gave an annual maintenance cost of $23,000 per year for his old lighting — assuming no lamps went out in between scheduled replacements. Now, he'll only call in the special equipment once every few years, saving significant maintenance time and hard costs.

The Casino is saving energy too. The display lights were one component of a comprehensive retrofit of the exterior lighting at the Casino, which is now saving 175,000 kWh of energy per year — enough to power 16 homes. The retrofit cost approximately $100,000 and qualified for a Power Smart incentive, providing a payback of just 1.75 years.

Daylighting adds more savings

After retrofitting the exterior lights, Lee turned his attention indoors. The Grand Villa's lobby has a 60 foot high ceiling — another location where replacing burned out lamps was a hassle, especially for a business that never shuts down.

Lee upgraded the interior lighting to more energy efficient options. And, he added some zero-cost energy to the mix: sunlight.

"I added a full control module, so during the day the lights go off and it's almost a seamless transfer. That's extended the 50,000 hour life expectancy all the way up to 75,000, easily," he says.

"I'm a big believer in daylight harvesting. If we can make do with outside light, let's use it. We have the windows right there." Lee has added photocells at numerous locations to reduce electric lighting progressively — and save energy costs — as daylight is available.

Lee works at several other Gateway casinos, and he's seeking green options at them all. For example, Gateway now boasts four electric vehicle charging stations available for the use of guests; since March 2013 it's estimated they have helped cut carbon emissions by 844 kg and save 99 gallons of gasoline.

"We're trying to go beyond the conventional retrofit, to really optimize savings," he says. "We just use so much electricity and nothing ever turns off. So we want to operate as efficiently as possible. We care about the environment, and the people around us."