Steel manufacturer gets 60% ROI with industrial lighting retrofit

Helton Industries, factory view
Steel fabricator Helton Industries, which specializes in the manufacture of overhead doors, uses four warehouses at its Abbotsford-based facility. With aging, inefficient lighting that was producing a gloomy atmosphere, something had to be done.

'Don't hesitate,' says manager after upgrades yield $30,000 a year in savings

Like many companies, Helton Industries grew its physical operations as it grew its business. Over 30 years, the steel fabricator and manufacturer of overhead doors acquired or built four warehouses, all part of its Abbotsford-based facility.

"For our division, we had five different [BC Hydro] meters," says Dave Vensel, Helton's logistics warehouse manager. "It was pretty complex to figure out which lights were connected to which meter as all the warehouses are connected in one way or another."

The aging lighting was becoming a problem, with old metal halide lights getting dimmer and work areas growing increasingly gloomy. Vensel had begun to plan for a lighting retrofit, when he took an APICS tour of a similar project at Deere Hitachi.

"That got the ball rolling," he says. He worked with members of the Power Smart Alliance, contractors who are registered with BC Hydro and knowledgeable about energy efficiency. "Once we found there was a potential payback of 60% on our investment, it was a no-brainer."

$63,000 incentive for energy efficiency through Self-Serve Incentive Program

Helton's lighting project replaced more than 800 lights, including metal halides, 4- and 8-foot T12 fluorescents, and T8 fluorescents with inefficient magnetic ballasts. High-bay T5 fluorescents were used in production areas, with electronic ballast T8s elsewhere.

The project also included occupancy sensors, installed in meeting rooms, offices, and bathrooms as well as various areas on the production floor. "Nobody has to remember to turn the lights out," says Vensel. "They just go off and it's money saved."

The retrofit required four separate applications to BC Hydro's Self-serve Incentive Program (SIP), for a total incentive of $63,000. "We did every light we could," says Vensel. "We just figured it was such a good program with BC Hydro we didn't want to miss anything; get it done and do it right."

And with a 2.2-year payback, Vensel says the project was easy to pitch to Helton's owners. The company saved 398,000 kWh of electricity in the first year after it changed out the lights, for annual cost savings of approximately $30,000 compared to the baseline year, despite a 20% increase in sales. "It's cash in your pocket after you hit your payback," he says.

Easy maintenance, better light

Vensel says the retrofit yielded excellent results that go beyond energy savings.

"The morale in the plant is better; it was so dim and gloomy before. Now, you walk out there and it's bright and beautiful, and the guys are able to read their documentation and processes better."

With ceilings that are 20 feet and higher, Vensel says the new lighting brought a welcome change in maintenance routines. Before, replacing bulbs was a weekly task. Now, "We anticipate these bulbs will last around 5 years, and then we'll do a blitz across the plant," he says.

"Working with BC Hydro was excellent," comments Vensel. "The steps to follow for SIP were simple, and if I had issues or concerns our [Power Smart] Alliance contacts were right there. It was great teamwork."

Helton Industries has been working to green its operations, achieving a 91% diversion of waste from landfill, and now, looking at ways to reduce natural gas usage. Now that the lighting is efficient, Vensel has words of advice for others in his shoes.

"Don't hesitate," he says. "If you're running metal halides, T12s, or T8s with magnetic ballasts, you're losing out on those bottom-end dollars. We knew it would be a nice improvement and save some cash, but the outcome is truly over the top."