With a warehouse lighting upgrade, the difference is night and day

Aesthetics can be just as important in a warehouse space as they are in retail. That's why Swordfern Management Ltd., saw an energy-efficient lighting upgrade as a way to deliver a more comfortable space for tenants.

Swordfern manages various properties, mostly in Richmond and on Annacis Island. Two of their properties are twin multi-tenant, small-bay warehouse buildings on Annacis Island.

The buildings were constructed in the 1990s and had been originally outfitted with metal halide high-bay lighting. Recently, the company decided that it was timefor an upgrade.

Incentives and energy savings give a 1.5-year payback

Swordfern heard about Power Smart incentives for lighting upgrades from an electrical contractor. The kicker was that the contractor also took Swordfern representatives to see a newly constructed warehouse where he had recently installed T5 fluorescent lighting.

"It was quite impressive, seeing the quality of the light [from the T5s]," says Rob McCullough, Swordfern's senior property manager. "It's more diffuse; it doesn't shine straight down like the metal halides, so it better illuminates the space. Also, it doesn't lose intensity over time like metal halides."

Swordfern property manager Jaime Hudson undertook the T5 upgrades to the twin warehouses straight away. The project cost $1,144 and will save about $436 in electricity per year. With a BC Hydro incentive of $560 and an additional $56 (10 per cent) from LiveSmart BC, the project's payback is less than one and a half years. The company is thrilled with the change.

"I expect we will have fewer replacement issues," McCullough says. "These are multi-bulb fixtures, so even if one bulb on a fixture burns out, no one will have to go right out and rent a lift to get up there and change them."

The tenants are happy too.

"It can be hard at first to convince tenants to upgrade, because they don't want the hassle of making the changes or the upfront costs," says McCullough. "But once they see the energy savings, it's a pretty easy sell."

To help their tenants make the switch, Swordfern absorbed the initial expense and then amortized it over time. McCullough says, "The only negative thing we've had people say is 'why didn't you do this sooner?'"

LED exit signs an obvious choice

Swordfern also upgraded all exit signs to LED models.

"The savings in potential labour to replace the exit sign bulbs makes it worthwhile right there," says McCullough. "And it's great to never have to worry about a burnt out exit sign, or someone not seeing it when they need it."

Swordfern has only completed lighting upgrades in one other building so far, but they have been making ad hoc upgrades in most of their buildings. For example, anytime an incandescent bulb burns out, they replace it with a screw-in LED instead.

Better lighting attracts tenants

McCullough says their next upgrades will likely focus on units that are vacant, in part because the electricity is in their name, but also because they've found it's a great marketing tool to attract new tenants.

McCullough says, "You take someone into a standard warehouse with metal halide or high pressure sodium lights, then look at same kind of place with these new T5 fixtures, and it's amazing the difference, aesthetically — and also audibly.

"In warehouses with metal halides, the ballasts start to buzz after awhile, but that's gone with the fluorescents. Between metal halides and T5s, the difference is night and day."