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Fireplace manufacturer enjoys multiple benefits from lighting upgrade

Image of Pacific Energy's manufacturing facility with their new 3000 Watt fiber laser
Pacific Energy's manufacturing facility in Duncan will save up to $25,000 a year in lighting costs following upgrades carried out with the help of BC Hydro's Self-Serve Incentive program. This photo shows a worker at the facility's new 3,000-Watt fiber laser.

Lighting savings estimated at 250,000 kilowatt-hours a year, for a two-year payback

Life's a little brighter these days for the people at Pacific Energy, a 35-year-old company that manufactures fireplaces and other heating appliances.

Since changing lighting systems in its 80,000-square-foot plant in 2012, the Duncan, B.C.-based business has seen cost and energy savings, as well as other benefits.

Company president Paul Erickson says Pacific Energy decided to update its lighting because its older mercury vapour lights were reaching the end of their useful life and required ongoing maintenance.

"Another impetus was that we have an electrical service here that is 600 volt by 600 amp," he says. "We're pretty much at capacity for that. We were looking for ways to cut load from the service."

While getting quotes for new lighting, a supplier told them about BC Hydro's Self-serve Incentive Program for industrial customers. "The timing was good on a couple of fronts," Erickson says.

Induction versus fluorescent

The company initially considered fluorescent T5 lighting, which is economical and efficient, but would have required reconfiguring the system. "When you're 24 feet above ground working on fixtures, it's very time-consuming and expensive," Erickson says.

Instead, the company opted for 90 250-watt induction-type high-bay fixtures to replace its 400-watt mercury vapor fixtures. Although more expensive than T5s, induction lighting offered easier installation, as it could use the same placements and wiring as the previous system.

Erickson says another advantage of induction lighting is that the ballasts last longer and the light stays constant throughout the life of the system, unlike fluorescents, which lose output as they age. In office areas, the company retained fluorescents, upgrading 105 fixtures to more efficient T5 lamps.

Most of the installation was completed during the company's two-week summer shutdown, which meant little disruption. "It went very smoothly," Erickson says.

Two-year payback equals great investment

Total savings from the new system have been calculated at 256,000 kilowatt-hours per year. "If we average that at eight cents a kilowatt hour, that saving translates to payback for us of about two years," Erickson says.

Buying and installing the new lighting cost about $80,000, and BC Hydro provided an incentive of $38,579. "After that, there's $20-$25,000 a year in savings going forward," he says.

"Even without Hydro's assistance on this it would have been a four-year payback, so it still makes sense," Erickson says. "With a 50 per cent contribution to the capital costs, it would be difficult to find a more attractive investment."

Benefits go beyond savings: comfort & safety

"The comment back from the floor is that the lighting is better than it was," Erickson says. "We had challenges with low-level lighting in some areas before and we were adding more fixtures on an ad hoc basis."

He says the lighting is also more even than it used to be, creating a safer environment. "When you don't have proper lighting in the corners, and nooks and crannies on the floor, it leads to safety issues. It's made it a nicer working environment because it is brighter and easier to see, for less overall cost."

Erickson says the company is now looking for ways to save energy on a 200-kilowatt furnace used for porcelain-enamel-coated steel products, and they always consider energy efficiency when replacing electric motors.

"We do pay the premium and get energy-efficient or lower-draw motors. It's a little more money, but if you do the arithmetic, the payback is there in a couple of years," he says.