Warehouse lighting upgrade could pay back costs in three years

A lighting upgrade at AFA Forest Products, Inc. has not only reduced electricity costs, but has also brightened up the warehouse space, making it safer for forklift operators.

Lighting upgrade saves energy, increases safety and yields quick return on investment

When some of the biggest lumber yards in the building industry are your customers, you need to move fast, and be accurate. Which is much easier when you work with good light.

AFA Forest Products, Inc. is a wholesale distributor of building materials from 14 Canadian locations to customers such as Rona, Timber Mart, Home Hardware, and Castle. When the manager of the Langley branch, Andy Dolan, visited a sister location in the U.S., he came back thinking about their warehouse lighting.

"They had large areas [of their warehouse] that were dormant, that had no lighting on," he says. "And then, when activated, it would come on immediately and it was a better-lit environment than we had. And on top of that, there were cost savings that went with it."

Occupancy sensors save energy, improve forklift operators' awareness

Dolan started looking into a lighting upgrade. AFA's Langley operation consists of three warehouses across seven acres, with indoor and outdoor storage areas. Much of the lighting was older 400W metal halide lamps, left switched on during all working hours.

"It took forever to warm up; it was a system where you'd put it on and you'd leave it on," says Dolan. "And they were very expensive, I think about $200 a bulb every time they went."

AFA used BC Hydro's Product Incentive Program to upgrade to energy-efficient high bay fluorescent lighting through most warehouse areas, while LED lighting replaced high pressure sodium and metal halide lighting outdoors. To really bump up the savings, occupancy sensors were installed throughout the system.

The project overall came in just under $40,000, with incentives covering $8,600. Now, the company is saving enough energy annually to light nearly five B.C. homes.

Payback improves as energy savings show on bottom line

“Our Hydro bills have been significantly cut, so this isn't hypotheticall," says Dolan. "And my expectation was that we would see a return on the investment in year four. Well, I think we're going to see it at the beginning of year three actually because of the savings.”

Dolan also credits the new lighting with improving safety, making dim areas brighter and, as occupancy sensors activate, helping forklift drivers stay alert to their surroundings. He says he has already recommended upgrades to other companies with similar operations.

“From a lighting quality standpoint, it was instantaneous as soon as these lights went in. There’ve been a lot of advantages from doing this project that we wouldn’t necessarily have realized when we made a decision. We’re very happy with it.”