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On a lease, is it worth switching to energy-efficient lighting?

Is it worth switching to energy-efficient lighting when you’re on a lease?

5 questions to consider before you retrofit the lights in a leased space

It's a common question among B.C. business owners: should you spend money to improve the energy efficiency of the lights in your leased space?

We asked Sean McFetridge, BC Hydro's Business Energy Advisor on Vancouver Island, and Daniel Klemky, Energy & Environmental Manager of the Building Owners and Managers Association of British Columbia (BOMA BC), to share their expertise. They encourage you to consider these five questions before you retrofit the lights in a leased space:

What's the length of your lease?

If you don't know how long you'll be in a building, McFetridge recommends energy-efficiency upgrades with a short payback period.

"If you have screw-in halogen and incandescent lights in your space, switching to screw-in LEDs is straightforward and the cost savings are immediate," McFetridge says. "Another option is to add lighting controls, such as timers, dimmers and occupancy sensors to LEDs. In some cases, the payback period can be less than 12 months."

Is your unit individually metered?

"Some buildings, like malls or progressive office buildings, have a meter for each tenanted unit," notes Klemky. "This means that the tenant only pays for what they consume, and they have greater control over their consumption patterns."

"However, a lot of buildings don't have individually metered units," Klemky adds. "The tenant is asked to pay a flat rate fee each month (proportionate to the size of their unit) to help cover the cost of the building's overall energy consumption. This isn't ideal if you have a high-energy-consuming neighbour."

"When a unit is individually metered, the tenant has much more control over the amount of energy they consume and can reap the rewards of their conservation efforts."

If your unit is not individually metered, Klemky suggests talking to your landlord or property manager about your options. They may be willing to reduce your utility costs, or renegotiate the terms of your lease, if you invest in energy-efficient capital improvements.

Does the existing lighting system in a potential leased space meet your needs?

McFetridge encourages customers to bring a checklist with them when visiting potential locations. Are existing lights energy efficient? If not, how out of date are the lights and fixtures? Are they easy to replace? How long would an upgrade take?

"It's important to talk to the landlord or property manager about your business' lighting requirements," says McFetridge. "In some cases, they may be willing to work with you to make improvements, or they may be able to put you in contact with a trusted professional who can help you decide which upgrades are best suited for your business, aesthetic and budget."

Who's responsible for purchasing and replacing burnt-out bulbs?

"Generally the building manager is responsible for replacing any basic equipment, such as burnt-out light bulbs," says Klemky. "However, if you're in a unit that is individually metered, you may want to take more responsibility for the replacement process."

"For example, if a bulb burns out, the building manager may have a stock of CFL or incandescent bulbs they normally use to replace a burnout," explains Klemky. "This may not be ideal for a tenant who wants to keep their energy consumption as low as possible. The tenant may want to replace the burnt-out bulb with a longer-lasting, more energy-efficient LED. If this is the case, it's important for the tenant to work with the building manager to develop a maintenance plan that works for both parties."

Are lighting controls an option?

"When paired with energy-efficient lighting, timers and occupancy sensors are very effective energy management tools for business owners,” notes Klemky. “They’re relatively easy to install and when applied correctly, lighting controls can cut a business’ energy use by an additional 20 per cent."

"Controls like timers and motion sensors are also great for restaurants, hotels and strata properties, where common areas need lighting," McFetridge adds. "In areas with scattered activity, like hallways, corridors, boardrooms and restrooms, around-the-clock lighting may not be necessary. In settings like these, timers and occupancy sensors are a great way to keep energy costs down, while also meeting safety requirements."

Many of these improvements qualify for incentives through the Power Smart Express program; just ask your local Business Energy Advisor what's right for you.