With waterproof LEDs, B.C.'s oldest company saves $9,400 a year

Image of Russell Watts, Oppenheimer Group
Russell Watts, facilities coordinator with the Oppenheimer Group, says decreasing costs for LEDs changed the business case on a lighting upgrade at the company's Coquitlam facility.

Oppenheimer Group finds big savings in cold storage lighting

With the arrival of waterproof LED technology, the business case for lighting upgrades at The Oppenheimer Group, B.C.'s oldest company, changed dramatically. The company stands to save $9,400 a year in energy costs thanks to those upgrades.

Launched in 1858 to bring food to gold miners' camps, the company known as "Oppy" today is a food distributor that imports more than 100 varieties of fresh fruit and vegetables from more than 25 countries worldwide.

Oppy has distribution centres throughout North and South America, including in Coquitlam, where the company's headquarters share space with about 34,000 square feet of warehouse operations.

Original plan to replace metal halide lighting shelved due to poor ROI

A few years ago, Oppy's facilities coordinator at the time investigated opportunities for replacing the aging metal halide lamps in the Coquitlam facilities' six coolers and freezer.

The metal halides were inefficient and a maintenance burden, requiring a rented lift for annual lamp replacements as they lost light quality. They also released heat into the cold storage spaces, adding to the electrical load, and their bulky size had been accommodated by cutting a hole into the roof of the cold storage rooms, reducing insulation value at those points.

However, despite a sustainability mandate and energy conservation goals, the lighting project didn't make sense. The best alternative for lighting was T-5 fluorescents, but the payback period for T-5s wasn't adequate to give the project a green light.

But things change — especially in the constantly-evolving world of industrial lighting.

Image of the interior of Oppenheimer Foods warehouse facility
Food distributor Oppenheimer Group had been considering replacing metal halide lighting at its Coquitlam facility for years. But the investment didn't look to pay off, at least until the price of waterproof LEDs dropped significantly.

Waterproof LED luminaires offer superior efficiency, lower maintenance

"LED is becoming more reasonable every day," says Russell Watts, Oppy's current facilities coordinator. "Over the past few years the price has dropped by half. It's only going to continue to become more cost-effective each year because it certainly is very energy efficient and low-maintenance lighting."

With the help of a Business Energy Advisor and a member of the Power Smart Alliance, the company took another look at options for efficient industrial lighting in the fall of 2014. Oppy worked with Power Smart Alliance member, Franco De Biasio from Novatec Lighting Inc. This time, there was an option for 8-foot LED luminaires that are waterproof and so efficient that a 70W LED luminaire could replace a 450W metal halide lamp.

Since the LEDs are only about one inch in height they need little space, allowing the holes in the top of the cold storage rooms to be re-insulated. They cast off little heat, reducing refrigeration costs, and they come with a 10-year warranty.

"In the coolers, they've noticed a huge difference," says Watts. "It used to be very dim; it's very bright in there now. It's much easier for the warehouse staff to pick orders because they can see the SKUs on the shelf, so we see better efficiency and an increased safety factor that came out of this project."

In the warehouse area, the company replaced 43 450W metal halides with the same number of 130W pendant-style LED lamps, giving energy savings that significantly outstripped the T-5 fluorescents it considered a few years ago. "We've severely cut our energy cost in the warehouse, which will pay off over time," says Watts. "We provided the same level of lighting, if not better, and we've reduced our maintenance costs too."

Oppy's lighting retrofit is projected to save 102,411 kWh of energy per year, an energy bill reduction of about $9,400. With a $21,388 incentive from the Self-serve Incentive Program, the payback period was less than four years. Watts says if the calculation includes cost-savings on maintenance, heat loss in the coolers, and reduced refrigeration load, the payback period is closer to three years.

Power Smart Alliance, Business Energy Advisors provide the support

Watts says he'd encourage any company that hasn't recently investigated options for efficient lighting to check whether they're missing out on savings.

"Our BC Hydro Business Energy Advisor along with Power Smart Alliance member, Franco De Biasio from Novatec Lighting Inc., supported us through the entire project to make sure it became a success," he says. "I always felt like I knew what was going on, and they helped us get our rebate in a timely manner.

"It's obviously a very worthwhile exercise to find out who your Business Energy Advisor is and have them look at your situation and see what's available to you. It's not like you have to spend hours self-researching the options; these people know their products and they make it easy for the customer.

"Don't make assumptions about what a project might cost. If you don't ask the question, you're never going to know what you could save."