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Nanaimo strata saves big on lighting, spreads the word

Image of Edgewater condos in Nanaimo, B.C.
A contractor's recommendation and the good work of residents combined to earn major lighting savings in common areas, including underground parking areas, at Nanaimo's Edgewater condo complex.

Investment in lighting for hallways, stairwells, and parking cuts electricity bills in half

Now that Roger Clarke has helped a cluster of Nanaimo condos and townhouses save big on lighting, he's on a new mission.

"There's a huge market, even where we live, where there are townhouses all over the waterfront, and they have underground parking," says Clark on a Zoom call along with the Edgewater strata's treasurer Randy Shalagan. "If we're saving money like this and saving energy, others should know about it. Our payback on this project was about 18 months."

And that, suggests Clarke, makes such upgrades the proverbial no-brainer. This Team Power Smart member just can't see why all strata complexes in B.C. don't do the same thing.

Of course, Clarke recognizes that not all complexes are like his. He says it's remarkably easy for the Edgewater strata council to get things done, because residents are active and help out in a variety of ways. He and Shalagan pitched in to replace screw-in bulbs in common area hallways and stairwells, although the strata left the more involved parking area lighting upgrades to certified professionals.

"In my experience, there are some stratas where people don't get involved," said Clarke. "But we have a real good group of residents, who have helped upgrade park benches along our waterfront and created a kayak storage room for our strata. It really makes a difference."

Image of the parking garage lighting at Edgewater condos in Nanaimo, B.C.
Inefficient lighting in the strata complex's parking area was replaced and helped the strata pay back the investment in a quick 18 months.

Inefficient parking area 'heating' issue led to lighting upgrade

Clarke says he and Shalagan had noticed heat coming off the lights in Edgewater's underground parking areas, and he figured that was anything but an efficient use of energy. And he had it confirmed by a lighting contractor preparing a report for the strata complex.

"As it happens, I was in the parking garage when the lighting expert who produced the report was doing some minor repair work," he recalls. "I asked him about the report and his words to me were: 'I can't understand why your council didn't authorize a change, as the savings would be significant. You're basically heating this parking garage with your lighting."

Clarke is not a member of the strata council, although his wife Pam is. And the strata's treasurer Shalagan started to look into a way to use some leftover maintenance funds in the strata's budget to get upgrades rolling. The result was enough money to replace not just the outdated parking lighting, but bulbs in most of the shared hallways and stairwells.

It didn't take long for the savings to add up. Between 2019 and 2020, the strata spent $7,600 on lighting upgrades, but has since saved over $8,000 on their energy bills as a direct result.

"These lights are always on, 24/7, so the savings add up fast," said Shalagan.

In January-February of 2019, the strata's BC Hydro bill was $2,544. A year later, it was $2,114 for the same period, and this past January-February, the bill came in at $1,390.

Where strata councils can look for advice, rebates

Stratas may be eligible for BC Hydro's Business Energy Savings Incentives (BESI) for common area upgrades. The best place to start for stratas is to call BC Hydro (604 522 4713) in the Lower Mainland, or 1 866 522 4713 elsewhere in B.C.

CleanBC Better Homes is B.C.'s online hub for homeowners and businesses to access information, rebates and support to reduce energy use and greenhouse gas emissions in new and existing homes and buildings. Better Homes energy coaches are available as a free service, and you can call them toll free at 1 844 881 9790.

Team members can be advocates for energy efficiency

Team Power Smart members are encouraged to get active on strata councils, at strata AGMs, or in helping offer day-to-day solutions. Edgewater's lighting upgrades proved that there are efficiencies and savings available that a strata might not realize.

Here are a few other things you might get your strata to consider this spring:

Changing hang-drying restrictions: Some stratas ban the hang-drying of laundry on patios and decks, but that's a lost opportunity for savings in drying laundry.

Changing window-covering guidelines: Many stratas restrict blinds to a single type or style, but that can prevent a homeowner from opting for insulating blinds – which improve home comfort and cut down on heating and cooling costs – that aren't the approved design.

Monitoring heating in common areas: It's not unusual for hallways, lobbies, fitness rooms and other common areas of stratas to be overheated. Talk to your building manager or strata if that's happening in your building. It can pay off in savings and comfort for all.

Considering adding electric car charging stations: New CleanBC rebates for the planning of charging infrastructure, plus the purchase and installation of Level 2 chargers, are now available. Planning for the addition of chargers in strata parking can meet the needs of current residents and also adds to the marketability of existing homes.