Local contractor touting fixture upgrades to cut customers’ electric bills
Tuesday, March 5, 2013 By David Rookhuyzen, Capital Journal
As Capital Motors began renovating its building, owner Ken Steiner’s electrical contractor came to him with an idea to potentially save the business hundreds of dollars a month – changing his light bulbs.
Of course Nystrom Electrical Contracting Inc.’s recommendation was for a full lighting retrofit. But at the heart of the suggestion was switching to newer T8 fluorescent bulbs that draw less power than older models.
Told how it would save the company money, Steiner agreed to upgrade.
The retrofit was completed on Monday, and although the saving are yet to come, Steiner said he can already see the value in the new lighting in terms of quality.
“It’s a night and day difference (from the old lights),” he said.
Capital Motors is the latest in a string of businesses to order such upgrades in order to cut down electric bills, be more environmentally conscious and have better quality light.
Nystrom has retrofitted roughly 100 businesses in Pierre and Fort Pierre in the past three years, taking advantage of a rebate program through Missouri River Energy Services, a non-profit organization of local power grids in four states. The rebate program can cover up to 20 percent of upgrade costs.
Nystrom has done so many upgrades the company was recently named as the first recipient of the Excellence in Energy Efficiency Award, presented by Missouri River Energy Services at a Pierre City Commission meeting in February.
Randy Schumacher, retrofit shop manager at Nystrom Electric and a retail store owner, has made selling the upgrades his mission. After learning about the rebates and realizing that few local businesses were taking advantage of them, he began approaching customers about switching to the newer lights.
“There are not many opportunities where you could cut your overhead this substantially and have someone pay for 20 percent of the cost,” he said.
His pitch is simple: a retrofit will cut hundreds of dollars off electricity bills and will pay for itself.
Upgrades at Dollar Plus, which he owns, dropped the store’s average monthly electrical bill by more than $300 dollars, or 33 percent. Similar upgrades at Slumberland Furniture Store have dropped that store’s average bill by 41 percent, or more than $500, he said.
Both projects paid for themselves in savings in less than two years, he said.
Megan Bowen, treasurer at Slumberland, said the main reason the store decided to upgrade its roughly 450 lights was to be more energy-conscious, but she didn’t think the electric bill would basically be cut in half.
“It was above what we expected by far,” Bowen said.
Nystrom’s long list of clients for the upgrades includes the Oahe YMCA, Lynn’s Dakotamart, the Hughes County Court House, Dollar Plus, Slumberland Furniture and the Capital Journal.
All the lighting upgrades across the two communities have reduced energy spent on lighting by 500,000 kilowatts – or the equivalent of 8,300 lamps using 60-watt bulbs during peak energy hours.
Schumacher said in addition to pure savings, the upgrades are also more environmentally friendly. A typical business with 50 light fixtures will reduce carbon dioxide emission by 24,324 pounds of carbon dioxide – the equivalent of two cars – and five tons of coal a year.
As an added bonus, aside from the financial or environmental aspects, the quality of light is even better. It’s a whiter light and causes less strain on the eyes, he said.
“We’re in a world of cutting corners – here you can cut a corner and enhance your lighting,” Schumacher said.
Kurt Hauser, the energy services technical coordinator for Missouri River Energy Services, said the newer lights also produce less heat. This puts less stress on air conditioners and takes a major load off the system in the peak summer hours.
Reducing the load on a power grid is always preferable to building more expensive power plants, he said.
Hauser praised Nystrom for making the upgrades a focus of its business, and said Schumacher’s success comes from taking it upon himself to pitch the work to customers. Businesses are starting to readily agree to the retrofits, but usually only after someone has explained the savings opportunities, he said.
“Somebody has to spur them,” Hauser said.
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