T5/T8 Lighting, Energy Rebate Combo Provides Big Payoff for Catalog Distributor

Ken Dowdy had been planning a major relamping project at Lab Safety Supply (Janesville, Wisconsin) for weeks. But, in his mind, he felt that the project didn’t make sense. With newer lighting technology becoming available at lower energy costs, he thought the time might be right to switch out all of the fixtures and lamps at the 320,000 square foot distribution center in Janesville, Wisconsin.

That was three years ago.

Today, Ken is perched high above the thousands of pallet locations, switching out about 300 high pressure sodium (HPS) 450 watt lamps, fixtures and ballasts with brand new T5 fluorescent lamps, fixtures, electronic ballasts and motion sensors.


What prompted this change?

Actually, several factors contributed to the decision to make this type of investment. Ken, who is the chief electrician at this facility, became aware of an energy rebate program that was being offered by the State of Wisconsin co-op group called Focus on Energy. After speaking with a co-op representative, Ken put some rough numbers together and presented them to Brad Lyght, Lab Safety’s Facility Manager.

“After looking at the preliminary numbers, the decision to make the switch appeared to be a no-brainer,” said Brad. “Focus On Energy was on a real push to convert large industry power users to make equipment and lighting changes to reduce electricity usage and reduce their environmental impact. They came in with very aggressive rebates which drastically offset the cost of first phase of the project.”

Short Payback

Brad called in his primary lighting supplier, Acuity Brands, to confirm his calculations. Together, they decided to create a two-phase project plan to replace all of the warehouse and distribution lighting. The first phase would be to replace all of the HPS fixtures and lamps in the pallet rack area with high-bay fluorescent 4-lamp 234 watt T5 fixtures. Motion sensors would be installed to lower the energy usage even further. This phase projected an astonishing payback period of only 3 months! Since the Focus On Energy program had an aggressive timeline, work for this area needed to be started quickly.

Phase II included the replacement of 440 metal halide fixtures and lamps in two mezzanine areas with low-bay fluorescent 4-lamp T8 fixtures. Motion sensors for this area are not needed. Although the rebate from Focus On Energy was not as aggressive for replacing the metal halide fixtures and lamps, the payback period was calculated at about 1 ½ years. This phase of the project would need to be completed by the end of 2009 in order to collect the Focus On Energy rebate funding.

Let There Be Brighter Light

One of the objectives of the installation was to make sure that daily business operations were not interrupted by the lighting retrofit project. With thousands of shipments going out the door every day, Ken had to make sure that he was not interfering with forklift drivers and order pickers. He strategically worked around busy areas, sometimes working weekends when he felt that there was no practical way to set up his “cherry picker” without being disruptive.

“Initially, the warehouse workers were in a hurry for me to move on to other areas, as they felt I was a distraction,” said Ken. “But when they began to see the brightness of the newly retrofitted areas, they changed their tune. I was asked to stay as long as I liked, knowing that the end result was a great benefit for them. Workers from other areas of the warehouse began asking me, ‘When can you redo the lighting in my area?’ I became a very popular guy.”

What’s Next?

Since the Lab Safety Janesville facility was built in the late 1980s, all lighting areas are being reviewed. The office area currently uses indirect lighting featuring 250 watt and 350 watt metal halide lamps. Brad would like to swap those out for 2’ x 2’ fluorescent fixtures with T8 lamps. Preliminary calculations for this area are being reviewed and will be discussed with the Focus On Energy representatives. If aggressive rebates are offered again next year, Brad may jump at the chance to save additional energy costs and help reduce his facility’s environmental impact.

It’s a good thing that Ken is not afraid of heights.

Check Out Those Utility Rebate Programs

There are many benefits to changing out old, inefficient lights with new, more efficient technology. These benefits may include cost savings, energy savings, enhanced lighting quality and reduced maintenance costs. The ROI payback for a light retrofit project can be reduced by taking advantage of the many utility rebate programs. Some examples of regional utilities offering rebate programs include:

  • Duke Energy – Smart $aver Incentive Program (Midwest & Carolinas)
  • State of Wisconsin - Focus On Energy
  • Northwestern Energy - E+ Commercial Lighting Rebate Program (Upper Midwest & Northwest)
  • Avista – Commercial Lighting Incentive Program (Washington, Idaho, Oregon)

Check with your local utility to see if they if they sponsor a rebate program for any type of commercial lighting retrofit program. Run your own calculations and you may be surprised how fast the payback opportunity is.

Still not sure where to start? Grainger’s network of experienced professionals can show you ways to save up to 70% in lighting energy costs, increase the quality of light and reduce labor costs for maintenance. Grainger can help provide comprehensive design, planning and implementation services around your lighting project. This includes feasibility studies, detailed proposals (including ROI payback schedules) and professional installation. From start to finish, Grainger can help you get your lighting project done.

For more information, contact your Grainger representative or your local branch.

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