Business owners are constantly searching for the best way to invest back into their company and get the best “bang for the buck.” Over the years my family has made many investments in Robert M. Sides Family Music Center, in our facilities, technology, marketing, and employees. We’ve grown from selling pianos out of my grandfather’s house to having four locations, selling and servicing a wide variety of instruments, and offering music instruction, and even hosting events in our Williamsport location auditorium. Recently we made another worthy investment—an upgrade of our lighting system in our Williamsport facility, a 52,000 square-foot building that includes several showrooms, a 150-seat recital hall, corporate offices, service center, and instructional rooms.
After remodeling our State College store in 2008 and Wilkes-Barre store in 2009, we knew the Williamsport location, remodeled in 1986, was outdated and dark due to the heavy reliance on incandescent track lighting fixtures and T12 fluorescent lamps. Additionally, with the arrival of electricity rate deregulation across the state we knew we’d be facing increasing costs in the years to come. We’d gotten estimates in recent years, but the cost of retrofitting such a large building were high and the job of fitting that into our budget daunting. A meeting with Dave Abernathy of Energy Controls Group, put it, literally, in a new light. He was able to put numbers to the project, showing project costs, but also concrete financial and energy savings on the back end, including significant savings through rebates offered by PP&L.
Significant Savings Equals Cash-Flow Positive Investment
PP&L rebates were something we had not been aware of, but it makes sense that even though they sell energy, the utility company requires efficiency to simply keep pace with the ever-growing number of users and usage rates. Therefore, they will pay you back if you show considerable energy savings through updating your lighting fixtures and lamps. This was the break we needed to pull off such a large project all at once.
Four weeks of installation were completed in March of 2011, and before the project was finished, we had already noticed a 25 percent drop in cost on the electric bill for that month. Between the rebates and excellent five-year financing package through Woodlands Bank, we’re saving around $1,000 a month on electricity and we’ve quickly determined the project as a cash-flow-positive investment from year one.
EGC managed to not only forecast our overall savings through the upgrades we planned to make, but saved us money throughout the project as well. Rather than say, “Let’s do everything,” for example, they suggested using signs in lower traffic areas rather than installing a motion sensor. We changed the fixtures and lamps, but we’ve also changed the culture and usage.
Positive Customer and Employee Comments
Much of the focus of our remodel was centered on the customer experience, but it quickly became apparent that 20,000 square feet of our space is office and repair space. Whether you are working with a computer and paperwork each day or rebuilding and repairing pianos, violins or speakers, the older T12 lamps were not bright enough, poorly positioned, and produced the “pulse” often visible in older four-foot fixtures. It’s difficult to quantify eye strain and fatigue for those working in these areas, but a brief comparison of the before and after shows the improvement in the work areas in terms of both lumens and color reproduction. ECG tested fixtures and lamps both on site with our staff and in their lighting design software to confirm we were getting the best result. Now we hear as many positive comments from our employees as we do from our regular customers.
Determining where to invest your limited resources is a tough job even in the best of times. However, a project such as this is rewarding on so many levels when it’s done well. Once we knew we could do it all in about 30 days while lowering utility costs, increasing sales, promoting sustainability, and improving productivity and the customer experience, it was truly a no-brainer.
By the Numbers
- Achieved an increase in coverage and lumens of 25 to 50 percent in our shops, offices, and retail floor while reducing our electricity usage and maintenance costs
- Reduced our fixtures from over 225 incandescent track lighting lamps to about 130 LED lamps, which are now available in warm color spectrum (about 3300K in wide and spot coverage) and last for 50,000 hours
- Achieved proper color rendering of wood finishes by using warm spectrum T8 efficient fluorescent tubes on the floor so wood doesn’t get washed out by white light (about 5000K).
- Peter Sides
President, Robert M. Sides Family Music Centers