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Businesses can benefit from light rebate program

Those involved in the united Methodist Church’s lighting project include, from left, Chris Braun, James Larsen, Ted M. Sims, Cy Field with Ace Electric, Al Johnson and Josh Mason with the city of Detroit Lakes. BRIAN BASHAM/RECORD

Josh Mason would like to see more Detroit Lakes businesses and organizations follow the lead of United Methodist Church.

Mason, an energy services specialist with the city, wants everyone to know about the city’s commercial rebate programs for lighting retrofits and new construction lighting.

United Methodist took advantage of those rebates to retrofit its church lighting.

Of course, it helped that Al Johnson is on the church board of trustees. He spent 10 years with the city as a master electrician and taught construction electricity for 21 years at what is now M State in Detroit Lakes. He was aware of the city rebates and pushed for the upgrade.

United Methodist retrofitted 58 4-flourescent bulb-two ballast fixtures into two-bulb-1 ballast fixtures, while increasing the light coverage of the area, Johnson said.

The church changed 18 60-watt incandescent lamps to 13-watt compact fluorescents, without losing light output.

The church also changed six incandescent lights to the new LED lighting, giving 20-year life spans to the lights in its “exit” signs.

“We wanted to go green, conserve energy and lower our electrical costs,” Johnson said. The church will save $1,718 per year, and with a $752 rebate from the city, that gives the project a payback period of less than three years.

The project started last May, after Johnson introduced the idea to the board of trustees.

“We did a walk-through to see the existing light fixtures and lamps, then the city did an energy comparison chart. We walked through with the contractors and they submitted a bid for materials and labor, then the board of trustees discussed the bids,” he said.

The church helped keep costs low by allowing the contractor, Ace Electric and Lighting, to do the work during off hours and between other jobs, Johnson said.

“We do free lighting audits to any commercial business,” said Mason.

The city also offers rebates on energy-efficient motors for fans, pumps, air compressors, dryers and other equipment.

The city has worked with a number of businesses, including Lakeshirts, AmericInn, Wausau and Ecumen, both on retrofits and new construction projects.

“Architects can integrate what we offer in rebates into their projects, we strongly encourage that,” said Mason.

The city utilities department is in turn reimbursed for the rebates by Missouri River Energy Systems, its major energy supplier, Mason said.

A lot of the lighting retrofits involve changing out the large T-12 fluorescent bulb fixtures for the smaller T-8 fluorescents.

The T-12 bulbs are about the circumference of a half-dollar. The T-8s are about the circumference of a quarter dollar, Johnson said.

Federal law bans the manufacture of T-12 bulbs after July 2012.

There are still a lot of T-12 bulbs around, but once the T-8s become “standard equipment,” they are no longer eligible for the city rebate, Mason said.

“The T-12 fluorescents are being phased out,” he said. “This year we’re fine, but next year there are no guarantees.”

That means businesses should act soon to take advantage of the lighting rebates, and to tap into the city’s know-how in other areas — such as what color fluorescent best fits each area.

A 5,000-calvin fluorescent bulb, for example,  would make meat look bad in a butcher shop or grocery store.

Other colors are better suited for warehouse lighting than retail space.

The city also offers residential rebates, but not for lighting.

The residential rebates apply to Energy Star appliances, heating, cooling and ventilation, water heaters and off-peak heating, and the city has an appliance turn-in program as well.

Mason can be reached at 218-846-7133.