Tumwater - At Tumwater City Hall, work is under way to replace hundreds of lights with more energy efficient bulbs that will save the city about $500 a month on its power bill.
Using a large chunk of a $135,000 energy block grant and about $40,000 of its own funds, city workers are replacing two-thirds of the lighting that a study found isn’t meeting state energy standards, said Jeff Vrabel, city facilities manager.
Olympia-based Betschart Electric Company Inc., began the month-long project this week, taking out about 250 fluorescent lights and replacing them with high-efficiency bulbs, though fewer are needed because the replacements are brighter, Vrabel said. He expects the changes will show a 15 percent decrease for the city’s electric bill – about $6,000 in savings over the course of a year.
Other updates include:
• Occupancy sensors that will automatically turn lights on and off.
• “Day lighting” feature in the lobby that will detect natural light and turn off lights if sunlight fills the space.
Throughout the process, the city has relied on its partnership with the Washington State University Extension Energy Program consortium. From initial assessments to grant assistance and construction management, the program has helped Tumwater work through issues where it lacked expertise, said Bob MacKenzie, manager of the plant operations support consortium.
“It’s a very, very convenient quick responsive method for cities such as Tumwater to get experience that would normally be (available) in far larger cities,” MacKenzie said.
The energy program, a self-supported department within the university, has a staff of about 100 people and operates similar to a consulting firm.
For Tumwater, new lighting is the first step in an attempt to reduce greenhouse gas emissions – it’s also one of the cheaper options.
“This (project) is the low-hanging fruit,” Vrabel said.
The city could also receive back a portion of the $40,000 it kicked in through rebates from Puget Sound Energy.
Other energy remedies explored include future fixes to the city’s aging heating, ventilation and air conditioning system, which was state of the art when the building opened in 1987 but has since begun to act up.
“We’re limping along with a system that we actually have no control over parts of our building,” Vrabel said.
A new HVAC system is too pricey during tight budget times, so the city decided to focus on the cheaper lighting upgrades. Other improvements, such as replacing boilers and installing new fans, are likely next on the list, but funding isn’t available, Vrabel said.
Since city hall isn’t being remodeled, the new lighting is not required. However, the timing worked out that the grant came just as production was winding down on the older bulbs. The only section of city hall, which was built in 1987, that meets light standards is the public works department, located in the basement and the newest section of city hall.