Lighting upgrades save money, improve work space illumination |

Lighting upgrades save money, improve work space illumination

Contributed photoAuto mechanic Dan Rohan said new lighting in the shop at Advanced Automotive and Truck Repair makes it much easier to work. "Anytime we can see something better, it sure helps to get the job done easier," he said.

RIFLE, Colorado – When auto mechanic John Slife climbs under the wide hood of a tall 4X4 pickup to change 16 sparkplugs, he needs to be able to see what he’s doing.

These days, Slife is using his portable work light a lot less, which is a good thing for employee productivity at Advanced Automotive and Truck Repair in Rifle.

The mechanics and other employees are enjoying improved lighting quality in the 5,000-square-foot repair shop following a complete overhaul of light fixtures and bulbs.

“It’s made a big difference,” said Slife, while cranking a wrench. “It’s a lot brighter with less shadowed areas,” agreed fellow technician Dan Rohan. “It’s easier to see things, even underneath the vehicles. Anytime we can see something better, it sure helps to get the job done easier.”

Shop owner Ken Kimberlin took advantage of rebate programs available through the nonprofit Garfield Clean Energy and the Xcel Energy Small Business Lighting program.

The first step to determine the most cost effective and efficient upgrades was a free lighting audit through Xcel. (Information at lightingefficiency.)

Kimberlin upgraded all the light fixtures in the shop and office from inefficient T-12 magnetic ballasts to efficient T-8 or T-5 electronic ballasts with fluorescent tubes.

Lights along the shop walls now utilize shiny reflector bonnets to direct light on the vehicles. Occupancy lighting sensors also were added to restrooms.

Inside the office, Karen Kimberlin, Ken’s wife and office manager, said she has not endured one of her frequent migraine headaches since the lighting was updated in mid-March.

Both Ken and Karen said they are experiencing less eye strain, and Ken is wearing his reading glasses less. The previous lights were dimmer and flickered more.

“It’s so much brighter in here; it was unbelievable. It’s a sizeable improvement,” Ken Kimberlin said, reading a part number in small print to demonstrate the difference.

The cost of the project completed by a local electrical contractor was $5,368, which was offset by $2,734 in rebates through Garfield Clean Energy and $1,560 in rebates from Xcel. Kimberlin said his electrical bills for the five months of April through August 2011 show savings of 2,559 kilowatts and $224 compared to the same five-month period in 2010.

The shop owner said a contributing factor to the timeliness of his lighting upgrades is the ongoing U.S. Department of Energy phase-out of inefficient magnetic ballasts on fluorescent lighting. U.S. manufacturers stopped producing the most commonly used T-12 magnetic ballasts as of July 2010, and the production of most T-12 bulbs will stop by July 2012.

The owner’s future energy efficiency plans include installing solar natural lighting tubes in the shop ceiling to bring in free light during the daytime, and replacing deteriorating swamp coolers with high efficiency models.

He hopes to take advantage of cooler rebate information and energy coaching expertise once again through Garfield Clean Energy. More information is available at

Kimberlin has tried to make his business as energy efficient as possible. He added windows to the two garage doors for increased light. The building roof has always been painted white to reflect the western Colorado heat. The shop has always burned spent vehicle fluids onsite in an EPA-approved, efficient furnace. Four years ago, Kimberlin upgraded the furnace to a more efficient model.

He encourages other small business owners to look into energy-saving upgrades and rebates.

“I would definitely go through an energy audit and see what can be done,” Kimberlin said. “It only makes common sense to do everything you can, unless you have money to throw away.”

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