Finalists gear up to cut power use

By Gerry Bellett

Wanted: Businesses to compete for power-saving glory

The BC Hydro Small Business Energy Challenge is a way to encourage businesses to take a hard look at their power consumption and see if they can significantly reduce use of electricity, says Hydro's Christy Intihar.

"The object of the contest is to show how businesses can reduce their electricity usage - and their monthly power bill - in a variety of ways including things that don't cost much at all, such as changing behaviour, all without negatively impacting their business operations," said Intihar.

"This is the fourth year of the contest and energy makeovers Power Smart has run with small businesses. Our overall goal is to showcase how real-life small business can reduce their electricity consumption and still run a successful business.

"Hopefully, the contest will inspire other small business owners to decide they, too, could benefit from some of the energy-saving measures they have seen the contestants use," she said.

The two finalists have the next few months to prepare, then will compete head-to-head in July and August to see who can save the largest percentage of power.

In addition to learning how to be energy smart, the winner will be profiled in newspapers and business and trade magazines, will have exposure in BC Hydro social media channels and will receive a certificate acknowledging the win.

The finalists for BC Hydro's Power Smart Small Business Energy Challenge will pit one of Burnaby's top restaurants - the Pear Tree - against Back in Motion, a Richmond rehabilitation and physiotherapy centre that treats injured WorkSafeBC clients.

Whichever manages the greatest percentage cut in energy use during July and August - compared to the amount of power consumed for the same period last year - will be declared the winner in October to mark Power Smart Month.

To help them, the finalists will receive $5,000 to spend on making their premises more energy efficient. They also get an an energy coach to advise them on how best to cut down electrical consumption.

Last week the coaches made their first visits to review the premises and size up what should be done.

The Pear Tree

Adrian Pettyfer, a B. C. energy adviser, dropped by the Pear Tree restaurant just before noon as chefs were preparing food six hours ahead of the first diners arriving.

There he met Scott and Stephanie Jaeger, who have operated the restaurant at 4120 East Hastings for 16 years. They have a staff of 12 - seven cooks and five servers.

"I think we've got a winner here," said Pettyfer as he looked around. "There's got to be lots of ways of cutting down energy use in a place like this."

Scott Jaeger said they entered the contest to see if they could find ways to reduce their electricity consumption and stay abreast of the latest technology.

"We wanted to find out what kind of energy-saving products there are out there. We did a major reno in 2005 and things have got better and better since then with power-saving products. But we can't really go tearing out all we have put in and installing new equipment, it's just not cost-effective," said Jaeger.

"We're looking for other alternatives," he said.

"Restaurants use five times more power than normal businesses. We run a lot of power because we're feeding people. We have heating, air conditioning, refrigeration, ventilation, kitchen equipment and lots of lights. We have about 80 light fixtures. I sometimes think my main job here is washing windows, washing glasses and changing light bulbs," said Jaeger.

"I change a lot of light bulbs." Most of the light bulbs in the dining room are halogen, which have a short lifespan.

LED bulbs would draw only a fraction of the power and would last a lot longer but, Stephanie Jaeger said installing those might not be an option.

"LEDs would change the colour of the food. The incandescent bulbs are warmer and they give out a yellow hue, but LEDs tend to be blue and how the food looks is very important," she said.

"I don't think we will be going with LEDs."

Pettyfer's attention was concentrated on the enormous hood fan hanging over the gas-fired range that ventilates the kitchen, sucking out cooking odours as well as pulling the air from the dining room.

"We use electricity to heat up the dining room and it all gets pulled into the fan," complained Jaeger. "Then we have to reheat the air again."

In the summer, it will be drawing the air-conditioned air out.

The hood was installed two years ago at a cost of $40,000 and Pettyfer said it might be possible to modify the way the fan operates.

"I would like to see if we can put a variable speed motor on the fan so it can be set to lower speeds when it's not necessary to have it going full out," said Pettyfer.

He looked at all the appliances, the heating and air-conditioning systems, thermostats, lighting fixtures and refrigeration units. He came up with 11 recommendations, including a variable speed motor for the fan, high-efficiency motors for the walk-in cooler's evaporating fans, strip curtains on the door of the walk-in cooler, motion sensors to operate lights and fans in the cooler and in both washrooms, changing the lights in the kitchen from incandescent to LED, insulating hot water pipes and installing a low-flow pre-rinse spray valve on a kitchen tap to replace a high-volume valve.

He also recommended developing an energy conservation strategy with staff.

Back in Motion

Meanwhile, Maya Chorobik, an energy adviser with City Green Solutions, did an assessment of Back in Motion at 6651 Elm-bridge Way, Richmond.

This is a large, sprawling business of 5,600 square feet with many small offices for its 18 physio and rehab experts and a large gymnasium that looks high enough to pass as a hangar for small aircraft, all of which makes its competitor's space seem small and compact in comparison.

Manager Hazel Choy said the company's corporate activities committee had decided to enter the competition as it was in keeping with the committee's dedication to community and environmental activism.

"We believe in being green and in helping the environment by using less power. It's part of our philosophy. We also take on social issues and will fund certain community causes," said Choy.

Chorobik began examining the premises office by office, then the washrooms, the laundry room, the exercise room and even took out ceiling tiles to take a look at the hot water tank above a main corridor.

She carried devices to measure the amount of wattage each piece of equipment drew and one that she pointed at the overhead lights to determine what sort of bulbs were installed.

"Well, I've got some good news," she said, indicating the overhead fluorescent tubes, "I believe they are all energy-efficient T-8s because they are showing they have electronic ballasts."

"The bad news is that's not going to help us win the challenge," she said. "I'm stumped right now in terms of what we can do for you guys. I guess that means we're going to have to get creative and start thinking outside of the box."

She looked in the laundry room where the washer and dryer handles up to six full loads of towels a day.

"Can we do something to cut down on the use of those?" she asked.

"If we could reduce the number of loads or use cold water instead of hot that would certainly help. Could your clients even bring their own towels so you wouldn't have to wash them?"

Choy and office co-ordinator Shannon Welsh said they would see if they could find a detergent that would allow them to wash in cold water and still retain hygiene standards and consider asking people to bring their own towels.

Chorobik then looked at the hydrocollator, a device that provides heat packs for use by clients, and that operates 24 hours a day. She tested the amount of power it was using which seemed to be higher than expected and said she wanted to look at the manufacturer's specifications to see what it was supposed to draw.

"Can you give me a list of all the office equipment? We are going to have to look at all the computers, copying machines and see if we can put them on power-saving mode," said Chorobik. She then asked about the heating system and how the thermostats were set at night and took a look at the outdoor lights.

Chorobik said she would return with her recommendations so they could get ready for the July to August test period.

Despite Chorobik not finding any easy fixes, Welsh said the staff at Back in Motion is determined to win the challenge.

"Even if we have to do acupuncture in the dark."


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