RCEA energy audit reviews/Leon's Car Care Center

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Energy Efficiency Retrofit For Leon's Car Care Center

In June 2008 the Redwood Coast Energy Authority (RCEA) completed the first phase of a lighting retrofit for Leon's Car Care Center with the replacement of 40 fluorescent light fixtures. The second phase saw the installation of an energy miser to reduce electrical consumption of the vending machines in the office. Leon's completed the final phase of the retrofit independent of the RCEA with the replacement of 32 metal halide light fixtures in the shop area.

Figure 2. Leon's Car Care Center General Manager Dale Warmuth.

Redwood Coast Energy Authority (RCEA)

The RCEA is a Joint Powers Authority commissioned by seven local municipalities under contract with Pacific Gas and Electric (PG&E) company to promote regional energy efficiency.[1] The organization is funded through taxes collected by PG&E and the California Public Utilities Commission. The RCEA also operates under a smaller contract with the US Department of Energy to promote solar energy use.[2]

The Redwood Coast Energy Watch is a $1.6 million partnership program between the RCEA and the company PG&E responsible for the project. Funded by the California Public Utilities Commission public goods charge, the Redwood Coast Energy Watch is responsible for the energy efficiency upgrades at Leon's Car Care Center and other area businesses.

Leon's Electrical Demand

Automotive repair requires the use of power tools, computerized diagnostic equipment and sufficient lighting. Lighting accounts for 20% to 50% of the energy consumed by a commercial building.[3] Power tools consume more operational current than the lights but are used sporadically, whereas the lights are on continuously. The shop is also equipped with 8 vehicle lifts, two air compressors, and computers for diagnostic repair.

Figure 1.
Metal Halide fixtures replaced by Leon's.

The shop was originally illuminated using 400 watt High Intensity Discharge (HID) metal halide lamps (Figure 1)[4] supplemented with wall mounted fluorescent lights for work bench and lower applications. The office is lit with fluorescent lights, contains computers, two climate control units, one cold soft drink vending machine and a snack vending machine.

Leon's Car Care Center (Figure 2) is a family owned and operated business that has been in Eureka, California for over 48 years. Since 1992 Leon's Car Care Center has been located in a steel I-beam shop structure with an attached wood frame office, built new to their specifications. The building was designed to utilize windows built into the upper reaches of the structure allowing natural light to penetrate to the main shop area and decrease the reliance on electric light.

Retrofit Hardware

Figure 3.
Six Lamp T8 fixtures used to replace metal halides.

Fluorescent Lighting

Figure 4.
New two lamp T8 fixtures used in office.

New Fluorescent Lamp Ballast Energy Conservation Standards (10 CFR, Part 430) were set in 2000 by the Department Of Energy establishing a new minimum Ballast Efficacy Factor effectively discontinuing production and sale of the ballasts used in conjunction with T12 lamps by 2005.[5] The 40 watt T12 lamp ballasts were replaced by 36 watt T8 lamp ballasts, producing the same amount of light using less electricity.[6] The fixtures installed by the RCEA contain National Electrical Manufacturers Association certified T8 electronic lamp ballasts reducing rated consumption by an additional two to five watts.[7] Older magnetic ballasted fixtures have a noticeable flicker that can reduce efficiency of the lamp by up to ten percent.[8]

Figure 5.
Vending machine Energy Miser.

All of the existing two lamp fluorescent fixtures in the shop and office (Figure 4) were replaced by the RCEA during the first phase of the retrofit. 31 electronic and nine T12 magnetic ballasted fixtures were replaced with T8 ballasted fixtures at this time. During the final phase of the retrofit Leon's replaced 32 400 watt HID metal halide lamps (Figure 1)[9] with six lamp T8 ballasted fluorescent fixtures (Figure 3)[10]. Metal halide lamp fixtures can cost 50% more[11] to operate than the T8 electronically ballasted fluorescent fixtures.

Energy Miser

The RCEA has overseen the installation of an energy miser (Figure 5) on the snack and cold drink vending machines in the office. The miser acts as a motion sensor in conjunction with a timer that shuts the appliances down after a period of inactivity. According to Austin, Texas based utility company Austin Energy, an energy miser has the potential to reduce the energy consumption of cold drink and snack vending machines by 40% and by 80% respectively.

Data Analysis

Figure 6. Leon's three year kilowatt hour consumption data.

To determine whether or not the first phase of the lighting retrofit completed by the RCEA reduced power consumption at Leon's, average monthly consumption rates are compared (Figure 6). The ten month period from June 2008 to March 2009 was selected to reflect consumption changes as a result of the RCEA retrofit. This time period was limited to ten months due to the completion of the final phase of the retrofit replacing all of Leon's metal halide lights in April 2009 which are not included in this final analysis. The monthly averages are projected to one year for comparison to the RCEA yearly values for this reason. The ten month period from June 2007 to March 2008 is used as a comparison period before the retrofit.


Figure 7. Pre and post retrofit electrical consumption.

The RCEA projected energy consumption reduction is a monthly average based on a one year period. The post-retrofit kWh results are a ten month sample period beginning in June 2008 and ending in March 2009. This data was averaged using PG&E kWh billing data, then multiplied by 12 months to give a yearly kWh estimate for comparison. This was done to evaluate the RCEA lighting retrofit independent of Leon's metal halide retrofit.

Actual energy consumption reduction exceeded projected values by 4.2 percent based on the ten month sample period following the initial lighting retrofit. Cost savings and CO2 emissions reductions have been calculated using the kWh value. An average monthly reduction in electrical consumption of 252 kWh.

Figure 9. Comparing CO2 emissions equivalents before and after the lighting retrofit.

Table 2: Projected vs. actual values[12]

    Table 2         Projected          Actual     
Yearly Cost Savings $389.20 $504.28
Monthly Cost Savings $32.43 $42.02
Yearly kWh Reduction 2,334 kWh 3,024 kWh
Yearly CO2 Reduction 1,213 lbs 1,585 lbs
Simple Payback 3.6 years 2.8 years

Carbon Dioxide (CO2) Emissions

Figure 8. Humboldt County's electrical energy source distribution.

Kilowatt hours (kWh) can be equated to pounds of CO2 emitted in relation to the various processes involved in the production of the electricity. Humboldt County's electricity comes from a number of sources (Figure 8).[13] Pounds of CO2 produced per kWh varies from source to source, e.g. electricity generated from burning coal produces an estimated 2.25 pounds per kWh[13], all of this is associated with the actual emissions coming from the combustion. PG&E reports that it generates 0.524 pounds of CO2 per kWh produced. The kWh consumption by Leon's Car Care has been converted to pounds of CO2 in Figure 9.[14]

Future Retrofits

Leon's is considering replacing one of their two piston-run air compressors with a Rotary Air Compressor. This would decrease energy consumption in addition to decreasing shop noise and improving air pressure consistency among the pneumatic tools. The air compressors are the main source of energy for the power lifts used in the shop to raise vehicles for service. The compressors run almost constantly in the enclosed shop creating a substantial amount of noise and are a significant source of the shops energy consumption.

General Manager Dale Warmuth is conscious of the impact that energy use has on his business, and is delighted at the savings that his company sees in their efforts to improve efficiency both financially and ecologically. Mr. Warmuth has seen a 33% decrease in consumption since the retrofits. He is satisfied with the level of service that he has received from RCEA, and continues to pursue new and more efficient practices.

Related Links

http://www.energy.ca.gov/ - The California Energy Commission (CEC) sets California state standards on appliance and building energy efficiency. The CEC also promotes public awareness through research and demonstration for public interest.

http://www.aboutlightingcontrols.org/index.shtml - Lighting Controls Association (LCA) is an information resource for the professional building industry to promote knowledge of high quality energy efficient lighting products.

http://www.eere.energy.gov/ - The US Department of Energy (DOE) Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy site with national industry information including solar, wind, hydrogen fuel cell and geothermal.

http://www.eia.doe.gov/index.html - The US Energy Information Administration (EIA) site for official energy statistics.


  1. Redwood Coast Energy Authority. About RCEA: Governance. Accessed online 11/09. http://www.redwoodenergy.org/ContentPage.asp?ContentID=92
  2. U.S. Department of Energy. Energy Sources: Solar. Accessed online 11/09. http://www.energy.gov/energysources/solar.htm
  3. Energy consumption(n.d.) In Wikipedia. Retreived November 2009 http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lighting#Energy_consumption
  4. Farmtek. ValuTek 400W Metal Halide Bay Light. Retreived November 2009. http://www.farmtek.com/farm/supplies/prod1%3Bft1_lighting_fixtures_bulbs-ft1_metal_halide_bay_fixtures%3Bpg105713.html
  5. DiLouie,Craig.(2005, November). Energy Policy Act of 2005 sets New Ballast Efficiency Standards. Retrieved November, 2009 from Lighting Controls Association website. http://www.aboutlightingcontrols.org/education/papers/ballast_law.shtml
  6. Phillips, Ian.(n.d.) Fluorescent Lamps and Ballasts. Retrieved November,2009 from Fluorescent Lamps and Ballasts by Ian Phillips. http://wood.bigelowsite.com/articles/fluorescent_lamps_and_ballasts.htm#Differences%20between%20T8%20and%20T12%20lamps
  7. DiLouie,Craig.(May, 2008). NEMA Premium Brand Now Includes High-Efficiency Fluorescent Electronic Ballasts for 4-ft T8 Lamps. Retreived December 2009 from Lighting Controls Association website. http://www.aboutlightingcontrols.org/education/papers/2008_nemaballasts.shtml
  8. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fluorescent_lamp#Ballast
  9. http://www.farmtek.com/farm/supplies/prod1%3Bft1_lighting_fixtures_bulbs-ft1_metal_halide_bay_fixtures%3Bpg105713.html
  10. http://www.fluorescent-high-bay.com/products/Flat-Profile%2C-6-Lamp%2C-T8%2C-Fixture.html
  11. http://www.aboutlightingcontrols.org/education/papers/high-low-bay.shtml
  12. Calculations based on average cost of $0.01667 per kWh and 09Com-600-SFL-170-CFL-60-CTR rebate
    *Project Summary courtesy of RCEA Program Manager: Dana Boudreau, Auditor: Budd DickinsonfckLR
  13. 13.0 13.1 http://www.epa.gov/cleanenergy/energy-and-you/how-clean.html
  14. http://www.pge.com/about/environment/calculator/assumptions.shtml