RCEA energy audit reviews/Leon's Car Care Center

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Energy Efficiency Retrofit For Leon's Car Care Center

Figure 1. Leon's Car Care Center General Manager Dale Warmuth.
(Photo by Charles Swanson)

In June 2008 the Redwood Coast Energy Authority (RCEA) completed a lighting retrofit for Leon's Car Care Center to increase energy efficiency.

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 PG&E. 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

Leon's Car Care Center (Figure 1) 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 with an attached wood frame office, built new to their specifications. The building was designed to decrease reliance on electric light by utilizing windows in the upper reaches of the structure, allowing natural light to penetrate to the main shop area.

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

Figure 2.
Metal Halide fixtures replaced by Leon's.

The shop was originally illuminated using 32-400 watt High Intensity Discharge (HID) metal halide lamps (Figure 2).[4] The metal halides were supplemented with wall mounted fluorescents for work bench and lower applications. The office contains computers, fluorescent lighting, two climate control units, one cold soft drink vending machine, and a snack vending machine.

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.(Photo by Charles Swanson)

New Fluorescent Lamp Ballast Energy Conservation Standards (10 CFR, Part 430) were set in 2000 by the US 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 while 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.
(Photo by Charles Swanson)

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. Thirty-one electronic and nine magnetic T12 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 2)[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 80% respectively.

Data Analysis

Figure 6. Leon's three year monthly kWh consumption data.
Figure 7. Pre and post retrofit electrical consumption.


Actual average monthly energy consumption reduction of 252 kWh exceeded projected values by 4.2 percent. Cost savings and CO2 emissions reductions have been calculated using the same monthly kWh value.

Figure 8. Comparing CO2 emissions equivalents before and after the lighting retrofit.

Monthly kWh consumption rates (Figure 6) have been averaged and compared to determine whether or not the first phase of the lighting retrofit completed by the RCEA reduced power consumption at Leon's. The ten month period from June 2008 to March 2009 was selected to reflect consumption changes as a result of the RCEA retrofit. The ten month period from June 2007 to March 2008 is used as a comparison period before the retrofit (Figure 7). The sample 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 analysis. The monthly averages are projected to one year for comparison to the RCEA yearly values.

Table 2: Projected vs. actual values[12]

    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 9. 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 9).[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 8.[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 and are run almost constantly.

General Manager Dale Warmuth is conscious of the impact that energy use has on his business. He is delighted at the savings 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 including replacement of the metal halides. He is satisfied with the level of service received from the 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 November, 2009. http://www.redwoodenergy.org/ContentPage.asp?ContentID=92
  2. U.S. Department of Energy. Energy Sources: Solar. Accessed online November, 2009. http://www.energy.gov/energysources/solar.htm
  3. Energy consumption.(n.d.) In Wikipedia. Retrieved November, 2009. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lighting#Energy_consumption
  4. Farmtek. ValuTek 400W Metal Halide Bay Light. Retrieved November, 2009. Permission pending. 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. Retrieved December, 2009 from Lighting Controls Association website. http://www.aboutlightingcontrols.org/education/papers/2008_nemaballasts.shtml
  8. Fluorescent Lamp:Ballast.(n.d.) In Wikipedia. Retrieved December, 2009 http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fluorescent_lamp#Ballast
  9. Farmtek. ValuTek 400W Metal Halide Bay Light. Retrieved November, 2009. http://www.farmtek.com/farm/supplies/prod1%3Bft1_lighting_fixtures_bulbs-ft1_metal_halide_bay_fixtures%3Bpg105713.html
  10. 6 Lamp Fixtures:Flat profile, 6 lamp, T8, fixture.(n.d.) Retrieved December, 2009 from FHB Lighting website http://www.fluorescent-high-bay.com/products/Flat-Profile%2C-6-Lamp%2C-T8%2C-Fixture.html
  11. DiLouie,Craig.(May, 2009) Fluorescent Retrofits for High/Low-Bay Applications. Retrieved December, 2009 from Lighting Controls Association website. 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 U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.(2009, February 19) How clean is the electricity I use?-Power Profiler . Retrieved December, 2009. http://www.epa.gov/cleanenergy/energy-and-you/how-clean.html
  14. PG&E.(n.d.) Environment:Carbon Footprint Calculator Assumptions. Retrieved December, 2009. http://www.pge.com/about/environment/calculator/assumptions.shtml