Detroit Lakes

LED lighting project creates savings to better serve Central Minnesotans

Seed Grant supports Mahube-Otwa Community Action Partnership

Walking the Walk


For agencies working to help low-income residents in Minnesota, every dollar matters. What these agencies do not spend on their own energy needs can be used to help clients with weatherization and efficiency projects. And when they invest in energy efficiency projects they lead by example. Clients who see agencies walk the walk, to borrow a cliché, are more inclined to follow the agency’s lead.

Located in Central Minnesota, Mahube-Otwa Community Action Partnership is one of those agencies leading the way.

It provides services such as Head Start, family development and housing, early learning scholarships, senior, and energy programs in the Mahnomen, Hubbard, Becker, Otter Tail, and Wadena counties.


Shining a light on potential savings

Last year the agency began an efficiency initiative by having an energy consultant study the potential of retrofitting the lighting in two buildings it owns. Mahube-Otwa worked with Detroit Lakes Public Utilities and Missouri River Energy Services to conduct energy audits of two agency garages. The audit suggested replacing T12 florescent lights with LEDs in two facilities, a move that would quickly pay for itself.

The only problem was the agency didn’t really have any budget for the undertaking. “We couldn’t figure out a way to pay for it because our grant dollars are restricted and we couldn’t do it within our budgets,” Josephson said. “We put the audit in a file and waited.” The agency applied for a CERTs Seed Grant and received $4,400 for the lighting project, enough to cover half the required budget.

Our Energy Assistance and Weatherization programs help clients with high energy costs reduce their consumption through efficiency projects.

Dan Josephson, Director of Energy Programs, Mahube-Otwa Community Action Partnership

Getting it done and seeing the results

Lighting ballasts used for the fluorescents were removed and then LEDs could simply be plugged into existing sockets, Josephson said. Each garage had roughly 20 bulbs replaced, and another 10 lights were replaced on the exterior of both garages. Josephson had workers remove a bank of lights in one garage, kept on 24/7 for safety, because they no longer served any useful function. “We were burning a lot of electricity on those for no good reason,” he said.

In another garage the LEDs were installed with motion detectors that required a few adjustments before staff grew accustomed to them. The agency adjusted a couple of sensors to cover a larger area of a garage. Other adjustments prevented people in low activity areas from being left in the dark, Josephson said.

The motion detectors could have been less of a problem with planning. “Overall, the occupancy motion sensors provide a much better option than depending upon individuals to remember to shut lights off when they leave a building or room,” he said. “With a little bit more education upfront on the changes the process would be smoother for staff knowing there is a change.”

Mahube-Otwa isn’t quite done with lighting retrofits. The T-8 fluorescent tubes installed a decade ago in the office are aging out and being replaced with LEDs. “We’re slowing converting the rest of the building from fluorescents to LEDs as well,” Josephson said.

LEDs should pay for themselves in 17 months, he added. From April through July the agency saved $550 by substantially reducing electricity consumption. “LEDs are making a big difference for us,” Josephson said.

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