Energy Coaches help cut energy bills at Taqueria La Hacienda on Lake Street

Miguel Zagal, owner of Taqueria La Hacienda, took advantage of the opportunity to increase the energy efficiency of his restaurant through the Small Business Energy Coaching Partnership, a jointly run program between the Lake Street Council and the Chamber of Commerce Energy Smart Program. A representative, or “Energy Coach” from the Lake Street Council and Energy Efficiency Specialists from the Energy Smart Program have teamed up to help make energy efficiency accessible to area businesses.

Zagal became interested in the program when he found out it could provide long term savings in the operational costs of his restaurant. Located on East Lake Street, Taqueria La Hacienda is a popular restaurant that has served authentic Mexican cuisine since 1999. At first glance, Zagal wasn’t very interested in the idea of upgrading to more energy efficient systems in his restaurant due to the time-consuming and confusing process it would require. However, when Zagal was approached by an Energy Coach from the Lake Street Council and was told about the variety of technical and financial assistance options available to his business, undergoing energy efficiency improvements seemed manageable.

After Zagal agreed to participate in the program, the first step of the process involved an energy assessment of the restaurant. The Energy Coach coordinated a meeting and visit with an Energy Efficiency Specialist. During the visit, the Specialist toured the business looking for opportunities to improve operation, replace equipment, and upgrade systems. Upgrading the lighting on the interior and exterior of the building to energy efficient LED bulbs was identified as the biggest energy and cost savings opportunity.

Next, the Partnership assisted Zagal in the process of selecting a contractor to replace the lighting system. Once a contractor was selected, the Partnership helped Zagal identify utility rebates and grants to reduce the total cost of the project. The estimated total cost was $7,278. However, after rebates and grants were applied, Zagal only had to pay $2,094 or approximately 30% of the total costs for the new lighting and installation. Because the lighting will result in savings of 19,972 kWh and $1,677 annually, the project will pay back in less than a year and a half.

Not only were light bulbs upgraded to LEDs in the restaurant, bulbs were also replaced in the office, bathrooms, basement, and exterior of the building. Before the upgrade, Zagal was replacing incandescent and CFL bulbs frequently. Zagal expects the new, more efficient bulbs to last longer, reduce maintenance costs and result in long term savings. He reports that his employees are happy with the new and improved brightness of the kitchen and dining area.

Zagal says the biggest challenge of the program was the long wait period between the energy assessment and the time in which the contractor was selected. However, Zagal remained persistent and believes the project was worth the time because, “in the long term, we will be able to save electricity.”

The Small Business Energy Coaching Partnership accelerated Zagal towards energy and cost savings in his business operations. “The Energy Coach and Specialist were very involved in the entire process and served as a guide on how to understand the costs and the project process. Without their guidance, I probably wouldn’t have done this project,” admits Zagal. He recommends that other business owners take advantage of these energy saving opportunities.

Project Snapshot:

  • Annual Savings: $1,677.20
  • Project Costs: $7,278.86
  • Utility Rebate: $2,698.74
  • MCC Grant: $1,985.64
  • LSC Grant: $500.00
  • Total Funding Available: $5,184.38
  • Final Costs (minus funding): $2,094.48
  • Payback: 1.25 years
  • Demand Reduction: 2.893 kW
  • Annual Energy Savings: 19,972 kWh
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