Energy Coaching spurs lighting upgrades at Lake Street's El Nuevo Rodeo

El Nuevo Rodeo, a vibrant restaurant and events center, is nearly always busy serving authentic Mexican cuisine and hosting small and large events. While owner Maya Santamaria is busy making sure her patrons are satisfied and events are nothing but successful, building manager Sergio Maldonado is working hard to find ways to increase the energy efficiency of his building and reduce operation costs.

Maldonado was enthusiastic about the opportunity to improve El Nuevo’s building operations 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.

Maldonado found out about the program through the Energy Coach from the Lake Street Council, which has partnered with El Nuevo Rodeo on a variety of projects. After a visit from an Energy Coach, he learned that there were a variety of technical and financial assistance options that would significantly reduce the time and resources needed to upgrade systems on his own.

First, the Energy Coach helped Maldonado set up an energy assessment with an Energy Efficiency Specialist. During the assessment upgrading all lighting to LED efficient bulbs was identified as the biggest energy savings opportunity.

“For many years, we were installing 60-watt incandescent bulbs in the restaurant; when we changed those to CFL bulbs, they were 13 watts. Today, LED bulbs are using only 8 watts of electricity or less,” says Maldonado. In addition to using less energy, Maldonado was excited to make the change to LEDs because they do not heat up like incandescent bulbs, which results in damage and short bulb life.

The Partnership helped Maldonado through the process of selecting a lighting contractor. Before all the bulbs were replaced, Voss Lighting, the selected contractor, gave Maldonado a sample of LED bulbs to try out in the restaurant. He was impressed by the range of choices in color, style, and brightness available with new LED lighting technology. These factors were important considerations with the building use type. For example, Maldonado chose a smooth color for the interior of the restaurant and bright lights for the exterior of the building. Although the exterior lighting is much brighter than before, the new bulbs are using only 25 watts, a significant improvement over the 150 watt bulbs previously installed.

The lighting in the event center and night club on the second and third floors needed careful consideration as well. “With a night club, it is important to use lighting efficiently,” says Maldonado. “With the new lighting, one or two fixtures can function just as well or better than five fixtures that were needed with the old lighting.” Dimmers were also installed with the new lighting to give additional control over creating the desired atmosphere for events.

Once the lighting types were selected, the Partnership helped Maldonado identify utility rebates and grants that significantly lowered the investment required for the project. Maldonado says, “The financial assistance lowered the cost of the upgrade to the point that it seemed doable.”

The entire project was estimated to cost Maldonado $9,000 dollars. However, grants and rebates lowered project costs to $1,660. It is estimated that his business will reduce energy use by 66,419 kWh and save $7,098 annually. In roughly half a year, Maldonado’s project will have paid for itself through energy savings and will significantly reduce his monthly electricity bills.

Although the process was long, Maldonado said, “It was a really good experience and easy to understand.” Considering the large scale of the project, Maldonado is very satisfied with the product he received.

Because of the significant improvements Maldonado was able to make by participating in this program, he is looking at investing in more energy efficiency upgrades as well as clean energy technology with the money he is saving. Maldonado says that this project gave him the confidence to do more. He is considering installing Wi-Fi controlled thermostats, a demand-controlled sensor for the hood ventilation in the kitchen, and possibly solar panels.

Maldonado recommends that businesses looking to improve the energy efficiency of their business understand that “little changes make the difference, one upgrade at a time.” He would like other businesses to know that this program is “straight forward and you are not going to lose. You just have to take the time and expect a little bit of work.”

Maldonado is thrilled with the fact that the new lighting at El Nuevo Rodeo is brighter, more durable, uses less energy, and creates a better looking space.

Project Snapshot:

  • Annual Savings: $7,098.25
  • Project Costs: $10,242.61
  • Utility Rebate: $5,081.75
  • MCC Grant: $3,000.00
  • LSC Grant: $500.00
  • Total Funding: $8,581.75
  • Final Cost: $1,660.86
  • Payback: 0.16 years
  • Demand Reduction: 15.896 kW
  • Annual Energy Savings: 66,419 kWh
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