Sam McKnight thought heʼd seen it all.
His family opened a grocery store in Peterborough, Ont., more than a century ago. Over the years, the store grew in size and scope to encompass a full-service florist – one of the regionʼs largest – and it's now a retail hub for everything from jewellery and womenʼs clothing to gift items and homemade fudge.
With all of that experience under his familyʼs collective belt, McKnight was understandably skeptical when, in the fall of 2014, a representative from the local hydro company approached McKnightʼs Fashion Floral and Gifts and suggested that a Save on Energy incentive of $1,500 could help improve the store's lighting.
The local hydro company, which promotes energy conservation through the Save on Energy program, offered to conduct an assessment of the 7,000-square-foot store. After hearing more about the wide range of energy efficiency incentives offered under this province-wide program, McKnight opened the doors for the Save on Energy experts.
Their assessment recommended lighting upgrades for the floral and fashion departments, which were lit with T12 fluorescent lights that manufacturers had begun to phase out several years earlier. New LED lighting fixtures were installed in January 2015. "The process was so easy," recalls McKnight, "and we really didn't give it a lot more thought."
Chris Castillo, a professor in the business management and entrepreneurship program at Algonquin College, says it makes sense for businesses to take advantage of incentives like those offered by Save on Energy, which can help lighten their financial burden.
"It's very competitive in the marketplace and businesses always need to look at how to reduce costs and be more efficient," he says – particularly in the grocery sector, "where the profit margins are really small."
McKnight says he saw immediate results. The new lighting fixtures not only made the store's merchandise look more appealing – "we think it definitely helped sales," he says – they also gave off less heat, making the store's interior cooler for its customers. The financial benefits became crystal clear for him after a colleague charted the difference between the store's energy usage with the new fixtures and what its usage would have been without the lighting upgrade.
"By our calculations, this simple $1,500 investment will have a payback of less than eight months," McKnight says. "Assuming the lights last 14 years, based on our hours of operation, that means we should see a net benefit of over $30,000 in reduced energy costs."
After he saw those numbers, McKnight was quick to explore other Save on Energy programs, which included a second round of lighting upgrades involving the purchase of more than 80 new LED floodlight bulbs, as well as new LED track lighting for all five of the store's floral coolers.
"I tell people who are considering an energy efficiency upgrade to stop and think of how those savings are going to add up over the life of the upgrade – and the sooner they act, the sooner they save," says McKnight.
Even small improvements can lead to big savings, says Castillo. "A lot of owners think they have to make big changes in order to have an impact. But something like upgrading the lighting – or behavioural changes, like ensuring that cooler doors are closed – can go a long way."
This content was produced by The Globe and Mail's Globe Edge Content Studio, in consultation with an advertiser. The Globe's editorial department was not involved in its creation.