PLYMOUTH, WI – Two Wisconsin auto dealers say they’ve seen the light by reducing energy consumption at their stores after installing modern lighting systems.

Don Jacobs Toyota in Milwaukee reduced the amount of electric power for lighting by 154,000 kilowatt-hours (kWh) per year. It is the conservation equivalent of saving 12,726 gallons (48,173 liters) of gasoline a year.

At Mike Burkart Ford/Mercury here, a lighting retrofit trimmed the amount of power it required for lighting by 53%, cutting consumption from 88,499 kWh per year to 42,632.

Orion Energy Services, which did the new lighting at the dealerships, awarded both its Environmental Stewardship Award.

Mike Burkart, who co-owns the namesake Ford store with Tom Beringer, says the award came as a surprise.

“We try to be environmentally conscious, but there doesn't always seem to be a big opportunity for it in our business,” he says. “One (other) thing we do is use waste oil for heat. This is strongly recommended by the state DNR (Dept. of Natural Resources) and EPA (Environmental Protection Agency) as a way to recycle or re-use oil. We do what we can.”

Burkart, whose dealership is about a block from Orion's headquarters in Plymouth, chuckles when asked how the lighting project got its start.

“Our sales staff had been after us for a couple of years,” he says. "But I have to add that once you see the cold, hard facts – the energy savings – the decision to change is a no-brainer. We did two shop areas, our service drive and our delivery room – that’s a nice tiled place where cars are prepared for their new owners."

He says light quality is twice as good now. And “our techs can see a lot better.”

Burkart Ford/Mercury replaced 60 400-watt metal halide lamps with 60 224-watt 6-tube Illuminator fixtures engineered to use a specially formed, highly reflective surface. It “harvests” light emitted from all sides of a fluorescent tube and directs it downward.

The lights turn on instantly, provide a more natural-like lighting and operate at a relatively cool 110º F (43º C).

Don Jacobs Toyota replaced 357 traditional fluorescent and metal halide fixtures with modern fluorescent lighting. That led to a 47% drop in kilowatt hours.

Mechanics like the new lighting, and “the showroom, it’s beautiful,” says Andy Haros, general manager. “The colors of the cars are a lot more natural appearing than they were before. Everything was too yellow.”

sfinlay@wardsauto.com