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How to Energy Retrofit Your Lighting and save $5,000!

How Fireclay Tile saved over $5,000 annually!

In 2009 Fireclay Tile realized that while we make sustainable ceramic tile, as a company we could do things to be more sustainable ourselves. We quickly identified our lighting as being very out of date and ready for an upgrade. We’d owned our San Jose location since 1986, and our Aromas factory since the mid-90’s, and neither had seen an up-grade in lighting since.

Unfortunately we had no money. Remember the recession? Yeah, well, 2009 was tough for Fireclay financially, and while we invested every dollar we had in our product and our customers, internal upgrades were put on hold.

After doing some research and exchanging some emails with members of the Bay Area Green Business Program, they pointed us to PG&E, our utility provider, as being able to help. Since we paid PG&E over $7k per month, we thought, “about time!” PG&E responded immediately, and after surveying our locations informed us that we were eligible for significant “lighting retrofit credits.” See, from PG&E’s point of view, if they can invest in other companies decreasing their energy use, then PG&E won’t need to invest as much in fulfilling peak demand. PG&E then put us in touch with RightLights.

From its website, “The RightLights Program provides subsidized energy efficiency upgrades of lighting and refrigeration systems, with free professional assistance to help you lower your energy bills and boost your cash flow.” Just three weeks after first contacting the Bay Area Green Business Program, RightLights was on site, surveying our lighting and taking notes. By November 30, 2009, we had a quote for our San Jose location and RightLights specialist Ryan Mack. His proposal identified the “total installed cost”, the “total rebate” and my “final cost” all with an estimated annual savings in energy use and a payback period.


For just our San Jose location, our final cost was only $1,325 with an estimated annual savings of $2,000, meaning our payback was in only 7 months!!! This amounted to a savings of almost 10,000 kWh saved annually, or roughly the equivalent of  electricity for two normal  homes or 8,500 lbs of CO2 reduced! To see a sample report click here.


RightLights contracts out the work to certified installers, in this case Lumenature. Lumenature was a first-class operator, and their team communicated well and did a great job installing the retrofitted lighting. Once they were done, Ryan came back out for a final inspection to sign off on the project.

The success of San Jose convinced us to do a similar program in Aromas, and in March RightLights’ Jeremy Jackson provided a similar quote and returns analysis. This time the result was staggering! The “total installed cost” was $5,530, but our “rebate” would be $4,125, meaning our “total cost” was only $1,405. Our estimate annual savings were $3,876, meaning we would see a payback in only 3 months!

A quick summary of thwat they did was as follows:

- Replaced incandescent lighting with Energy Star® compact fluorescent lamps (CFLs).

- Replaced “T12” lamps with “T8,” which are smaller and more energy-efficient.

- Many of our older magnetic fluorescent ballasts contained polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), a toxic chemical. Fireclay's facility had quite a few PCB ballasts removed and recycled, which were replaced with energy-saving electronic ballasts (which contain no PCBs). Electronic ballasts also eliminate the “flickering” and “buzz” that may cause headaches and eyestrain.

Fireclay Tile New Efficient Lighting Fireclay Tile New Efficient Lighting
T8 Energy Efficient Lights Energy Star CFLs

If it sounds too good to be true, well, it is. Beyond the simple environmental and financial savings, our lighting got a significant overhaul and each employee is far happier with better lighting. Even our Quality Control improved!

The other day I looked at my online PG&E billing statement to really see just how substantiall Fireclay’s energy use has been impacted. In San Jose, over the last several our electricity usage was on average down over 40% compared to similar periods last year! Given we used to have a $500+ bill in San Jose, that’s awesome!

If you haven’t yet checked out the RightLights program or PG&E’s rebates do it now. The savings are real and the environmental impact is obvious! Any questions, drop me a line at eric@fireclaytile.com.

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Welcome to Fireclay Tile's Design Blog, dedicated to sustainable and beautiful design for people + the planet. We have invited several of our staff + friends to share their stories and inspirations with us. Do you have a Fireclay Story you'd like to share? We'd love to hear from you.

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