This article originally appeared in DTE Energy’s EnergySmarts for Michigan Business, a free publication for our customers.

Energy efficiency improvements can do more than reduce consumption and costs. For example, the project that service station owner Nasser Beydoun recently completed – with the help of DTE Energy – yielded dramatic reductions in energy usage and smaller electric bills while improving the visual impact of his Detroit business. More important, the brightly lit property, which combines gasoline sales with a convenience store and fast food outlet, is now a safe haven for the community, a welcoming and reassuring sight for everyone who lives nearby.

This is no ordinary service station, and Mr. Beydoun is no ordinary businessman. A member of Crain’s Detroit Business “40 Under 40” class of 2002 and a Detroit News “Michiganian of the Year” in 2006, this well-schooled entrepreneur is a management consultant for Bassett and Bassett, the founder and owner of Bargain Club and author of “The Glass Palace,” a study of business practices in Qatar. But he takes particular pride in the service station complex that serves as a beacon of hope in an area of Detroit that is on its way back up.

A Plan Comes Together

When Mr. Beydoun purchased the property in 2001, it was an ordinary gas station in disrepair. He demolished the building and replaced it with a structure that can justifiably be called an ideal model for service station businesses. The complex features multiple pump islands under a brightly lit canopy and an expanse of windows fronting a well-stocked convenience store and fast food restaurant. Because Mr. Beydoun knew that a bright environment would prove attractive and reassuring to his neighbors on the west side of Detroit, he designed his new building with large windows and a multitude of lights, including canopy lighting above the gas pumps and a well-lit interior. But lighting options were limited 13 years ago, and the original plan included power-hungry halogen fixtures in the outdoor canopies and in the convenience store ceiling. A row of refrigerator display cases was illuminated with fluorescent fixtures. Energy costs of $3,000 a month were testimony to the inefficiency of the lighting. And while of adequate brightness, it was less than spectacular.

That’s when a DTE Energy Designated Trade Ally happened by. Trade Allies are qualified contractors who participate in DTE efficiency rebate and incentive programs. The obvious lighting possibilities were a stopper for this lighting contractor, so he made an appointment with Mr. Beydoun. When they met, the contractor explained that the latest lighting innovations could significantly reduce the energy bill and provide more illumination. What’s more – here comes the best part – DTE Energy would cover a substantial part of the cost.

DTE Energy loves lighting improvement projects. They’re the best first step for almost any business because the investment is manageable and the return in savings and reduced energy consumption is sizable. And this was no ordinary lighting project. Here was an opportunity to not only reduce energy waste and do something for the environment, but also to create something special for the community.

“The combination of incentives, improved efficiency and better illumination won me over,” said Mr. Beydoun. “This was an easy decision. The cost analysis made it a must-do.”

Lighting Like No Other

The outdoor halogens in the canopy, as well as canopy-mounted floodlights that illuminate the front of the building, were replaced with the latest in powerful LED fixtures. Because the new LED lamps provide much more light, only half as many would be needed to equal the lumen output of the old halogens. But seeing an opportunity to make his well-lit business illuminated even more, Mr. Beydoun opted to replace each of the old fixtures with a new LED lamp.

Pole lamps at the corners of the property were originally topped with 1,000-watt three-phase 440-volt halogen lamps. LEDs again proved an ideal replacement, drawing less power and providing more light.

Inside, a similar strategy was implemented. Each of the old halogen lights was replaced with a modern T5 fluorescent fixture that produces more light at a reduced cost. Adding to the facility’s appeal is new lighting for the refrigerator cases. Rows of brilliant LED light strips on both sides of every case, like strings of gemstones, produce abundant light. Inefficient fan motors in the refrigeration cases gave way to energy-stingy units. The overall result is brilliantly efficient, and Mr. Beydoun’s business is a beacon for the community.

Designated as a “lighthouse” by the Downtown Detroit Partnership program, the establishment offers a safe haven to those in need. A graphic on the window promises “security, shelter, safety and assistance,” and a green light on the building’s exterior provides lighthouse identification for all who pass by.

This was not an inexpensive project, but the payback won’t take long. DTE Energy incentives covered approximately 40% of the cost, and Mr. Beydoun’s energy bill decreased by about 30 percent. The resulting savings should cover out-of-pocket costs in one year. That’s a super deal for Mr. Beydoun and his friends and neighbors on the west side of Detroit. Everyone walks away from this one happy.

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