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City retrofits parking garages, saves $1.1 million

Sacramento is currently replacing lighting in parking garages that will save an estimated $1.1 million over 11 years with no out-of-pocket expenses to the city.
sacre a166e384721342199adcda7d204f773e_l.jpgOlder, less-efficient fluorescent lighting is currently being replaced by LED lighting, which will cut the energy usage by more than 50 percent, and five of the citys eight parking garages finished being upgraded about two weeks ago, according to city officials. The other three will be completed in February.

The five completed ones are Capitol Garage (10th and L streets), Downtown Plaza West Garage (Third and L streets), Downtown Plaza Central Garage (Fifth and J streets), City Hall Garage (10th and I streets) and Tower Bridge Garage (Front Street and Capitol Mall).

Max Lofing, of Lofings Lighting on J Street said that the citys move to retrofit parking garage lighting has numerous benefits.

Not only are they saving on energy costs, but they are also saving on maintenance costs for replacing them when they burn out, since the LEDs last about twice as long as the fluorescents, he said. Also, theres no mercury in LEDs, which is a concern with fluorescent tubes when they are disposed of.

Lofing, whose company is contracting for the work, said the LEDs also provide better lighting.

A lot of people think of LEDs as sort of the dim ones that didnt work really well when they first came out, he said. Theres a huge difference in LEDs, depending on which ones you get, and the modern ones do a great job.

That lighting has added benefits when it comes to safety, according to Sacramento Police Department spokesman Sgt. Andrew Pettit.

Poor lighting is one of the things that we look at when we see if theres anything that could be changed when it comes to preventing crime, he said. If somebody has poor lighting, that often leads to criminal activity, so I can imagine if lighting was good in a parking garage, then it could serve as a deterrent to crime.

The cost to retrofit the garages was $1.3 million, and that cost was covered in its entirety, with no out-of-pocket expense to the city, according to a Department of Transportation press release.

Incentives from the Sacramento Municipal Utility District covered $181,000 of the cost, $289,000 came from a rebate from the Energy Technology Assistance Program administered by the state, and the rest was covered by a federal grant.

City Councilman Steve Cohn, who last year retired as the No. 2 attorney for SMUD, said upgrading to LEDs makes economic sense if they will be in place for a number of years.

They last longer and use a lot less energy, he said. It doesnt make sense for a renter who is going to leave in six months because of the up-front costs, but for something like the parking garages or people who own their homes, it saves a lot of money.

He added that the city switched to LEDs in traffic signals several years ago, which cuts on costs but was mainly for safety, given that LEDs show up better in adverse weather conditions than traditional light bulbs.

The current phase of renovation replaces 1,700 fixtures in five parking garages and the city will realize the return on investment in five years, according to a press release, which also estimates that the reduction in energy use is equivalent to planting more than 250,000 carbon-absorbing trees.
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