Scrutinizing the power bill pays off at Colwood Fire Hall

Colwood Fire Rescue staffer finds savings in simple ways

The Colwood Fire Department is looking at a savings of roughly $1,500 a year in energy costs thanks the hard work of one individual.

Joanne Topping, the emergency services support co-ordinator at Colwood Fire Rescue, doesn’t have a lot – if any – free time in her day. But that didn’t stop her from trying to find ways to make the fire hall more efficient. While she turns lights and computers off behind others, setting her sights on even bigger cost saving measures has started to add up in savings for the city.

“I’ve managed to cut my bill at home quite significantly,” she said. “If you can do it at home, you can do it here … We forget about the obvious.”

After looking at the hall’s hydro bills, paired with the high replacement costs of T12 florescent lamps, and after receiving a cold call from a B.C. Hydro representative, Topping decided something had to be done.

“There’s people that will do the legwork for you, you just have to initiate the process,” she said. Working with a Hydro staffer who also recommended a number of contractors, she helped the hall lower its energy costs through the replacement of more than 60 halogen light bulbs and a dozen T12 florescent lamps with LED bulbs.

While the fire hall was renovated roughly 10 years ago, there are still areas that could use updating, she noted. “We still have the old half of the building.” That section has sometimes been overlooked and Topping said a few fixtures still need to be replaced. Most of those are on the exterior of the building, or in the museum. “I hope to maybe do some of that replacement on our own,” she said, pointing a further cost-saving measure.

A number of lights at the fire hall are motion-activated or on timers, although some have to be left on to help facilitate volunteers coming and going at all hours of the day.

It’s especially important that those lights are as energy efficient as possible, she said, adding that even small measures, such as replacing some of the T12 florescent lamps with T8s, has made a difference.

Colwood Coun. Cynthia Day, chair of the City’s protective services committee, said, “it’s interesting …  it’s just that common-sense approach.” The steps Topping has taken are “all things that many of us would do in our daily lives, but don’t look at in a big workplace.”

In this case, Day said, all of the work Topping did allowed the fire department to move straight into a plan of action. “When Joanne and others take that leadership step and are recognized for it, they energize others to take those steps. The firehall has been a great leader in that way.”

Day’s hope is that others will follow the department’s lead to make their own businesses and workplaces more energy efficient. “The whole city has been working towards that … It really takes those individuals that own it.”

Topping noted that thanks to the hard work of firefighter Scott Abrahamson and many others, Colwood Fire Rescue received gold certification in the Vancouver Island Green Business Certification Program in 2014. Last year they were only one criteria area short of achieving the top-rated “green” certification.

“These kinds of initiatives are always ongoing,” she said. “We are very aware of that here and that’s thanks to the City.”

katie@goldstreamgazette.com

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