Saginaw YMCA builds brawn in a brighter setting

The Saginaw YMCA recently participated in a loan program called Michigan Saves to improve its lighting and bring it into the energy-efficient present. They reflect on just how that worked for the Y and its members.
The Saginaw YMCA is abuzz with activity every day of the week. Swim lessons, racquetball matches, weight training, and basketball games are just some of the activities members partake in for good cardio and muscular health--and good fun.

And thanks to energy efficiency improvements at the Y, members do all that activity under good lighting too.

Two years ago, the Saginaw Y undertook a project to improve its parking lot lighting and upgrade the lighting in 75 percent of its 100,000 square-foot facility, including the gymnasiums, swimming pool, and racquetball courts. The lighting needed to be converted to improve aesthetics and decrease maintenance costs. Hopes ran high for saving on utility expenses too.

According to Steve Meyer, Saginaw YMCA president and CEO, although the improvements were greatly needed, the Y did not initially consider them because of cost. Then he learned about an opportunity to finance the equipment, much like a lease-to-own program, through the Michigan Saves Business Energy Financing Program.

Since savings projections showed a lower consumption of kilowatts, and thus lower electricity costs, could offset the monthly lease payment, the Y moved forward on the project.

Some of the results were unexpected.

"One pleasant surprise the Y received is that their customers really noticed the difference in lighting," says Todd O'Grady, project coordinator at Michigan Saves, the nonprofit organization that provided the financing for the upgrades. "They hadn't really planned on customers noticing and appreciating the upgrades. Many people commented that the new lights gave the building a bit of a facelift."

Michigan Saves Business Energy Financing Program offers an easy, affordable way for businesses and nonprofits to make energy-saving improvements through a network of authorized contractors. The program offers below-market interest rates. 

At the Saginaw YMCA, Michigan Saves financed the energy efficiency measures installed by ATIGROUP, a Michigan Saves authorized contractor. Improvements at the Y included replacing old, inefficient lighting with new LED fixtures that provide both energy cost and maintenance cost savings.

On the ground at the Y, Meyer noticed the new lights went on and off quickly, whereas the old gym lights took 20 minutes to fully come on and shut off.  

While Meyer has been pleased the Y received great upgrades it would have not pursued otherwise, the results have not been exactly as projected. "While our consumption of electricity is down, our rates were increased," says Meyer. "Our project is nearly budget neutral, and it could be positive if we calculate the labor costs and time we had previously needed to repair the older fixtures or to purchase and replace bulbs frequently."

Also, the lighting improvements were made sooner, rather than later, because the Y did not have the capital to make changes at that time without the creative financing options offered through Michigan Saves.

"And, when the loan is paid off, their return on investment grows even deeper as they will be realizing the energy savings for the life of the product," says O'Grady.

This piece was supported in part through a partnership with Michigan Saves and Public Sector Consultants.
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