By Nick Lico
Skeptical Funeral Home Director Becomes Believer and Proponent of BEC
The roots of A.J. Desmond and Sons Funeral Directors go back nearly 100 years, with a location established on Woodward in Highland Park in 1917. Family-owned since its founding, the company today has three locations: two in Troy and one in Royal Oak. Like many successful businesses, Desmond fields its share of sales calls making enthusiastic but dubious promises, serving only to confirm a skeptic’s favorite adage: “If something sounds too good to be true, it usually is.”
Once in a while, however, you find something that’s as good as promised. That was the case A.J. Desmond and Sons experienced with the Business Energy Consultation (BEC) from DTE Energy.
“To be honest, I was skeptical when a DTE Energy representative called me to set up an appointment,” said Kathy Desmond Barr, the company’s vice president and treasurer. “I had never heard of a Business Energy Consultation, so I asked, ‘What’s the catch?’ He told me it would help us save energy and money. (No catch!) I consulted with Rick Stout, our Buildings Manager, and together we decided to try it at our Crooks Road location.”
BEC: The First Step to Energy Efficiency
Think of the Business Energy Consultation as the first step on your journey to an energy-efficient future. It’s designed to help business owners reduce their energy consumption.
It begins with visiting your business to check the integrity of the building and its systems, analyzing its efficiency. Once the inspection is completed, energy educators discuss their findings with you, install energy-saving products and recommend energy efficiency measures you can implement to help you further reduce your utility bills. They also provide details about any applicable incentives that will help you save even more.
And it’s free! Specifically, the energy educator will:
- Check the building doors, windows and level of insulation
- Examine the heating and cooling systems
- Analyze electric and natural gas use
- Look for equipment that may not be operating correctly
At the A.J. Desmond and Sons Crooks location, the energy educator swapped out numerous old, inefficient lights with new, high-efficiency compact fluorescent (CFL) or LED equivalents as available. He also installed faucet aerators to help reduce water consumption and its associated cost. (For a complete list of energy-efficient products that are installed free, see sidebar on the next page.)
Seeing the Light
Ms. Desmond Barr was so pleased with the experience and the potential savings of the first BEC that she scheduled one for the Woodward location. A third BEC was conducted at the Rochester Road site. As was the case at the Crooks location, the energy educators exchanged numerous inefficient incandescent lights with energy-efficient equivalents.
Lighting is an integral part of any small business and its energy bill. For a funeral home such as A.J. Desmond and Sons, it can be significant, so switching to higher efficiency CFL and LED lighting delivered immediate and measurable results.
“We’ve seen a 15%-20% reduction in our energy bill,” Ms. Desmond Barr said.
Because of their longer life, energy- efficient CFLs and LEDs also reduce operation and maintenance issues, saving time – a welcome benefit for any business owner. As the saying goes, time is money.
“I would spend approximately 45 minutes a week switching out burned-out fluorescent bulbs. I haven’t had to switch one out since we replaced them and likely won’t for quite some time,” Mr. Stout said.
Comfort Paired with Savings
The improved energy efficiency also delivered greater comfort and convenience.
“We have over 100 lights in the casket selection room and the old lights made the room hot. Since selecting a casket for a loved one is already a stressful task, the heat from the old lights made things even more unpleasant. With the installation of new lights, which don’t give off heat, the room is much more comfortable,” Ms. Desmond Barr explained.
“During the summer months I’ve also noticed the A/C doesn’t turn on as often, again lowering our energy bills,” Stout added.
The experience at a funeral home is an intimate one, so A.J. Desmond and Sons made sure the new LEDs in the viewing rooms are soft or warm white. The result is energy efficiency paired with a comforting ambiance.
Furthering Their Energy Efficiency Journey
Ms. Desmond Barr discovered very quickly the benefits of saving energy and has become a BEC believer and a proponent of energy efficiency and the savings it offers the business.
“We bought new ENERGY STAR® appliances, including two refrigerators, a washer and dryer. We also bought a new energy-efficient refrigeration unit and will continue to look for other energy-saving opportunities. Everything we do or purchase will be with a focus on increasing our energy efficiency,” she said.
For example, they quickly acted on the recommendations of the BEC and replaced fluorescent tubes with new linear LED tubes to further reduce energy consumption.
“The new linear LED tubes are bright, so we’re using only two instead of four fluorescent tubes in many of our overhead fixtures,” Stout said.
Additional A.J. Desmond and Sons energy efficiency measures include:
- Upgrading insulation, ensuring a much tighter energy envelope
- Installing occupancy sensors that automatically turn off lights when a room is unoccupied
- Installing new LED exit signs. As Ms. Desmond Barr explained, “The fire marshal told us that installing new LED exit signs would be more affordable than replacing the bulbs on our previous exit signs.”
In addition to saving money via reduced energy bills, A.J. Desmond and Sons qualified for a number of rebates from DTE Energy. In total, the company received $4,100 over the last two years for additional energy-saving measures. Much of that money has been used to further the company’s energy efficiency quest.
A Program Advocate
Ms. Desmond Barr realized that the benefits of a BEC could be duplicated at home. She had a Home Energy Consultation (HEC) performed at her home and advised her colleagues to do the same. Like a BEC, the HEC provides valuable information and items to make your home more energy efficient.
If you have not yet begun your energy efficiency journey, Ms. Desmond Barr offers the following advice:
“Like any business, you have to look at where you can save money. The BEC is a no-brainer that took up very little of our time. It’s a money- and time-saver that also enhances comfort. All in all, it was a very positive experience,” she said.
This article was originally published in DTE Energy’s magazine EnergySmarts.
For more tips and inspiration for small business owners, visit Small Business Pulse Detroit.