"Energy Efficiency is at the heart of energy affordability." Tony Earley, Chairman, CEO and President of PG&E Corporation

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Energy-Efficient Lights Shine on PG&E Customers in Faux Boutique in Davis


By Matt Nauman

A 337-square-foot boutique simulates a store where retailers can gauge the impact of a variety of energy-efficient lights. (Photo by Kathreen Fontecha — California Lighting Technology Center/UC-Davis.)

A 337-square-foot boutique simulates a store where retailers can gauge the impact of a variety of energy-efficient lights. (Photo by Kathreen Fontecha — California Lighting Technology Center/UC-Davis.)

DAVIS — Rich Rusakowicz runs the Pomegranate Salon in downtown Davis with his wife Stacia. They’ve owned a hair salon together since 1999. Their job is to make their customers look good while running a successful family business.

The right lighting is essential, but their shop has about 50 lights — mostly halogens, but some incandescents and fluorescents, too — that produce heat as well as light and make for a monthly electric bill that they’d like to trim.

“Lighting has always been an issue in the hair salon business,” he said. “When you step into my room, you can literally feel the heat radiating from the ceiling.”

Learn more about the California model for energy efficiency

That’s why Rusakowicz joined about 50 other business people at an open house at the California Lighting Technology Center (CLTC) this week.

Rich Rusakowicz, left, who runs a hair salon, and Adrian Blanco, a jeweler, discuss various LED lights at an event in Davis on Wednesday. (Photo by Matt Nauman.)

Rich Rusakowicz, left, who runs a hair salon, and Adrian Blanco, a jeweler, discuss various LED lights at an event in Davis on Wednesday. (Photo by Matt Nauman.)

Inside this research facility, run by the University of California, Davis, PG&E and the CLTC have created a simulated fashion showroom full of bright colors – and hundreds of light bulbs.

The 337-square-foot demonstration space, dubbed the Lux Retail Lighting Showcase, is full of colorful blouses, scarves and boots. Color is the key word here – bold shades of red, blue, green and yellow shout from every shelf, rack and display case. Besides clothes, there are rows of tea cups and bowls full of bottles of nail polish and cases stocked with rings and other pieces of jewelry.

Right lights help customers save money

The premise is simple, said Carolyn Weiner, a PG&E product expert who specializes in helping customers pick effective, energy-efficient lighting.

“Customers can see how different LED brands work with actual products, and then can learn about how the technology can help their businesses save money,” she said.

At the Lux Retail Lighting Showcase, retail customers can see how various lights impact the presentation of many objects, from clothes to tea cups. (Photo by Matt Nauman.)

At the Lux Retail Lighting Showcase, retail customers can see how various lights impact the presentation of many objects, from clothes to tea cups. (Photo by Matt Nauman.)

That made perfect sense to Adrian Blanco, the manager of de Luna Jewelers in Davis.

“In the jewelry industry, one of the big things you rely on is lighting,” he said. His store still uses halogen lights and he sometimes has to walk a customer outside – with a diamond ring on a customer’s finger – to see how it looks in natural light.

New energy-efficient LED lights would make his store cooler, save him money and enable him to display his rings, earrings and necklaces in a more conducive setting.

In the showcase, rows of five light bulbs were directed at the various products. Each row of lights had four LEDs and one halogen bulb. The differences in light color and intensity were striking as people lifted objects under each bulb. At a control panel in the room, the customers could test the lights individually to judge how they would look with a purple scarf or how they affected the color of a bottle of nail polish.

LED lights are getting more affordable and can cut energy use by 75 percent. The technology related to color quality and color temperature is improving, too. And, PG&E offers incentives for retailers and other customers.

‘Cusp of a lighting revolution’

Michael Siminovitch, the facility’s co-director and a professor at UC Davis, welcomed everyone to the open-house event.

“We’re on the cusp of a lighting revolution from incandescent bulbs to solid-state LEDs,” he said. The CLTC has partnered with PG&E, he said, to help California businesses and residential customers meet the state’s “very aggressive, forward-thinking goals” for energy efficiency. The product showcase, he said, “really shows what the LED experience can be.”

Michael Siminovitch, co-director of the California Lighting Technology Center, left, and CPUC Commissioner Mark Ferron opened the Lux Retail Lighting Showcase on Wednesday. (Photo by Matt Nauman.)

Michael Siminovitch, co-director of the California Lighting Technology Center, left, and CPUC Commissioner Mark Ferron opened the Lux Retail Lighting Showcase on Wednesday. (Photo by Matt Nauman.)

California Public Utilities Commissioner Mark Ferron toured the facility on Wednesday. He noted that a quarter of all energy use and 80 percent of all savings come from lighting.

“The collaboration between PG&E and the CLTC is very exciting,” he said. “It’s a real hands-on opportunity for retail customers to come in and see first-hand how these lights perform in as close to a real world setting as you can get.”

Rusakowicz agrees. The improvement to the quality of LED lights, plus the fact that they cost less to operate and produce much less heat than halogens, will change things, he said. He’s going to test them in his salon.

“It’s a win-win for me,” he said. “It’s a no brainer. A small investment on my part could be returned 10- or 20-fold.”

PG&E business customers will be able to make appointments to visit and use the lighting showcase.

The CLTC was created by the California Energy Commission in 2003. It’s supported by the state’s investor-owned utilities and gets support from many lighting manufacturers. Its 30 workers do research on lights that are nearly ready for consumers and test and verify products already on the market. The facility, which includes an engineering lab and a machine shop, is full of lights – street lights, desk lights, ceiling lights, track lights and many, many more.

Email Matt Nauman at matt.nauman@pge.com.

This story originally appeared on pgecurrents.com.