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When you enter Haig’s of Rochester, Fine Jewelry & Asian Antiques, you can’t help but notice the beautiful jewelry and gemstones on display: exquisite diamonds, beautiful opals and vintage cameos. But the hidden gem in the shop – one that’s almost as impressive as the collection of jewelry and artifacts – is the energy efficiency renovation that owner Paul Haig has undertaken. By switching to energy-efficient LED lights, Haig’s jewelry is displayed in a whole new light, while savings are displayed on his monthly DTE Energy statement. And that’s just part of the story.


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A Shining Example of What a Restoration Should Be

Built in 1880, the shop is everything you would expect a 135-year old building to be, with wood-plank floors, a beautifully restored tin ceiling and display cases from the original J.L. Hudson building in Detroit. What you don’t expect are the modern energy efficiency improvements and upgrades Mr. Haig has undertaken since acquiring the 4,200-square-foot building in 1997. “We put over $250,000 into renovating the building to make it energy efficient and safe – and also to make it a great building,” he said.

And a great building it is. The Engineering Society awarded Haig and architect, John Dziurman, the “Outstanding Achievement Award for Building Design and Construction” in 1997. They were also awarded two local awards. “Then the city planners of Rochester used the plans from the building as an example of what a proper restoration of an old building should be from a structural viewpoint,” said Mr. Haig. “John Dziurman and I  figured out what we could do to make this place better from an energy perspective and make it historically correct. In other words, we did this right.”

The main level is where Mr. Haig displays his jewelry and Asian artifacts. And while most jewelry stores use blue lights to make their diamonds sparkle, Haig prefers more natural lighting. “In most jewelry stores, everything is bright and sparkly. But when you see those same gems in your kitchen, they don’t look so great. I want the lighting to be natural and that’s how I display my jewelry.” To mimic the lighting you have at home, Haig replaced 20-watt halogen lights above his cases with energy-efficient 7-watt LEDs. The 7-watt LEDs have a color temperature of about 3,000 degrees Kelvin. LED bulbs in the 2,700 to 3,500 Kelvin range give off a warm white color, which is the natural feel Mr. Haig likes.

Mr. Haig also chose LED lighting for the display windows in front. “I did that for two reasons: energy savings and because the LEDs offer such great light quality,” he said. Even an antique dentist lamp by the front door has been rewired to accommodate LEDs.


On Paul Haig’s Watch, Nothing Was Overlooked

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Energy efficiency measures on the main level include blown-in cellulose insulation in the walls, plus 6-inch glass-block and double-paned glass in the display windows. In the back of the shop, a charming spiral staircase leads to the upper level where the workshop and storage areas are located, and to the basement, with its casting, cleaning and stone cutting rooms. The staircase is also home to a large ceiling fan that helps curb energy costs by circulating air to the other floors. “In the summer we want the air conditioning on the main floor and the basement to be recycled upstairs,” Mr. Haig said. “During the winter it helps push heat down to the other levels.”

Because winter’s dry, heated air causes natural moisture in wood floors and furniture to evaporate, the humidity level is maintained at 40% throughout the shop. That’s obviously important for a 135-year-old building, but it’s also critical for preserving the valuable collection of rare and delicate ivories, lacquers and textiles – some dating back to 700 A.D. – that are offered in the gallery at Haig’s. And because humid air feels warmer, Mr. Haig can set his thermostat a few degrees lower and save up to 3% on his energy bill for every degree he turns it down. For his customers and employees, ample humidity makes the shop more comfortable.

Speaking of comfort, Mr. Haig has three rooftop heating and air conditioning units that are correctly-sized and more efficient for the building’s square footage. There’s a 2 1⁄2-ton unit that services the basement and two 4-ton units that service the main level and upper level. “With three units, we can accurately regulate the temperature on each floor,” he said. “Each floor is zoned for its own thermostat for heating and cooling.” Mr. Haig also installed skylights that allow access to the roof and provide natural lighting, reducing the need for artificial lighting. In addition, they provide some free heat from the sunlight on the upper level in winter.

Mr. Haig’s attention to energy-saving and comfort-enhancing details even extend to the basement where he added motion-controlled lighting in the bathrooms and LED lights in all of the work areas.

With all that Paul Haig has done, you might wonder what’s left. Because energy efficiency is an ever-evolving journey, a Comprehensive Energy Assessment would undoubtedly prove valuable. The assessment team would inspect the insulation and furnace in the shop and make recommendations based on their findings. Since two of his heating and air conditioning units were installed 17 years ago and one was installed close to 20 years ago, he might want to consider upgrading to higher energy efficiency units within the next few years. Another next step would be to switch out inefficient T12 tubes in the main level’s cove lighting and in the basement ceiling. When he does, he should replace them with T5s, which use 45% less energy. By taking these next steps, Mr. Haig’s store would be even more of a crown jewel.


This article was originally published in DTE Energy’s magazine EnergySmarts.

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