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Mary Schmitt, owner and president of Fluidline Components in Clawson, Michigan, struggled to read the Spring 2013 issue of Energy Smarts for Michigan Business. And no wonder, the old fluorescent lights in her office were dim and flickering. So too were those in the company’s warehouse, making it harder for employees to read part numbers.

Despite the poor lighting, Ms. Schmitt was intrigued with what she was reading: an article that explained how DTE Energy’s free Business Energy Consultation could lead to significant improvements in energy efficiency. All accomplished with little effort on the part of the business owner. The article outlined how energy efficiency projects, including lighting replacement, HVAC upgrades and other energy efficiency enhancements, not only reduce current and future energy usage and costs, but can also reward a business with significant incentives from DTE Energy, potential tax savings and increased business value.

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Ms. Schmitt has been at the helm of Fluidline, a leading distributor of pneumatic and hydraulic components, since 1998. Her parents started the company in their basement in 1972, and the firm moved to its present warehouse and office building in 1983. Ms. Schmitt runs a tight ship, with an extremely well-organized warehouse and system that can deliver the parts customers need immediately. The business has been recognized as both a Certified Women’s Business Enterprise and a Certified Woman-Owned Small Business. Both credentials are difficult to achieve, and they are testimony to both Ms. Schmitt’s expertise and her company’s efficiency and organization.

In fact, on the day Ms. Schmitt was reading EnergySmarts for Michigan Business just about everything at Fluidline was working well, save for that lighting and some of the other energy- consuming systems. Every inch of the facility was illuminated with ancient T12 fluorescent fixtures. At its best, the lighting was just barely adequate with lamps failing at a record pace.

“I had known the T12 lighting was becoming obsolete and realized we may have a hard time finding replacement bulbs,” said Ms. Schmitt. “Then I read about the BEC program and the DTE Energy incentives.”

Randy Schmitt, her retired husband, was at the office that day, so she asked him if he could investigate further.


An Energy Efficiency Journey Begins

The Schmitts had always been energy conscious and they recently had Fluidline’s heating and air conditioning systems tuned up, resulting in modest efficiency gains. They knew the HVAC equipment was old and that eventual replacement should be part of their energy efficiency plan, but the lighting was a more pressing need.

Mr. Schmitt called 855.234.7335 and requested a Business Energy Consultation. Soon, DTE Energy technicians Jeff Shelton and Martin Jankowski were at the Fluidline facility. They checked energy-related systems, installed foam insulation on the electric water heater’s pipes, installed an LED exit sign kit and recommended a complete lighting overhaul. Perhaps most important, they explained that generous incentives were available from DTE Energy. What’s more, they told the Schmitts an approved lighting contractor would be happy to do the job and handle the rebate processing paperwork.


Taking the Next Step

Mr. Schmitt checked DTE Energy’s list of approved contractors at dteenergy.com/findacontractor and called several of them.

“Oscar W. Larson Company of Clarkston had a good reputation for service and offered competitive pricing,” he said, “so I contracted them to do the work.”

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Roger Wiseley, the contractor’s energy services manager confirmed the availability of incentives, explained the procedure and filed all the necessary documentation. Then he brought in a highly skilled crew and replaced all of the old T12 lighting with high efficiency T8 lamps.

“It was a very good deal for Fluidline,” Mr. Wisely said. “The DTE Energy incentive covered almost half of the cost, and energy savings paid for the rest of it in ten months. That’s a terrific return on investment.”

Not only is it a great return on investment and a remarkably quick payback, but the energy efficiencies achieved will continue to pay dividends in reduced operating expenses for years into the future.

The lighting overhaul not only made financial sense; the visual result was outstanding.

“Our IT technician stopped by after we upgraded our lighting to check out our computer systems and asked if we had painted the walls,” said Ms. Schmitt. “He was struck by the bright and cheerful look of our offices and warehouse. The new lighting changed the nature of our workplace, while making it easier for everyone to do their job. We’re extremely satisfied.”

Ms. Schmitt is likewise pleased that the enhanced lighting has greatly increased the value of her company, both in terms of the building’s net worth and the impression it leaves with clients.


Moving On

In fact, the Schmitts are so pleased with the result that they’re ready to continue their energy efficiency journey. Mr. Schmitt recently wrote to Mr. Wiseley at Oscar W. Larson Company and asked that he be made aware of any other DTE Energy incentive programs for which Fluidline might be eligible.

Mr. Wiseley responded in the affirmative: “We enjoyed working with you on the lighting project. I would like to talk to you about your heating and cooling requirements. We may very well be able to help you with that and with exterior lighting.”

The journey continues.


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

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