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How an investment in energy-efficient lights turned into an investment in children's health


For most people, lights are either bright or dim, coloured or white. But for children with sensory issues, it’s not quite so straightforward. In a pediatric rehabilitation setting for children with developmental and physical needs, lights are soothing or harsh, and choosing the right ones can be the difference between a good day and a bad one.

That’s one of the reasons why, when he was approached by his maintenance manager about replacing some of the lights at the George Jeffrey Children’s Centre in Thunder Bay, Chief Executive Officer Tom Walters thought it was a perfect opportunity to improve the quality of light in the centre and look into more energy-efficient alternatives. He turned to the Energy Services Advisor at Thunder Bay Hydro, and the Save on Energy program, for help.

“Every decision we make here is filtered through the lens of what that decision means for the children,” said Walters. “I made it clear to Thunder Bay Hydro that the more we can save on energy, the more we can put towards frontline services. We do have a wait list, so to us, my board of directors and the staff, that’s a big concern. We want to get help to the kids.”

Given the special needs of the centre’s clients, Thunder Bay Hydro recommended converting existing LED lighting fixtures to 35 watts from 175 watts, which met Walters’ key criteria for both comfort and cost savings.

According to Walters, the new lights also produced some unexpected results. “There are several positives, including the fact we’re not going to have to change these lights out anywhere near as often. That saves time and allows staff to do other things.”

Is it a stretch to say the lighting upgrade is helping George Jeffrey Children’s Centre fulfil its mandate of doing what’s best for the children? Not according to Walters. “As a non-profit, we’re always concerned that we use our dollars as effectively as possible. With this retrofit, we’re saving roughly $3,500 to $5,000 a year, money that can go right back into addressing the needs of our clients.”

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