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Monticello, KY

Case Study: Switch to LED pays off for American Woodmark

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The Big Ass Light LEDs are saving the company more than $100K a year on energy usage, and thousands more on annual maintenance expenses. Ben Chiles, Project Engineer

The Gist

Problem

American Woodmark builds more than 500 styles of cabinet for the home construction and remodeling markets at facilities across America. But the mix of lighting created headaches for employees and management at a number of its locations.

Solution

In all, American Woodmark in Monticello replaced all 637 of their old fixtures, including 300 metal halides, with 427 Big Ass Lights.

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Working in a factory with a hodge-podge of lighting technologies and wattages can make any job difficult. If you’re in the wood-cabinet business, the challenge is even greater. That was the situation that employees at American Woodmark in Monticello, Kentucky, found themselves in.

American Woodmark builds more than 500 styles of cabinet for the home construction and remodeling markets at facilities across America. But the mix of lighting created headaches for employees and management at a number of its locations.

One big problem was the lack of consistent light quality. Monticello Project Engineer Ben Chiles describes it this way: “We deal with a natural product that has a lot of variation in consistency, color and texture. We could look at the same piece of wood in three different places in the plant and make three different color decisions, as well as different decisions about whether it was a good or bad product, based on the lighting.”

But quality control wasn’t the main issue the 160,000-sq-ft facility was having as a result of its lighting. The bigger problem, according to Chiles, was that maintaining and replacing the combination of metal-halide and fluorescent fixtures was costing about $30,000 a year. “We had one or two guys who’d spend four to six hours every weekend replacing bulbs and fixtures,” said Chiles.

And then there was the expense of providing power to those fixtures. American Woodmark in Monticello was spending about $180,000 a year on electricity to feed their 450W high-bay metal halides and mix of low-hanging T-5, T-8 and T-12 fluorescents. With all these factors arguing in favor of installing better, less expensive and more effective lighting, Chiles and colleagues went in search of the best way to achieve a full retrofit of the facility.

Woodmark was already familiar with the quality of Big Ass Fans, having several in their shop. Chiles said Woodmark loves the fans and continues to purchase more as needed because of their “ease of use and robust build.” He said the fans “provide much needed relief for employees during the hotter months and do a good job of regulating the temperature during the colder months as a supplement to our radiant heating system.” Because of such a positive experience, Woodmark asked Big Ass to prepare a quote for lighting.

 

Based on wattage use, we’re going from spending approximately $180,000 a year to $60,000. We’re recommending them to everyone; we’ve all been very impressed. Ben Chiles

Big Ass lighting engineer Evan Schroader traveled to Monticello to gather the information needed to prepare a quote. He compiled an inventory of existing lights, noted obstructions, determined where critical tasks would be performed throughout and discussed American Woodmark’s goals. He then took all that information back to a Big Ass applications engineer, who produced a simulated layout.

After comparing Big Ass Light’s proposal with two others, Woodmark chose Big Ass Light. Chiles said he based his decision on the turnkey solution, the 2-year ROI and a strong recommendation from another Woodmark facility in Maryland, whose engineer was happy with both the Big Ass lights and the service. The fact that Big Ass took care of all utility rebates at no cost was an added bonus.

In all, American Woodmark in Monticello replaced all 637 of their old fixtures, including 300 metal halides, with 427 Big Ass Lights. The new fixtures’ LED technology dramatically improved efficiency and delivered much more light, which was diffused throughout the building at precisely the angle each area needed. Installation took place on weekends, when production workers were off. “Big Ass worked with us on the schedule, absolutely,” said Chiles. “They were very good about taking care of adjustments to the original layout, too.”

For consistency, Woodmark went with one fixture throughout, and a 5,000K color temperature, which they’ve made standard throughout all their facilities for evaluating work and materials. It’s one reason they’re hoping to make Big Ass the preferred lighting provider for Woodmark facilities across the country.

Chiles said that although they can’t quantify the data on product integrity, the goal of being able to see the same wood color and grain everywhere in the building has been met 100 percent. “Before,” he added, “our light was very uneven. We had some places that measured 7 foot candles and others with 200 foot candles. We were averaging about 30. Now we’re averaging about 70 foot candles everywhere, with a variation from 50-140.” Even those unfamiliar with the measurement term can appreciate the improvement to overall illumination.

The new lighting has also had a significant impact on (indoor) curb appeal. “When you come in, it no longer looks like an aging facility. Corporate visitors have come and stood in shock at the difference. It’s a huge improvement,” said Chiles.

And then there’s the improvement they see to their energy bill.

“Based on wattage use, we’re going from spending approximately $180,000 a year to $60,000.” Chiles hopes that eventually all American Woodmark facilities will retrofit with Big Ass Light. “We’re recommending them to everyone,” he said. “We’ve all been very impressed.”

In combination with reduced maintenance costs, American Woodmark in Monticello sees savings of nearly $150,000 annually.

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