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When Arrowhead Credit Union invested $55,000 in an energy efficiency retrofit, management hoped it would save $7,200 annually.

Turns out, projections were way off.

Instead of $7,200 a year, the CU says it is saving $1,000 per week - meaning the retrofit will pay for itself in just over a year.

Ron Kliewer, the construction project manager for Arrowhead CU, said he became involved in saving energy and money while at his former employer, Southern California Edison. At SCE, Kliewer worked on the energy company's "Envest" program, which retrofitted classrooms, military facilities and other large, bulk power users with efficient lighting and efficiency modifications to air conditioning.

"I've always been into that," Kliewer told The Credit Union Journal. "Even before Edison, I worked as a general contractor building experimental super-insulated houses with the Bonneville Power Administration in Washington State. That project was designed to discover what is the incremental cost to upgrade housing to peak energy efficiency. I took some of that knowledge to the credit union industry."

Kliewer said he had been pushing Arrowhead CU's management to invest in energy efficiency for "a long time." When the decision was made, the credit union upgraded 137,000-square-feet in 12 of its 25 branches. Magnetic ballasts in the fluorescent light fixtures were replaced with electronic ballasts. In seven branches, the air conditioners were tuned up and programmable thermostats were installed.

In addition to the physical and equipment changes, the CU said it integrated energy awareness into its operational culture by educating staff on the importance of turning off lights and computers when not in use.

The newest branches did not require modifications because they had been built in an energy efficient manner, Kliewer said. But, he added, changing the fluorescent lighting in the older facilities made a huge difference.

"A little bit here, a little bit there...with hundreds of fixtures, it adds up. Switching ballasts brought the big savings. It is like switching from old tube televisions or radios to the digital models. The older ballasts consume just as much power if the lamp is burned out as it does when it is working. Plus, they have PCBs in them, making them difficult to dispose of."

Arrowhead still is looking to improve efficiency, and Kliewer said it soon will begin installing a "third-generation lamp" that saves even more electricity.

Another payoff for Arrowhead CU was being named one of nine national Energy Star Award winners for energy improvements by the Environmental Protection Agency.

Kliewer said the credit union will be unable to attend the ceremony at the EPA in Washington, D.C., so representatives from the agency will come to an upcoming Arrowhead board meeting.

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