While big, juicy burgers and chunky onion rings aren’t typically part of a story about “cutting down,” they happen to be the protagonists in a tale about one San Diego burger joint that cut its electric bill by more than half after completely refurbishing the restaurant with LED lighting.
Sponsored by San Diego Gas & Electric’s (SDG&E) Emerging Technologies Program, Hodad’s is one of the first restaurants in the city to be completely lit by LEDs, as part of a demonstration project.
"Ten years ago at our Ocean Beach location, SDG&E changed out all of our light fixtures with energy-saving bulbs and cut our electricity bill in half," says Hodad’s owner Mike Hardin. "I wanted energy-saving bulbs at our new downtown location, so our builder introduced us to SDG&E, which showed us the newest LED technology. It’s a great value for businesses like ours, and I have already recommended it to many other owners."
When Hodad’s acquired its new location downtown, the site included more than 100 fluorescent (CFLs) or incandescent lamps. SDG&E’s installation converted all to LED lighting, including T8-retrofit tubes in the kitchen, nine-watt LED A-lamps in the dining area (in place of the former 95-watt incandescent lamps), plus corridor lighting using a generic retrofit kit available at home improvement stores.
The results were immediate. Not only did Hodad’s trim its energy bill, but the kitchen lighting was so efficient that only half the allocated lights were needed, which doubled the longevity and accelerated project payback. Because these LED tubes could be inserted into existing troffers without additional retrofitting, upfront costs were reduced as well. What’s more, LEDs provide superior lighting due in part to new technology that enables lights to be dimmed—an important feature for restaurants.
"We take lighting for granted, but it's so important in my business. I always tell my customers that 90 percent of their tastebuds are in their eyeballs," Hardin says. "The new LED lighting makes my food look so good!"
With LED technology rapidly advancing, current LEDs cost 20–50 percent less to operate than legacy lighting systems. Although the initial purchase cost may be significantly higher, the expected longevity and drastic energy savings associated with contemporary LEDs are compelling.
In addition, SDG&E and other utilities nationwide offer incentives for restaurants to help finance energy-efficient retrofits with the savings they produce on their utility bills. A consultation with your local utility could reveal opportunities to acquire state-of-the-art equipment with no out-of-pocket costs through programs like On-Bill Financing or Direct Install.
These energy efficiency efforts and programs are the most cost-effective way to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and save on energy costs. SDG&E’s lighting demonstration at Hodad’s showed remarkable results regarding the strong potential of LEDs in the restaurant sector as versatile and aesthetically pleasing options that can achieve substantial energy savings.
A San Diego original, Hardin was the perfect partner for this restaurant ambient lighting demonstration showcase because he’s a go-getter who makes things happen. Not only is he on the forefront of industry trend-setting, he also supports military service men and women by taking Hodad's out to bases around the world, including Guantanamo Bay and the Middle East. His burgers are so iconic that Food Network TV star Guy Fieri of the program “Diners, Drive-in Dives” requests that Hardin personally cater his birthday parties.
“When SDG&E retrofitted our restaurant years ago, a light bulb went on and I realized I had a new avenue to save money and help the environment,” Hardin recalls. “It doesn’t make sense to me anymore to screw in a light bulb that is going to cost me and our world a lot more in energy.”
Ted Reguly is the director of customer programs and assistance at San Diego Gas & Electric. He can be reached at 858-654-8653 or email@example.com.