Community Center Gets a Makeover, Saves on Energy Bills

Admit it. You like to watch makeover shows. The Biggest Loser, Extreme Makeover, What Not to Wear. Everyone loves them. Of course, we all hang on to the end to see the big reveal.

Before and after photos are fun to see, whether they’re photos of people, bathrooms or entire buildings.

Recently, Xcel Energy helped to conduct a unique “makeover” of its own. We’re not talking makeup, hair or weight-loss, we’re talking light fixtures and windows. All in the name of energy efficiency. With partner Metro Clean Energy Resource Team (CERT), the team helped a deserving community center that didn’t know where to start.

The Lao Family Community Center of St. Paul was the makeover recipient. The center is home to a non-profit dedicated to the well-being of the Hmong community in Minnesota, offering bilingual and bicultural services. Their home is a 70-year-old building in desperate need of attention.

The first step toward a new makeover? An energy assessment, which identified a number of quick and easy fixes designed to save energy and money.

One of the most drastic changes identified in the assessment was perhaps one of the most simple – with only one person working on the second floor, the center was using a significant amount of energy to heat, cool and light the entire floor. By creating a new workspace on the main floor, the amount of energy needed for a now (primarily) vacant second floor was drastically reduced.

Then there were the other, more technical improvements like:

* Installing programmable thermostats to regulate heating and cooling

* Replacing old, inefficient lights with high efficiency light emitting diode (LED) lighting

* Installing high efficiency windows in the community room

* Installing a power factor correction unit to reduce charges associated with inefficient uses of power (yeah, this one’s kind of technical, but saves quite a bit of energy)

And then the last few details before the big reveal: the low-cost fixes like weather stripping, caulking, reducing water temperature, insulating water pipes and installing faucet aerators

The results?

The Lao Family Center will save $3,100 – or 15 percent – on their energy bills every year.

But it wasn’t just the facility that received all the attention. A workshop was held to educate the center’s employees about energy conservation, recycling and waste reduction. The staff is now able to spread that information to Lao Family Center clients.

The point of the makeover? If an old, out-of-shape facility can do it, anyone can. Even for a non-profit organization, energy efficiency is achievable and worth the investment. Capital costs are often recouped in energy savings over a short period of time, many times two years or less. And energy conservation measures that reduce operating costs can be used elsewhere in the home or business.

Voila. Makeover complete. With lower energy bills to boot.

For more information about the project, visit

Article by Erin Mathe, appearing courtesy Xcel Energy Blog.

Skip to toolbar