Outside view of Driscoll's Valencia Street Serra Mortuary with new lighting fixtures. Photo Courtesy of Joey Duggan.

Situated in a building that will have witnessed the passing of a century this year, it is no wonder that Driscoll’s Valencia St. Serra Mortuary is in need of a little bit of work.

The historic mortuarywhich houses four chapels and two reception rooms at 1465 Valencia – was taken over by Dan Duggan and his family in 1999.

Last year, after crunching numbers revealed how much energy the well-lit mortuary was swallowing, Joey Duggan, son of the owners, decided it was time for an update.

“You have to get with the times a little,” said Duggan, who took it upon himself to help the mortuary go “green” by changing the building’s 200 plus incandescent light bulbs to LED bulbs.

“A lot of mortuaries tend to be more traditional and late to get to technology driven things,” he said. “It’s tricky because we don’t have to mess up the integrity of the building  – we are lucky to have a very beautiful facility.”

Duggan was prompted to take the step of installing newer, environmentally-friendly lighting fixtures after learning about a rebate incentive offered by the San Francisco Energy Watch Program, which is a partnership between the San Francisco Department of Environment (SF Environment) and PG&E to reduce energy consumption.

According to Associate Energy Engineer Michael Fung of SF Environment, the program provides free energy assessments for businesses and multi-family buildings that have five or more units in San Francisco, as well as financial incentives to “help pay for some of the cost to make their business or building more energy efficient.”

So far, over 5,000 businesses have taken advantage of the program, which has been in place since 2006 including Casa Bonampak at 1051 Valencia Street.

“It’s the kind of investment that if you pay for it upfront, you’ll see a return in a year or so, and it’s been fantastic,” said Nancy Charraga, owner of Casa Bonampak, who saw her PG&E bill cut in half over the course of a year. “It’s a win win for everybody because its better for the environment, and if we knew we could be more efficient but didn’t have the time to do the research. Through this program, the City took care of everything and that made it very easy.”

Despite its success in terms of participation, Fung says he would like to see more businesses look into switching to energy-saving lighting. To find out more about the benefits of energy-saving lighting, click over here.

“The rebate comes from a public fund, so anybody who pays their PG&E bill pays into this fund,” said Fung. “People should take advantage of the money they are paying into it. It helps lower their energy bills, so they’ll see long-term cost reduction in the PG&E bills.”

In Duggan’s case, the mortuary ‘greening’ cost him a total of $5, 207 after applying the PG&E incentive of  $1,792 that was for the lighting on the building’s exterior only, and did not include the roughly $2,000 he spent on labor costs to get the bulbs installed. The lighting for the inside, Duggan said, was free.

Although the process took Duggan almost a year to complete, he insists it was time and money well invested.

“We are currently saving over $500 dollars a month, so over 12 months, that’s $6,000 will be saving,” said Duggan. “So in a year we’ve basically covered our materials.”

After conducting a bit of research, Duggan opted to buy his own bulbs, the cost of which was covered by the rebate.

“I think it’s important for community members to know that they, too, can reach out to PG&E, who will send someone out to do an audit of the buildingpeople can purchase all the materials on their own if they wish,” he said.

The mortuary now uses 100 percent LED bulbs for its chapels, offices, prep room, as well as for the light fixtures illuminating the front and back of the building and its parking lot.

“It looks beautiful lit up at night and it really provides a sense of safety and security in our area,” said Duggan, who explained that the mortuary was able to reduce the wattage output for the outside fixtures from approximately 3,500w to 600w.

Besides cutting costs, Duggan takes pride in knowing that the project “decreased the mortuary’s carbon footprint and helped beautify the outside of the building.”

And with a life-span of over 25 years, the outside LED fixtures will require little to no upkeep, giving Duggan a “peace of mind.”

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