Caravan Beads' Portland, ME HQ is pictured above

Caravan Beads’ Portland, ME HQ is pictured above. While the solar arrays on these two roofs provide the majority of their electricity, switching to indoor LED Lighting allowed them to drop their overall energy use, and thus, get more out of their solar power investment.

Solar is often the ‘tip of the spear’ in converting to clean energy, but equally important is reducing energy use with efficiency and better performing mechanical systems. It’s with this mindset that in mid-2017 ReVision Energy started offer LED retrofits for businesses.

LEDs outperform existing lighting technology in every way. They use 1/2 the amount of electricity as older technology, last 5x as long, and provide much better quality light.

We are grateful that customers who work with us on solar are often interested in complementary product lines, and so we launched our new division by talking to existing solar champions. It didn’t take long before we connected with powerful ones: Barry and Jean Kahn of Caravan Beads.

The Caravan Beads Story

Barry with Caravan's largest solar array. Photo courtesy Tim Greenway for Mainebiz.

Barry with Caravan’s largest solar array. Photo courtesy Tim Greenway for Mainebiz.

Caravan Beads of Portland, Maine began in 1991, on the sun porch of Barry and Jean Kahn’s home. They have been growing their business steadily ever since, adapting to the advent of the global online market, relocating, expanding, renovating, and powering their growth with solar energy.

“We now have two buildings,” Barry says, “The larger is our main Caravan Beads building. We bought the other a few years ago, and it was in terrible shape. We gutted it completely and in the process of rebuilding, started thinking about solar. ReVision is a close neighbor, and so we connected and it made sense to do business with them.”

Our team worked with Kahn over several phases of projects – solar for one rooftop, then another, as well as the installation of heat pumps for heating and cooling.

“Once you do a solar array, you say, Wait a minute. This is a really smart thing to do!” Barry says, “It’s the best piece of machinery I’ve ever owned, no moving parts. You hook it up, the sun shines, and it makes electricity. It’s wonderful.”

A Trifecta of Savings

Before and After comparison of Caravan Beads' showroom lighting

LED technology can offer better color rendering than comparable artificial sources, as seen in this Before & After comparison at Caravan Beads. Colors will appear more vivid than compared to fluorescent lighting.

By the end of 2015, ReVision had installed 4 Mitsubishi Electric heat pumps and 296 solar panels for Caravan Beads. While these systems made a powerful dent on the energy bills for the office, showroom, and warehouse, our latest product offering – LEDs – complemented the existing projects perfectly.

“The LED lights are fantastic,” Barry attests. “I wish we’d done it a few years ago, because they’re significantly brighter and they’re using about half the electricity. So it’s a great change in the right direction.”

The LED project for Caravan Beads will reduce their electric load by around 28,000 kWh annually, roughly the same amount of power generated by a 23-kilowatt solar energy array. Caravan Beads’ projected savings is nearly $140,000 over the 25-year system life, with a simple payback in under 5 years.