It was when Jon Perper was running a bowling alley that a lightbulb went off. … And off, and off again.
To keep his Cherry Hill bowling alley’s lanes lit up, Perper had to change out flickering, near-dead lighting fixtures what seemed like every other day.
“The lighting was one of my top expenses in that business,” Perper said. “So, I began experimenting for my own purposes; I started using a lot of LED lighting. When I realized how long-lasting it was and how much it could reduce my energy costs, I thought it was something that needs to be brought to other businesses.”
Perper went on to found ZledLighting, a Cherry Hill business that manufactures LED lighting fixtures. In doing so, he joined a commercial segment that operates under the rubric of energy efficiency — an area of business that’s now known to be the largest piece of New Jersey’s energy sector in terms of labor.
The percent of people working in this area within the sector is nearly 80 percent, according to Barbara Blumenthal, a research coordinator for ReThink Energy NJ.
Incidentally, Blumenthal said that the local dominance of energy-efficiency-related businesses was only recently determined, because the sector had not been broken down in a way that tracked that category’s workforce totals until last year.
In Perper’s growing business, which right now employs 10 people, the former bowling boss combines wholesale energy-efficient lighting supply with an additional eco-friendly focus on the recycling of old lighting during retrofitting projects.
“With innovations in lighting technology, old days of changing lightbulbs every six months are gone,” he said. “But when we do change out old lighting fixtures, we have to do something with them, because they don’t just disappear.”
Perper positively glows with excitement about the energy-efficient products his company makes. And he’s able to charge other people up about it, too, by shining a light on the advances in the technology that are being made all the time.
“I hate to say that we’ve found the perfect light, because I’m sure they’ll find something else more efficient one day,” he said. “For now, the quality level and the systems made to support them are far superior to where it started.”
The constant improvements are also making large LED lighting retrofitting projects not just viable, but an obvious choice for many businesses, he said. Perper boasts potential energy savings of more than half today.
“For example, the Comcast building in Philadelphia reduced energy consumption by about 70 percent with this lighting,” he said. “Of course, the return on investment does get better with the size of the project and the usage of wattage in the building’s lighting system.”
Around 30 percent of electrical consumption for a business is lighting, Perper said. The 70 percent energy reduction that Comcast’s headquarters saw is about what the LED lighting technology peaks at, he added.
It’s not a meager figure, and it’s more than enough to convince many to replace less energy-efficient lighting fixtures.
“In the nation, there are still something like 2.3 billion fluorescent lighting tubes,” Perper said, citing U.S. Green Building Council figures. “When I hear that, I see such a huge amount of energy that could be saved.”
So, when you ask him what his goal is for the next five years, he’ll tell you it’s to lower that figure.
But there’s a good chance he won’t be doing it alone, given that businesses focused on energy efficiency have such a widespread Garden State presence.
“There’s a lot being invested into energy efficiency here,” Blumenthal said. “And now that we’re accurately capturing just how many jobs there are (in this area), there’s no doubt it could help businesses, investors and elected officials understand what this sector’s economic impact on the state is.”