Go green and save green

August 4, 2017
Being eco-friendly is smart business, too, one doctor of optometry says.

Excerpted from page 48 of the July/August 2017 edition of AOA Focus.

G. Michael Murphy, O.D., ponders the question: Is he a "green," eco-conscious doctor of optometry or a businessman mindful of his bottom line?

"Yes," he says with a straight face and then laughs.

Dr. Murphy says you can be both. Green is good for the environment and especially smart business, too. 

Growing up in a large, frugal family, Dr. Murphy recalls his parents frequently reminding the children to turn off the lights or the running water when not in use. These days, his family drives hybrid electric cars.

He even had an electric charging station installed outside his office.

"I am now driving this 2017 Volt, charging almost exclusively at the office on solar electricity," says Dr. Murphy, who had been burning $250 a month on gas during his commute. "All my commuting costs are now free. You save on maintenance, too."

Dr. Murphy, who practices in Swansea, Illinois, opened his practice site in 2006. "You can look at my efforts from a 'green' standpoint. But there's a very important green that people have to think about—that dollar bill you're going to use a whole lot less of if you are efficient."

He adds, "You may have to spend some money in the short term to save a lot of money in the long term."

Paying off

Dr. Murphy has made a significant green investment, after diving into information online on how he might make his practice more energy efficient.

Not long after purchasing his building in December 2015, he went to Google Project Sunroof, which showed an overhead view of his office building and confirmed his building was prime for solar panels—something he'd long expected.

He hired an accredited contractor to install the 90 panels on his office roof.

"So, when I bought the building, I plastered the front (roof) with solar panels. Some people say solar panels look ugly. But 90% of my patients who come in don't even notice they are there.

"Now that the solar panels are on the building, anyone who charges (their car) there is running completely 'clean and green,'" he adds.

Doctors can check out their own rooftop solar potential from Google Project Sunroof. The payback on his solar panels, installed in January 2017, is only four years, Dr. Murphy says.

Also early this year, he replaced 108 fluorescent tubes in the office with direct replacement LED tubes and bulbs.

"The power saving was only 15 watts per tube," Dr. Murphy observes. "But that means 15 watts times 108 lights times 35 hours open per week times 52 weeks per year for a savings of 2,948 kilowatt hours per year, or about six weeks of average electricity usage. It all adds up. These lights will last at least twice as long as the fluorescent. In addition, there are often utility subsidy plans, which will help to offset some of the cost of conversion."

Getting started

Dr. Murphy has some advice for doctors of optometry who might be interested in making their practices more eco-friendly:

  • Solar panels: Take a look at whether your office roof has a southern exposure. East or west exposures are fine, too, but it may be more expensive to install solar panels on those sides. Also, he noted that the pitch of the roof matters. Consider the warranty on the panels.

  • Panel installers: Do your due diligence. Contact more than one solar installer in your area. Do walk-arounds with them. Look for experienced installers—5 to 10 years—and look at their reviews. Good installers will know what renewable energy incentives from state, federal and local utilities are available for consumers. Make sure they prepare a plan for you. You can even lease panels.

  • Incremental changes: If buying panels is cost prohibitive at the moment, consider these easier fixes. Check your insulation or replace it to save on HVAC costs. Seal up old, leaky windows or replace them with high-efficiency windows. Replace fluorescent lights with LED lights. "The color balance is better," he says.
Photo courtesy of the Belleville News Democrat
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