Lighting up East County communities

Photo by Tony Kukulich

R&D Lighting recently upgraded the nighttime ambience at The Press building on Oak Street.

For husband and wife team Rick and Debbie Bertel, not all lights are created equal.

In fact, they’ve made a business — R&D Lighting — of brightening lives with the eco-friendly LED bulbs and fixtures. For projects large and small, the family team not only installs newer, more efficient lighting, but, as part of their conversion services, they replace fluorescent light bulbs that were once installed in homes across California.

Rick Bertel, owner of R&D Lighting, discusses how his company modernizes businesses with LED lighting. They can replace older fluorescent lighting with LED lighting which is much more environmentally friendly. (Aly Brown/ThePress)

“With fluorescent, they flicker, they put off ultraviolet rays,” said Rick. “It was state-of-the-art 40 years ago, but now we’re trying to phase those out.”

Rick went on to explain the reason for the switch is that fluorescent light bulbs contain mercury, they’re not as efficient, and the brightness of the lighting cannot be adjusted — often impacting people in ways they don’t realize until they have a headache. With LED, there is a wide variety of kelvin colors.

“The lower the (kelvin) number, the softer the light, so if people are sensitive to bright lights, they can tone it down or put a dimmer on it,” he explained. “Fluorescents are either on or off.”

When getting rid of the old bulbs, Rick must bring them to a certified facility that can properly dispose of the hazardous waste.

“There’s nothing toxic inside an LED light; they’re not pressurized,” Rick said. “There are little diodes inside the tube, whereas with fluorescent lights, I have to inventory them, and I can only dispose of 300 units a month.”

Rick and Debbie started R&D Lighting in 2016, after Rick had retired from a 42-year career with PG&E. He’d wanted to launch a small business with a focus on his community in East County. With some guidance from a dear friend who later passed away, the two built their business and Rick earned his electrical license through the state.

Now the couple and their children — who often join the ranks to help with installations — spend their time converting inefficient lighting in kitchens and even attacking larger projects. Using a rented lift, Rick and his daughter recently changed the stadium lights at Campos Family Vineyards in Byron.

“We put them together and pre-wired them, went to the lift, took the old ones down and put in the new lights,” he said of the job that involved 20 lights, four towers with five lights a piece. “It took a day and a half; it was a lot of prep work, but once that was done, I did a cost analysis and discovered that the old lights were running at about $26 per hour. Now it’s about $8 per hour. There’s no start up and waiting for the light to brighten; LED is instant on and instant off.”

Ric Campos, who owns the winery with his wife Michelle, was happy with the switch.

“Rick Bertel of R&D Lighting changed all of our old baseball field lighting from nonefficient light bulbs to state-of-the-art LED lighting, which have a better quality of light and are energy-efficient ... (They reduce the need for) maintenance of the light bulbs,” Campos said. “Rick came in on time and under budget!”

For more information, call 925-628-1126.