Printwell Printing upgraded to energy efficient air compressors and LED lighting to save money, but they’ve also improved the work environment. Talk about happy endings!

The energy efficiency story of Printwell, a full-color commercial printer in Taylor, Michigan, is playing to rave reviews. They started small in 1983 and from humble beginnings grew to become a well-known printing operation. They currently produce annual reports, flyers, brochures, catalogs, direct mail, coupons, counter cards, posters, newsletters and more.

Chapter One: It Pays to Know Your Own Power

It comes as no surprise that Executive Vice President Shawn Borg and Vice President of Operations David Schacht read this magazine. “I’ve read the content and became very interested in DTE’s incisive energy efficiency programs. I even downloaded the DTE Insight app and checked our energy consumption at home. That’s when I realized that we don’t always know how much energy is being used,” said Schacht. “This magazine has provided us with an awareness of how businesses can easily save on energy costs. Energy is a huge expense, and cutting costs is an easy way for us to substantially increase our margins,” said Borg. “We saw the potential cost savings and it just so happened we had some failing air compressors, so that’s where we started.”

Chapter Two: It’s Not the Cost of Becoming Energy Efficient. It’s the Cost of Not Doing It.

Printwell’s air compressors were dinosaurs from the 1980s. “They were 100-horsepower energy hogs,” said Borg. “They ran nonstop, had no direct drive, no variable speed and were very inefficient,” added Schacht. “But since every machine here runs on air — from printing presses to our bindery and plate setters — replacement was nonnegotiable.”

The hurdle was getting CEO and Printwell founder Paul Borg on board with investing in new compressors. “You have to demonstrate what the cost of not doing it is going to be,” said Schacht. The first step was consulting with the air compressor company to determine the amount of energy that was being used, compiling a report and then presenting it to Paul Borg. “The cost of not replacing the compressors was $6,500 per month. If we dragged our feet over three months, it would have cost us about $20,000 in lost savings,” said Schacht. “So convincing Paul was easy.”

They looked at used equipment as well as new but, as Borg pointed out, “The price of acquiring used compressors at an auction was going to be around the same as new compressors once all the costs were added in. The new energy efficient, variable-speed compressors, the warranty, lower maintenance costs and the DTE incentives made it a no-brainer. The new compressors were $65,000 and we received $18,000 in incentives from DTE,” Borg said. The payback? A short 18 months.

Borg called DTE Energy; an adviser walked him through the whole process over the phone and helped him with the application. “It was easy. The application is like an intuitive Excel spreadsheet that calculates everything for you,” said Borg. “While I was going through the process, I found other ways to save money, including heat capture. It was a line item that identified an opportunity for us to save even more. Simply by plugging in a few numbers, DTE not only calculated that it would cost about $3,000 to buy the system but also estimated that we could receive $3,000 in incentives. Again, a no-brainer.”

Chapter Three: How Printwell Received a $22,000 Lighting Rebate

Once the air compressors were installed and the savings had started, Printwell moved on to LED lighting. “Since we were saving $6,500 a month with new compressors, I wondered if we could save even more with LEDs,” said Schacht. “I did all the research and after calculating how much we were going to save, I once again approached Paul. I went into his office and said, ‘Congratulations, I heard we picked up a new sales person, $2 million a year in business, zero chance of a reprint, no days off, no sick days, no commission.’”

Schacht’s analogy drove home the savings that could be realized by upgrading to LED. “I said it equates to someone bringing in $2 million in business a year because that’s what the return on the lighting investment will be,” he said. Paul Borg did the math and said, “Let’s get it done.”

The LED lighting upgrades actually ended up being more of an energy savings than the air compressors, plus Printwell received a $22,000 cash incentive from DTE Energy.

Printwell offers environmentally-friendly printing capabilities with recycled papers, soy- and vegetable-based inks and a regenerative thermal oxidizer (RTO) that helps destroy air pollutants caused by the printing process.

Printwell replaced more than 400 fixtures with LEDs that are 5,000K daylight equivalent lighting, so it’s true color. When you’re a printer, color matters. “We had a variety of lighting colors throughout the shop,” says Schacht. “It differed from one work station to the next, but now, with the new LED lamps, lighting is consistent. It also makes employees feel better and safer. Plus, the LED lamps are ten years maintenance-free.”

“I don’t think people realize how much energy a metal-halide lamp’s ballast draws,” said Schacht. “LEDs can be direct wired, so there is no ballast. By converting to LEDs we were able to go from 460 watts down to 72 watts.” Borg added, “We’re using fewer fixtures too, because the spread is wider.

Instead of a bulb-to-bulb replacement, we went down from two to one and in some areas three to one. Instead of replacing them all, we updated every other one, so we have half the number of lamps. We also added motion sensors. We had many areas where, if you turned on the switch, it would turn on the entire room. Now, with motion sensors only a specific row of lights will turn on and then automatically shut off, so that was another way to gain energy savings.”

Printwell is on a roll. In addition to the above, they’ve upgraded to energy- efficient LED exterior lighting and added insulation and double-paned windows in certain areas. Next, they plan to add energy efficient HVAC and better ventilation to improve circulation and replace their exit and emergency signs with LEDs.

“The cost of not replacing the compressors was $6,500 per month. If we dragged our feet over three months, it would have cost us about $20,000 in lost savings.”

Chapter Four: Don’t Leave Money on the Table

“Don’t hold back; don’t leave money on the table,” said Borg. “Consider how much money it’s costing you rather than what you’re spending. For us, after one to two years of payback, all of our savings will go directly to the bottom line.” When it comes to energy savings, everyone wins. It doesn’t matter how big or small your business is. Just start!

For many businesses, if there is a specific need to address – or to get a better understanding of where your energy is being consumed – an easy first step is contacting a DTE Energy Designated Trade Ally. From energy consultations to energy-saving installations, they’re trained to understand the DTE Incentive Program from start to finish. Using a DTE Trade Ally ensures that you’ll get the most cash incentives possible. You can find one simply by visiting They’re trained to understand what qualifies and what doesn’t, the amount of the incentive and the overall process. Many will even handle all of the paperwork.

Had Printwell not been aware of the incentives available, they would have left $40,000 on the table. The moral of the story? Take action! Incentives are available, but you have to get moving. Contact DTE, arrange for a Business Energy Consultation and then hire a DTE Designated Trade Ally. For more information, visit

For more information on incentives

To find a DTE Designated Trade Ally

To schedule a free Business Energy Consultation