This man has rappelled off the Rio and stood atop the Stratosphere spire. He has walked through the Hilton’s Elvis suite, greeted Engelbert Humperdinck on his way, and ascended to the top of the hotel’s sign. (It was the only way to get there, and, really, what better way?) He’s worked on the giant antique flasher panels of Fremont Street, and he’s taken 15,000-volt hits from neon transformers. (This he brushes off—“It’s secondary voltage. Low amperage.” Sounds fun.)
But the most radical thing Scott Hill ever had to do was change the nature of lighting on one of the brightest streets in the world. After 17 years as an electrician with Young Electric Sign Company—10 of them as a master craftsman—Hill moved into sales at YESCO in 2005. But he didn’t just have to sell lights; he had to sell a paradigm shift to the Las Vegas Strip.
For environmentalists, incandescent lighting had long since exhausted its welcome—Edison’s miracle not only gobbled energy but then hemorrhaged much of that energy as heat rather than light. Hill knew, of course, that long-lasting, cool-burning fluorescent lights—not just the compact fluorescent corkscrews that are haunting your homes, but superior cold-cathode lamps—were an antidote to incandescent fever. (A three- to five-watt cold-cathode lamp replaces a 25-watt incandescent, lasts longer and uses less energy.) The problem was, he wasn’t dealing with environmentalists. When he went to make a sale, he was face to face with people whose first responsibility was the bottom line and whose second responsibility was the customer experience that draws that line.
The first case Hill had to make was that the efficient lighting he sold would preserve the iconic nature of signage and external resort lighting. The second case was that it would save the casinos a bundle.
When he said that second part, the big boys listened.
By switching hotels—among them Mandalay Bay, New York-New York, the Stratosphere and Boyd properties from Main Street Station to Sam’s Town—to more efficient external lighting, Hill has helped remove 9 million kilowatt hours from the grid. Based on a rate of 8.5 cents per kilowatt hour, that’s $760,000 a year in savings. Hill says about 90 percent of the city’s large casino resorts have now jettisoned external incandescent lighting. “It’s really not that long since we made the switch,” he says. “It happened so quickly that nobody noticed till it was gone.”
Meanwhile, Hill is helping properties such as Sam’s Town and the Suncoast swap out energy-hungry high-intensity discharge lamps for fluorescents in their parking garages—reducing wattage by up to 50 percent without sacrificing the quality of light. (Cold-cathode fluorescents don’t have the slow warm-up that has frustrated users of household compact fluorescent bulbs.) Casinos have also saved watts and money by using photocells in garages so the lights aren’t burning brightest when needed least.
“It’s amazing how people are changing,” says Hill, a 1987 graduate of Western High School. “A lot of the people I deal with aren’t tree-huggers. But if they can’t make money, saving money’s just as good. I’m not a tree-hugger myself—I drive a ’65 Ford Galaxie 500 convertible! “But I’m sold on lighting efficiency.”