New Brunswick

Dentist's office goes off-grid to avoid power outages

Dentists describe it as a “nightmare.” A patient is in the chair, halfway through getting a cavity filled, and the lights go out. 

When the power goes out, it can leave open-mouthed patients in a lurch

Bailey Buckley Family Dentistry in Quispamsis believes it's the first energy-independent dentist office in the province. (Shane Fowler/CBC News)

Dentists describe it as a "nightmare." 

A patient is in the chair, halfway through getting a cavity filled, and the lights go out. 

Drills stop working. There's no electricity. 

"We've had it happen several times where we've been mid-treatment and the power goes out," said Nicola Buckley, dentist and co-owner of Bailey Buckley Family Dentistry in Quispamsis.

"It's very stressful for everyone involved, but especially the patients." 

One winter, the power went out on her four times while she was tending to the teeth of a patient. 

"One is enough," said Buckley. "One power outage when you are in the middle of a root canal is enough." 

New Brunswick dental office gets energy independence after numerous power outages

3 months ago
1:52
Quispamsis dental office had suffered enough blackouts while patients were in the chair, so it went off the grid. 1:52

Buckley said dentists are able to patch up patients well enough when the power goes out, but they can't finish the job properly until the power comes back. That could be hours. Sometimes it has taken days.

When it came time to build a new office, being free from the unreliable grid was top priority. 

Nicola Buckley, co-owner of Bailey Buckley Family Dentistry in Quispamsis, says when it came time to build a new office, avoiding recurring power outages was a top priority. (Shane Fowler/CBC News)

Now, with 96 solar panels and enough backup batteries to last 12 hours, Buckley believes it's the first and only dental office in the province that's energy independent. 

MCL Construction built the office and implemented the new power system. 

"Basically, it's the equivalent of operating three homes, or charging an electric car 1,136 times," said Brad McLaughlin of the company. "This building will, during the summer months, over-produce, and any extra power will go back to the grid through a smart meter system." 

Brad McLaughlin, general manager of MCL Construction, designed and built the new energy-independent dentist office in Quispamsis. (Shane Fowler/CBC News)

The office will need to operate for a full year to see if it produces more energy than it uses, making it a true "net-zero"  operation. But it's already a hit with patients. 

"I actually just had a patient come back this week who still had a temporary filling in from, like, February 2019, when we lost power," said Tatum Buckley, also a dentist and co-owner of the business with sister Nicola. 

"That is kind of a nightmare when you're working on someone's tooth."

Tatum Buckley, co-owner of Bailey Buckley Family Dentistry in Quispamsis, says no longer having the threat of a power outage is a weight off her shoulders. (Shane Fowler/CBC News)

The owners and McLaughlin expect it will be 16 or 17 years before the savings in their power bill will pay for the system. But for Nicola Buckley, the priority has always been reliability and going green. 

"Dentistry is terrible for the environment," she said. 

"We throw out a lot of stuff because of infection control, and we have to, so we're trying to offset that a little bit and be a bit greener." 

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Shane Fowler

Reporter

Shane Fowler has been a CBC journalist based in Fredericton since 2013.

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