Today’s lighting technologies, when applied to retrofits, upgrades, or new construction, create efficiencies both indoors and outside.
By Carol Brzozowski
According to the US Energy Information Administration, lighting consumes the most kilowatt-hours per square foot in commercial buildings than anything else. As lighting technologies improve, the difference between different light sources is just a matter of degree. Each type of light comes with benefits and drawbacks, and thus some are more suited to specific environments and situations than others—but some problems are universal. According to information provided by Energy and Environment, common energy-draining lighting issues include heat generation, poor source efficacy, lighting in unoccupied spaces, flickering lights, and exterior lights left on during daylight hours.
Retrofits and replacement can overcome many of these energy drains. For example, Energy and Environment recommends T12 lamps be replaced with T8 lamps, which are believed to provide lighting of higher quality, longevity, and efficiency by 30%. In addition, according to the company, T8 lamps operate on electronic ballasts that are more efficient and produce less heat than older magnetic ballasts. Because old exit signs have long operating hours and traditionally poor source efficacy, the company recommends that older incandescent or compact fluorescent lamp (CFL) source be replaced with light-emitting diode (LED)-sourced lighting.
Occupancy sensors and timing switches can solve the problem of lighting an unoccupied space, and timers can also help with exterior lights left on during daylight hours. For outdoor lighting, the integration of a photocell into the lighting circuit can also be used to turn off lights off when daylight reaches a preset level. A timer switch can also be integrated into an exterior lighting circuit to turn lights on and off according to an inputted schedule. For flickering lights, a faulty ballast or lamp may need to be replaced, but only after it’s determined if the existing light is an old T12, which may offer an opportunity to implement a retrofit.
According to information from Energy and Environment, a comprehensive lighting retrofit eliminates overall energy costs by up to 75%, with the upfront costs recaptured in less than three years. Benefits of an extensive retrofit include energy savings, reduced maintenance and labor costs, improved lighting quality, and pollution reduction. Lighting retrofits can greatly reduce energy consumption and lower energy bills, while maintaining light levels and quality by upgrading light components to more efficient and advanced technologies. Advanced lighting technology has increased longevity for components that may mean fewer failures and lengthen the time between maintenance activities. Additionally, the utilization of occupancy sensors and timing switches are relatively simple retrofits that can bring on large energy saving opportunities in a facility by only illuminating key spaces when absolutely necessary.
As for improved lighting quality, as problem areas are targeted with specific design considerations, lighting issues can be overcome. Newer technologies add increased reliability and longevity to the lighting system as well as better lighting-quality characteristics such as improved color, reduced flicker, and greater light output. As an added bonus, less electrical consumption reduces demand and associated emissions from offsite power generation, thereby reducing pollution.
A Gateway to Greater Efficiency
Lighting retrofits have the fastest payback in energy efficiencies, says Energy and Environment President John Noel.
“You could call a lighting retrofit the gateway drug to other energy efficiency improvements,” he says. “When doing lighting retrofits, it has such a fast payback and large operational impact on the building that people say, ‘Wow, I want some more of that’, and go after HVAC and building envelope upgrades.
“All of these other upgrades tend to have a longer payback term, and they’re OK with that because they’ve seen the efficiencies lighting retrofits can bring,” he continues.
Building owners can opt for no-cost audits such as those offered by local utilities that may provide approximate information all the way through investment-grade energy audits that provide detailed information, Noel says.
An energy audit—one of the services provided by Energy and Environment—helps building owners realize what opportunities exist for inside and outside lighting retrofits. Whole building audits not only take into consideration lighting, but the envelope, controls, the HVAC system, and water efficiency opportunities, Noel points out. Improvements that result from energy audits help clients move into a different rate structure, he adds.
“For example, a building can move from 10 cents a kilowatt-hour to eight cents, because the demand has been reduced,” he says.
Most clients are doing retrofits, either paying for them outright or leasing lighting systems, says Larry Leetzow, president of Magnaray.
Clients also are utilizing controls—such as wireless controls, energy management systems, dimmers, timers, and motion sensors.
Magnaray is doing a lot of work with solar lighting systems—either grid-tie systems or straight solar power luminaires for such applications as parking lots.
“With the grid power system, people already have power where they need lighting, so they’re retrofitting to grid power lighting versus solar power lighting,” says Leetzow. “In some of the construction areas, they’re looking more to solar power lighting systems because it can save some costs of getting power to a site—they don’t have to put any pipe and wire in the ground.
Companies are looking to go to market with an energy-efficient fixture that will meet Energy Star and LN79 and LN80 requirements and have UL certification, or other testing, says Turner.
“Rather than starting from scratch, our module has been through all of that testing and can shorten the learning curve for them or the time to enter the market,” says Heatron President H. B. Turner.
Lighting retrofits are an important foundation for energy efficiency at a warehouse site, Turner points out as an example.
“With today’s technology, you’ve got mercury vapor or metal halide,” says Turner. “Those fixtures are on all of the time because they take so long to come on. They use so much energy.
“We’ve got a couple of customers who are building high bay LED light fixtures, and we have a couple of modules used for that.”
Lumetric’s SmartPOD technology is a fully integrated large area lighting system designed to combine efficient high bay luminaires with smart controls.
Greg Davis, Chief Technology Officer of Lumetric, says there’s a tendency for large area lighting to be covered by large metal halide fixtures, with a push to replace them with T5 lights.
“LEDs are trying to get in that space, but they product so little light that it would be a long time before they ever manage to really do much there,” says Davis. “Induction also is coming along.”
Davis says metal halide lamps are the most efficient light source for illuminating a large area, but that “the problem is the ballast that runs the lamp is very inefficient because it’s just a big old magnetic transformer.”
Traditional magnetic lighting ballasts use probe start bulbs on magnetic metal halide lamps, which suffer from the harsh transformer, experiencing light degradation by as much as 50%, with short product lifetimes requiring frequent replacements, says Davis.
“HID is the closest to sunlight that you can get,” says Davis. “But in the present environment, everyone wants to save energy.”
Davis points out that facility managers seeking efficiencies often turn to HVAC and lighting, two of the largest areas of energy consumption.
“HVAC keeps us warm and comfortable or cool,” he says. “We have those peak demand periods where on the hottest day of the year, we don’t want to cut off the air conditioning. On the coolest day of the year we don’t like turning our heat down. With HVAC, it’s just one or the other.
“With lighting, you have so much flexibility,” he continues. “You can do daylight harvesting. You can use motion sensors. You can dim the lights, and the savings go up even higher. You can selectively dim some lights and keep some light to full brightness where you need it for safety reasons. You can selectively turn some light off in some areas and maybe turn every other light off to see if you get good illumination.”
Short Paybacks, Long Benefits
Consider the case of Bibb County, GA. Since 2008, the county has saved nearly $300,000 from a lighting retrofit of its 210,000-square-foot courthouse complex.
“We had discussed energy savings measures in our department for several years before we actually acted on it,” says Sam Kitchens, facilities director.
|Photo: University of Central Florida
Lighting retrofits can greatly reduce energy consumption and lower energy bills.
|Photo: University of Central Florida
Parking lot structures are some of the highest-dollar lighting at a facility.
|Photo: University of Central Florida
Indoors or out, sometimes the solution isn’t just one lighting technology.
Getting funding during a recession isn’t an easy endeavor.
Kitchens says the county’s “green team” decided to go with the “low-hanging fruit”—lighting. The courthouse was being lit by some 2,800 T12 bulbs, many of the fixtures being 20 to 30 years old. They were replaced over four months with 1,700 updated T8 electronic ballasts at a cost of about $105,000.
“We expected a 3.4-year payback and wound up with a 1.3-year payback,” says Kitchens, adding that the retrofit’s success has provided the foundation of a more comprehensive effort for the county to derive further energy efficiencies through other projects.
“The commissioners have become more interested in this and are energy-consciousness,” notes Kitchens.
Bibb County’s retrofit was done with the assistance of Energy and Environment, a company that conducts energy audits and lighting retrofits. President Noel attends Lightfair International each year to identify the latest technologies.
Energy and Environment partnered with Outlaw Consulting to develop and pilot the technology. Outlaw Consulting had been awarded a grant to administer lighting retrofits in convenience stores throughout the state of Georgia in partnership with the Georgia Association of Convenience Stores and Energy & Environment. The $450,000 grant was awarded by the Georgia Environmental Facilities Authority and funded by the American Recovery & Reinvestment Act. The retrofits will focus on rapid payback energy efficiency improvements such as lighting retrofits. Savings generated by the projects will go back into a revolving fund to finance other projects.
The program is expected to generate more than $1 million in projects and aligns with President Barack Obama’s call for greater national energy efficiency and is a partner program to the Governor’s Energy Challenge.
Kingman Regional Medical Center (KRMC) is a community-owned 235-bed healthcare facility located in the high-desert rural community of Kingman, AZ, and the largest provider of health and wellness services in northwestern Arizona. The medical center had been using 250-W high-pressure sodium (HPS) lamps in 88 fixtures running on voltage ranges from 120 VAC to 277 VAC. The light poles stand from 16 to 26 feet high, spaced 40 to 60 feet apart in the parking lot. The hospital’s security department was the driving force behind the move to a lighting retrofit, says Bruce Howard, owner of Howard Industrial Sales, the manufacturer’s representative for LEDtronics.
“They were using some high pressure sodium and some metal halide lights there,” he says. “The cameras weren’t picking up images very clearly, and they were looking for something to provide better security for parking lots at night, because, obviously, at a
hospital, you’ve got people going at all times of the day and night.”
Howard Industrial Sales demonstrated the 88-W LEDtronics SLL003P-30X2W-XPW-005 LED luminaire to hospital officials, emphasizing the light output, detail clarity in the security cameras and energy savings of 202 W per fixture. KRMC replaced the 88 fixtures and added a total of 104 shoebox-style LED luminaires that use more than 60% less energy than the conventional HPS units used and require less bulb and ballast replacement maintenance.
The LEDtronics LED parking lot lights are expected to have no more than a 30% light degradation at 50,000 hours of operation, with an estimated savings of more than $100,000 in that time frame. The lighting retrofit, conducted in 2010, was part of an overall “green energy” approach being undertaken at the hospital. Howard points out that another benefit to the LED fixtures is that they’re “instant-on” as opposed to taking time to “warm up”.
It also saves 202 W per fixture, he says. “These run on no ballasts. That’s how they’re able to get a shorter ROI [return on investment].”
Howard points out parking lot structures are some of the highest-dollar lighting at a facility.
“If you’ve got 80 to 100 fixtures at 250 to 400 watts, that’s 25,000 to 40,000 watts every night that those go on and to be able to cut that in half, or even by 60%, you end up getting considerable savings right off the bat, not to mention the longevity of the lights,” he says.
This is part of a number of factors facilities should take into account when embarking on a lighting retrofit, Howard says.
“They need to have an idea of what they’re looking to do and where they’re looking to go with this,” he says. “Are they looking for better lighting? Are they looking for energy savings? They need to have an idea of what their hard and soft costs are for the lighting projects.”
Soft costs include the cost of renting a lift truck to do the retrofits and to maintain lights, Howard points out.
Ultimately, a facility needs to consider what it’s looking to replace and what is it looking to gain in a retrofit, he adds.
Heatron manufactures LED light engines and LED pre-made modules under the Innovation Series banner.
“Heatron’s clients are the small- to medium-sized companies that don’t have the electronic expertise or the expertise to make an LED light themselves so they will come to someone like us,” says Turner, company president. “Given the speed of which LEDs are becoming brighter and the learning curve in making an LED light fixture, we shorten that learning curve and time in the market for most people, so if a fixture manufacturer doesn’t have an LED strategy, we can help them put that together much faster than trying to create that on their own.”
One of Heatron’s clients is Spring City, the oldest manufacturer of decorative cast iron poles and fixtures in the lighting industry since 1843. The company supplies its products to major cities and states across the country, such as New York City, NY; Boston, MA; Philadelphia, PA; Washington D.C., MD; Oakland, CA; and Chicago, IL; as well as small and mid-sized towns, major universities and colleges, parks and outdoor living spaces.
“We’ve been doing this for 143 years, but we’ve evolved as technology evolved from gas and incandescent to the high-density discharge lamps like metal halide and high-pressure sodium, and now where the technology is taking us, which is light-emitting diodes, or LED,” says Chris Rosfelder, vice president of sales and marketing for Spring City.
The end result is the marriage of the past to the present in lighting technology.
“A lot of companies took this technology and force fit it into the fixture or the light standard,” he says. “Without compromising the aesthetics or the integrity of the fixture, we were able to take our fixture and build it to where it would adapt or accept the LED technology.”
Rosfelder explains that in order for the LED lights to properly function and get the desired sustainability and longevity of the diode, its heat must be dissipated. The company turned to Heatron to tap into its expertise in thermal management engineering.
“It’s a lot more difficult to light a roadway or a street with LEDs unless you have the appropriate wattage,” says Rosfelder. “There are a lot of manufacturers out there that are limited because of the thermal management technology. Because of our partnership with Heatron and what we’ve been able to develop and patent, we’re able to achieve those higher wattages in LED to accommodate a 250-watt metal halide lamp or even up to a 400-watt HID system.”
Rosfelder says energy costs can be reduced up to 50% “right off the bat” when replacing HID technology with LED technology.
“It’s not like the 24/7 return you get with garage-type lighting or interior lighting, but with cities like Topeka, Kansas, where they’ve replaced 410 HID [high-intensity discharge] fixtures with our LED technology, their monthly bills have already decreased incredibly,” he says.
Choices, Choices, Choices
The primary critical factor of any lighting retrofit is to determine if it’s needed, and if so, what is needed, Davis says.
“Sometimes that solution isn’t just one lighting technology,” he continues. “Sometimes it’s a combination of lighting technologies. One way you can compare different lighting technologies is lumens per watt—how much energy am I drawing from the wall versus how much light am I getting where I need it. It should be mean lumens—the average life of the lamp—not initial lumens. By not comparing products correctly to one another, you can make the wrong decision and get a technology that you’re not really happy with.”
“Just because it’s the latest doesn’t mean it’s the right one for all applications,” says Noel.
While Noel says he believes there’s much work to be done to improve the quality and lifespan of LED, he’s witnessed more of a transformation in compact florescent light technology.
“Sometimes the tried and true alternative like linear fluorescent—the old four-foot fluorescent bulb—has longevity. You know it’s going to work,” he says.
Noel says there are a lot of advances in T8, lineal florescent, HID lamps, and many opportunities for lighting retrofits in exterior, parking lot, and security applications. Still, LED has “come into its own,” he says, adding that LED Can lights are one example of a product that’s “attractive and high quality” and can be inexpensively purchased at a retail store.
“There are great leaps in the light output and efficacy of LED,” he says. “LED continues to be hamstrung by the fact that it’s highly directional. With incandescent and CFL lighting, you light it up, and it goes everywhere. LED is really more pinpointed, like a little spotlight. It’s good at that, but it doesn’t throw light around.
“LED is getting better,” adds Noel. “You’re going to see lower costs and more efficacies out of LED. For my mind, the winner today for exterior applications for the money is induction. It renders more light at lower costs.”
Another technology he likes is the F28 linear florescent light.
“An F28 is a 28-watt rather than a 32-watt fluorescent bulb, and the premium for that bulb might be $1 or $1.50, but it lasts longer and perhaps even double the light of a conventional F32,” says Noel. “You pick up more watts of energy savings and develop better color rendering. It will run off existing and new electronic ballasts.”
Still another technology Noel likes is the Axis Technologies’ Daylight Harvesting and Dimming Ballast (recently acquired by Green Ballast Inc.).
“It’s inexpensive, and attached to that ballast is a small light sensor that dims the lamps down relative to the amount of ambient light that’s around,” he says.
Daylight harvesting is a practice that Noel strongly advocates.
“You’ve got light coming in during working hours that’s free, and yet these lights are on all of the time,” he says of commercial buildings.
One market in particular opting for more efficient lighting technologies is the fuel station/convenience store contingency.
“We’re able to take these big dinosaur lights in parking canopies over gas pumps and replace them with induction lighting, dropping them from 400 watts to 120 watts,” says Noel.
“We’re saving two-thirds of the energy and getting better light,” he says. “We’re getting huge savings. Induction lasts years before any failure.”
“When the next generation of lighting control solutions are applied either as retrofits or in new construction projects, building managers will see significant energy savings, simplified facilities management, and improvement in worker productivity,” says Zach Gentry, VP Marketing & Product Management for Enlightened. “These benefits directly increase their profitability and bottom line. Many who are already implementing these changes are expecting a return on investment of two years or less.
“The US wastes approximately $42 billion annually in unnecessary energy,” he continues—“US commercial buildings in particular waste $15 billion in unnecessary lighting. Reliable lighting control and sensing capabilities address the growing issue of wasted energy in commercial buildings by accurately measuring the ambient light, occupancy, and temperature of almost every square foot of a building. It provides decentralized and distributed control of lighting, tailoring light levels to mirror users’ actual needs creating a perfect environment for users and delivering a rapid payback on energy savings.”
Gentry adds, “The cost per unit of lighting controls is on a dramatic price reduction curve. The pure computing power of these solutions is now comparable to the power of a PC from 10 years ago—these fixtures have an amazing amount of processing power. The best available lighting control solutions offer sensors that detect ambient light, temperature and heat. They are autonomous and fault tolerant; if one fails, the light will stay on and the rest of the sensors continue working, making the reliability of the system a non-issue for facility managers.
“Any arguments about Zigbee versus IEEE 82.15.4 standards is a non issue; it is not a wireless standards war,” he says. “Those systems who rely on centralized boxes are at the risk of catastrophic loss due to these networking requirements—when the network goes down, the solution is rendered non-functional. Available solutions have evolved passed this. Customers are able to get a more robust architecture with higher quality results through installing a decentralized control, distributed sensing solution.”
Carol Brzozowski writes on the topics of technology and industry.