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Lighting The Way

September 19, 2010
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By now, most facility managers are attuned to the number of benefits of incorporating sustainable or "green" equipment, techniques and principles into the buildings they manage.

But, with so many potential areas of improvement, it can be difficult to know where to begin — and to be certain you are putting your valuable time and resources into the areas that will reap the highest amount of savings.

Representing up to 40 percent of the electrical load of your building, the lighting of your facility is one area where a change to an energy-efficient system can go a long way to increase savings, productivity and sustainability.

In addition, energy-efficient lighting provides a faster payback period than any other savings opportunities — facility managers often earn back their investment in as little as two years.

The best part is that with so many innovations in energy-efficient lighting, there are a variety of systems to choose from that will best fit and benefit your facility.

More Options Than Ever

When comparing light-emitting diode (LED) to various types of fluorescent lighting systems, there are a number of factors to take into consideration.

"The conditions of the application and the objectives for the space are important considerations that will help in the determination of the best system to implement," says Susan Bloom, director of corporate communications at Philips Lighting.

In addition to your budget and overall goals, the type of building — whether it be retail, office, warehouse or other type of space — will be a critical factor when determining which system is most appropriate.

For example, according to Jason Hong, marketing manager of energy solutions at Cooper Lighting, LED lighting fixtures commonly replace very inefficient incandescent sources in indoor applications, offering up to 75 percent in energy savings.

There are also situations where fluorescent lighting would be the ideal solution.

"When it comes to large office spaces and industrial or commercial high-bay applications, T8 and T5 fluorescent technology and output are hard to beat," Hong says.

Another option is high-intensity fluorescent (HIF) lighting, also designed for high-bay applications and with a depreciation rate of less than 10 percent.

"The estimated lifespan of HIF is between 15,000 and 25,000 hours," notes Linda Diedrich, vice president of corporate communications at Orion Energy Systems.

For those looking to make their savings go even further, lighting systems can be supplemented with occupancy sensors and/or daylighting.

Beyond Energy Savings

Aside from a substantial decrease in your facility''s utility bill, there are other benefits — both financial and environmental — that come along with retrofitting your facility with energy-efficient lighting.

One of these benefits is the significant one-time tax deduction facilities can qualify for by meeting certain energy-saving criteria with their retrofit lighting system in accordance with the Energy Policy Act of 2005 (EPAct), which has been extended through 2013.

EPAct deductions are calculated based on the percentage of energy savings and are applicable to all commercial buildings.

Facilities in certain states may also qualify for incentive rebates from utility companies.

"Energy service companies and utilities may offer shared savings plans and upgrade-related loans, leases and state-sponsored energy efficiency grants," Bloom states.

With so many incentive programs in place, facility managers may be able to retrofit buildings with energy-efficient lighting systems without huge startup costs.

"Many financing options are available to fund a lighting upgrade," Bloom adds. "And, contrary to popular thinking, upgrades often do not rely on an up-front cash outlay by the facility."

In addition to direct financial savings, a retrofit lighting system can boost the productivity of both workers and building occupants, as well as prevent worker injury and reduce labor costs.

"As lighting is an element of the workplace environment that can directly impact an employee''s mood and degree of comfort and satisfaction, employee productivity can increase as the result of a successful lighting upgrade and can significantly improve a company''s bottom line," Bloom asserts.

The long life of many energy-efficient lights — and therefore the increase of time between maintenance — means fewer potential accidents and wasted man hours, which all contribute to overall savings.

Taking An Informed First Step

Once you have made the decision to retrofit your facility with an energy-efficient lighting system, you may not know where to begin.

"A great first step for facility managers considering an upgrade is to conduct a lighting audit of their facility," explains Bloom.

This audit can be conducted either by an in-house expert or a third-party organization like an electrical distributor, energy service company or lighting manufacturer.

Additionally, if you are pursuing a third-party certification, such as the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) certification, a light audit by a LEED specialist can determine how energy-efficient lighting can help you toward that goal.

"While there is no such thing as a LEED-certified lighting fixture, you can get a number of LEED points toward certification of a facility by utilizing lighting fixtures that have very high efficiencies," Hong concludes.

Regardless of which energy-efficient lighting system you determine is the best fit for your facility, making the change can help you save time and money and achieve certification goals, as well as give you the peace of mind that you are making a responsible, sustainable choice for your facility, your workers and your bottom line.

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