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The real benefits of energy-efficient lighting

September 19, 2010
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With so much talk about green maintenance practices and an overall focus on sustainability in the United States today, almost everyone is aware that “going green” is good for a building.

But, you may be asking yourself: Where do I start? What are the most economical upgrades I can make?

Look at lighting
Every facility and maintenance manager should start by evaluating their lighting systems when looking to become more environmentally friendly.

Energy-efficient lighting has several universal benefits.

It is a fact that energy-efficient lighting helps prevent air pollution caused by electricity generation.

If energy-efficient lighting was installed everywhere it was profitable to do so, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) estimates that electricity use for lighting would be cut by 50 percent and aggregate national electricity demand would be reduced by 10 percent.

In turn, the reduced demand would significantly cut back on the production of carbon dioxide emissions and pollutants.

What does this mean for your building?
The answer is simple: energy cost savings.

In offices, retail stores and warehouses, educational and healthcare facilities, lighting typically represents one of the largest portions — up to 40 percent — of total energy consumption.

In industrial operations, lighting is second only to production equipment in the amount of energy consumed.

Lighting upgrades can pay cost-saving dividends right away and over the long haul.

The following are some real benefits of switching to energy-efficient lighting that facility and maintenance managers can bank on.

New and improved energy-efficient lighting
Without doubt, the use of energy-efficient lighting is profitable.

However, some might not know just how much can be saved by simply switching or upgrading to the improved fluorescent lamps of today.

The fluorescent lamp that is most often used for general and specific task lighting is the T12 fluorescent tube.

With new advances in fluorescent lighting technology, it is most beneficial to upgrade this type of lighting system to one that is more efficient in light output and energy consumption.

T8 fluorescent lamps are generally used as replacements for T12 lamps as they provide up to 40 percent greater efficiency as well as quality levels of brightness and color rendering.

However, energy-saving technology is rapidly changing and even T8 systems installed five (or more) years ago should be upgraded to Super T8 systems, which are particularly more cost-effective for places with long operating hours.

Additionally, Compact Fluorescent Lamps (CFLs) are being integrated more into everyday life and are predicted to take the place of the traditional incandescent light bulb.

These energy-efficient lamps reduce energy costs by consuming 80 percent less energy than incandescent bulbs and last 10 times longer.

After two decades of gradual improvement, CFLs have come a long way since the 1990s when they were first introduced.

Gone are the days of hissing, flickering and low power quality lamps.

The color quality has also improved and CFLs are usually an easy retrofit when replacing the traditional incandescent bulb.

States, such as California and New Jersey, as well as countries, such as Australia and China, are so confident in CFLs, they have made efforts to ban incandescent light bulbs completely in order to respond to reasonable concern about overloaded power systems and global warming.

Increased availability
Today’s energy-efficient lamps are now more available than ever before.

One of the most important developments in energy-efficient upgrades is the increase in power utility initiatives and incentives that have now become commonplace practices in order to prevent blackouts and brownouts.

Power utility companies, such as those in New York and California, are contracting with energy services companies to provide cost-effective lighting upgrades in order to reduce power strain on major metropolitan power grids.

Check your local power utility company’s website for energy initiatives in your area that may help pay for energy analysis and upgrades.

Reduction of labor and equipment costs
Energy-efficient system components have longer service lives than standard products, resulting in a substantial long-term savings in labor, maintenance and replacement costs associated with lighting systems operation.

According to Plant Services magazine, the actual cost of energy over the life of a lamp can represent as much as 88 percent of the overall cost of light.

Maintenance and labor costs (installation) represent approximately 12 percent of the overall life cycle cost as well.

While it is only a portion in the grand scheme of overall savings, reduced maintenance issues should also be considered one of the most important benefits of using energy-saving products since maintenance comprises one of the largest costs of a building during its lifetime.

Increased productivity
There is also compelling evidence that improved lighting and visual comfort levels can lead to increased productivity and reduced absenteeism.

Documented case studies of lighting upgrades report that workers are most productive when lighting levels and fixtures are designed for the tasks they are performing.

Employee productivity can increase 6 to 16 percent due to better lighting quality, according to a study by the Rocky Mountain Institute.

Consider that even a 1 percent increase in productivity may produce savings greater than a company’s entire energy bill.

Studies have also demonstrated that good lighting can increase merchandise sales by making products more attractive.

Enhanced facility value
Many businesses and facilities have recognized the value in green building upgrades.

An upgraded lighting system can enhance a facility’s competitive position and asset value.

Having an energy-efficient lighting system comes into play when selling a building or property and an environmentally friendly building is a draw for prospective workers, clients and customers.

For example, many bank corporations have been successful in recruiting new employees and clients with green upgrades they have made to their New York and New Jersey branches.

With all things considered, more efficient lighting represents a sustainable operating cost reduction in the long run.

The cost of energy consumption is less expensive, maintenance and labor costs are reduced, light quality is improved — creating a more productive work environment — and the facility’s value is enhanced.

Now that lighting technology has significantly improved over the last decade, new lamps are reliable and can immediately pay cost-saving dividends.

Keith Hartman has more than 20 years of experience in the lighting and electrical industry and is president of Public Energy Solutions (PES), a nationally recognized energy services company. For more information, visit
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