Cleaning & Maintenance Management Online

Energy conservation with cost saving ideas

September 19, 2010
As the cleaning and maintenance department’s role continues to expand to “other” areas of the facility, an employee with a broad range of specialty skills is an ideal member of the department.

Today, according to recent CM/Cleaning & Maintenance Management surveys, cleaning departments are commonly required to maintain a building’s lighting, recycling and landscaping as well as certain electrical, plumbing and glass duties.

Additionally, cleaning and maintenance personnel are not only asked to attend to emergency situations in a timely fashion, but in many cases they are also asked to be as green as possible.

We reached out to experts in the field of lighting to help expand your knowledge of fixtures and sustainability.

What to know about waste and safety
Traditional lighting products, in particular fluorescent tubes, contain the toxic heavy metal mercury.

According to Mark A. Ceaser, general manager of OMNI/ajax, when these tubes are broken, cleaning and maintenance staff must treat the area and remaining materials as hazardous waste; otherwise, they are considered a Universal Waste if they are recycled.

Therefore, training and awareness is needed.

“First and foremost, train employees on the proper handling and emergency procedures in handling a broken or burned-out bulb,” says Ceaser. “This includes the incorporation of a broken bulb/mercury spill kit. Respond to spills and manage any resulting residues promptly. If the bulbs burn out, label the waste as ‘universal waste,’ ‘used,’ etc., to clearly identify the waste.”

Employees should also use personal protection equipment.

“In case the lamps accidentally break, gloves, eye protection, and long sleeve shirts should be worn to protect against injury,” notes Scott Beierwaltes from Air Cycle Corp.

Do your part for sustainability
Although purchasing state-of-the-art lighting systems is a big step toward conserving energy, proper disposal of defunct fixtures is just as important to the environment.

In addition to a mercury spill kit, which should be present in case of breakage, the department should also consider a recycling program.

“Materials should be (put in) a sealable bucket for the bulbs — either broken or not broken — for safe keeping prior to disposal,” advises Ceaser. “There are numerous mailback containers for lamps.”

Your local supplier or town’s recycling center can also be valuable resources for proper disposal of these fixtures.

Cost effective upgrades
There are many reasons for facilities to upgrade lighting fixtures from incandescents to fluorescents.

“A facility converting over to fluorescents saves on energy costs due to the longer life of fluorescent bulbs, which includes compact fluorescent bulbs (CFLs), and the overall less energy usage of a fluorescent compared to an incandescent bulb. Less energy usage means less generation of greenhouse gases by electric plants while still having the same illumination level,” says Ceaser.

In addition to being green, facilities can also save a lot of money in a short period of time.

“It is quite common for energy savings to pay for the lighting upgrade within two to three years,” says Beierwaltes.

What have you done?
We recently asked our readers about lighting and disposal practices.

According to our survey, the majority of respondents (40 percent) dispose of 50 or less lighting fixtures each year.

All respondents answered that the facility’s safety record in recent years was “good” or “excellent,” meaning no injuries have occurred, and that the staff is equipped with personal protection gear.

We also asked: If your facility has upgraded its lighting in recent years for energy efficiency, what are the features you’ve incorporated?

Below are several answers we received:
  • We have incorporated T8 ballasts and compact fluorescent bulbs in all public areas and office areas and exit lights have been upgraded to LED bulbs.
  • Motion sensors.
  • Minimal mercury bulbs.
  • Lights capable for landfill disposal.
  • Signs to shut off lights when not in use.
When it comes to facility lighting, passive facility managers and building service contractors are already behind the curve.

“The transition to energy-saving lighting fixtures is a highly visible issue and trend in business,” says Ceaser. “Embrace fluorescent lighting as part of the overall solution to growing energy costs. Save money and increase efficiency by replacing a material or a process that produces less waste.”

According to the experts, the future of lighting is available today.

For more information on a lamp recycling program, please visit For more information on mercury recycling, visit the Association of Lighting and Mercury Recyclers’ website at