Low Risk, High Returns

08/02/2004 |

Lighting Upgrades Reduce Energy, Gain Benefits

Looking for a way to save money for your facility, gain a competitive edge, enhance the aesthetics of your work environment, and improve overall employee productivity all at the same time – by making just one change? Indeed, these benefits can easily be realized by upgrading what’s enabling you, in part, to read this article in the first place – your lighting.

New Jersey facility managers and financial officers who make the decision to upgrade their lighting will be well on their way to making a sound, low-risk financial investment with a quick return on investment (ROI) that also generates several additional benefits. Consider that the cost of energy to operate facility lighting systems in New Jersey accounts for up to 50 percent of a typical energy bill. In fact, by investing in energy-efficient products and technologies through a lighting upgrade, New Jersey businesses – from restaurants and retailers to colleges and industrial companies – have the potential to save hundreds of millions of dollars in utility bills and to realize the following additional benefits:

  • Reduction of annual energy costs by up to 50 percent or 50 cents per square foot.
  • Reduction of maintenance costs.
  • Improvement in employee productivity and overall safety.
  • Gains in customer satisfaction.
  • Competitive gains.
  • Long-term, positive financial returns on the upgrade investment.
  • Enhancement of facility value.
  • Reduction in air pollution by conserving energy.
  • Control over lighting for building owners and facility managers.

For building managers and financial officers, a lighting upgrade can deliver a rapid payback and long-term profit as a result of up to a 50-percent reduction in energy and operational costs. In short, improved lighting quality allows employees to work in an environment that enhances productivity, which ultimately translates to customer satisfaction – all contributing factors that improve a facility’s asset value and can lead to competitive differentiation in the marketplace.

Compared to other building improvements, a lighting system upgrade is a low-risk investment that can pay dividends right away and for years to come, through energy savings that go directly to the bottom line. Just by upgrading with new technologies, benefits are an ongoing net savings and return on investment for 10 years or more, after recovering initial installation cost during a typical two-year payback period.

 

Ways to Save Big

Lighting upgrades can be achieved in a variety of ways. Perhaps the most significant way to obtain substantial energy savings and increased lighting efficiency is to upgrade existing fluorescent lighting systems using state-of-the-art reflector designs, as well as to engage in a relamping program using newer ballast technology.

State-of-the-art reflectors serve to control light ray emissions, redirecting light at a specified and more precise angle. This precise angling captures light energy that is otherwise lost in non-focused light dispersion. As a result, maximum lighting efficiency from the fluorescent lamp is maximized, not wasted.

Additionally, relamping your existing T12 fluorescent magnetic ballast system to an electronic ballast system comprised of 32W T8 lamps saves an excess of 73 watts per every four-lamp fixture without compromising light distribution and output. As a result, relamping in this manner translates to a savings of up to 50 percent. And because electronic ballasts operate at significantly lower temperatures, air-conditioning costs are reduced, creating a secondary savings.

You should also consider upgrading to T5 fluorescent technology if your facility is operating with medium- or high-bay HID metal halide fixtures. While such fixtures are often used, they have their downside: a desired light level warm-up time of approximately 20 minutes, high-wattage use leading to even higher electric bills, and heavy shadowing during illumination.

T5 fluorescents, on the other hand, are more energy efficient and effective for medium to high ceiling settings. Instead of a 20-minute light level start-up, the newer T5 technology offers instant start-up, providing the user with total control to switch the light on or off at any given time without waiting for warm-up or cool-down periods. Interruption of work progress is no longer an issue. Additionally, while a standard 400-watt metal halide fixture consumes 460 watts, a four-lamp fixture with T5 technology consumes only 234 watts, while providing even brighter lighting with minimal shadowing – a savings of 50 percent on electric bills. Even more, T5s only lose about five percent of their lumen output over the course of their 20,000-hour lamp life, while metal halides lose approximately 25 to 40 percent of their lumen output. Replacement and maintenance costs are considerably lower for T5s.

Increased lighting efficiency and electric bill savings can also be realized by switching incandescent lighting to compact fluorescent lamps (CFL) or to light-emitting diodes (LED). Both provide an energy savings of up to 90 percent and have significantly longer illumination lives than incandescents. CFLs, for example, last 10-times longer and LEDs last for several decades. Both kinds of technology virtually mean the end of frequent maintenance and replacement costs, too.

Finally, setting up automatic and manual dimming controls, as well as occupancy sensors, alleviates energy costs. By assessing how and when outdoor light affects the work area and how frequently occupants are in specific rooms, it is sensible to install controls that distribute light according to need. For example, when occupancy sensors detect people have not utilized a room for a pre-programmed amount of time, the sensor turns the lights off until occupants return. This sheds an additional 25 to 50 percent from an energy bill.

Take a Load Off Your Mind

Another effective way New Jersey facilities can save on energy bills also happens to be a very crucial element to help prevent system failures or total power outages, and ultimately contributes to increased productivity: load control management systems. By taking advantage of these systems, coupled with an effective lighting upgrade, power loads are effectively controlled, reducing demand and system strains especially during peak usage times. A savings from 25 to 40 percent can be achieved on an energy bill by utilizing these systems. And using these systems is even easier than ever; today’s Internet technology acts as an effective load verification and reduction tool, and provides real-time monitoring of power outage and metering.

Productivity Means a Competitive Edge

Overall, substantial long-term savings in labor, maintenance, and replacement costs associated with lighting system operations are reduced with these upgrades, creating a positive effect on employees. Documented case studies of lighting upgrades report employee productivity gains of six to 16 percent. Consider that even a one-percent increase in productivity may produce savings greater than a company’s entire energy bill.

In short, better lighting efficiency translates to greater productivity. Enhanced productivity gives your company an edge over other companies that have not upgraded their lighting and still may be struggling with excessive shadowing, long turn-on time, or worse yet, power outages – all of which delay production and, of course, waste money. Building differentiation is crucial in many major markets, where rent margins may vary by just 5 or 10 cents a square foot. An upgraded environment is an ideal way to enhance your facility’s competitive position and asset value.

New Jersey Program Helps Improve Bottom Line

Every business in New Jersey pays a societal benefits charge (SBC) on their utility bill, of which a portion of the monies go directly to a fund for the New Jersey Clean Energy Program. There is about $130 million in funding now, 75 percent of which is set aside for the Energy Efficiency Program and 25 percent set aside for renewable energy programs in an effort to help New Jersey facilities improve their bottom line.

The New Jersey Clean Energy Program is an energy-efficiency and renewable energy program that offers organizations financial incentives. There are a variety of options available to facility managers, building owners, and operators, all of whom typically receive their return on investment in less than two years. The program is especially beneficial as energy prices in New Jersey continue to rise.

Overall, by upgrading your lighting system, you’ll reap numerous benefits for your facility. Act now. You won’t be left in the dark.

With more than 18 years of lighting industry experience, Keith Hartman (khartman@publicenergysolutions.com) is president of Public Energy Solutions (PES) (www.publicenergysolutions.com), Paramus, NJ, formerly the lighting division of PSEG Energy Technologies. Hartman can be reached at (201) 576-0866.


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