Lighten Up Your Bottom Line

09/01/2005 |

Let your lighting system reduce energy and long-term maintenance costs


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ABM Industries Inc

Upgrading is a daunting task for building owners and managers, and rightfully so: Upgrades have the potential to do damage to bottom lines. However, lighting upgrades can actually help an asset’s bottom line, giving owners and managers a reason to embrace improvements.

Not only will lighting upgrades improve building and rentable area aesthetics, but lighting upgrades will help conserve capital by reducing energy and long-term maintenance costs.

Lighting Automation
One of the easiest ways to reduce energy expenditures is to install motion sensors in low-traffic areas. When motion is detected, sensors activate lighting for a designated period of time and then turn it off after a period of inactivity. To ensure safety, sensors are linked to emergency systems and provide necessary light in times of need. This type of upgrade requires a minimal investment and can decrease energy costs by 15 to 30 percent.

Another lighting automation, which preserves cash flow, involves the installation of timers to automatically turn off lights during non-operating hours. For example, if a building lobby does not permit access between the hours of 12 p.m. and 5 a.m., timers will automatically dim or turn off lights completely to lessen energy requirements. By reducing “on” time for several hours over the course of the week, owners and managers can save considerable energy costs.

Lamp Upgrades
One of the simplest ways to upgrade lighting includes replacing older lighting with new and improved lamps, such as T5 fluorescent lamps (the numerical designation refers to the diameter of the lamp in eighths of an inch; the thinner the lamp, the greater the optical control and fixture efficiency). This particular lamp type boasts energy efficiency, a long life-span, and high light intensity.

The lamp type in­-stalled will depend on the area in which they are deployed. Other cost-efficient lamp options include T8 lamps, which offer outputs comparable to T5 lamps but with a slightly lower efficacy, and high-output T5 lamps, which possess a higher lumen output than the standard T5s but with slightly lower efficacy.

Neon Alternatives
LED technology is quickly replacing neon lighting, most popular in exit signs, exterior signage, and in parking garages. Not only are LEDs all-weather performing and easily customizable, the energy savings from retrofitting existing neon to LEDs can help reduce energy costs by up to 35 percent.

For instance, if an exit sign that used neon lighting burned 24/7, it would require 20 watts of energy. If that same exit sign utilized LED technology, it would only require 2.8 watts - a 37.2-watt differential. Multiply 37.2 watts by the total number of exit signs in a commercial office building, and the savings start racking up - an owner/manager could realize a savings and return on investment in under 12 months.

LED savings also include maintenance hours. LEDs require significantly less energy than neon and they can last from 60,000 hours to 100,000 hours - that makes for almost 7 years of minimum life.

Commercial properties require constant maintenance, and upgrading is often done on an as-needed basis because of the capital outlays required. In the case of lighting upgrades, building owners and managers may see a complete return on investment and savings within months of the upgrades. Simple changes in common area lighting and exit signs add up, freeing up an owner’s bottom line.

Ralph Sica is vice president of business development at Amtech Lighting & Electrical Services, a subsidiary of San Francisco-based ABM Inc. (www.abm.com).


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