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Improve Light Quality and Energy Performance with LEDs

Posted on 10/28/2014 10:09 AM by Tanya Hernandez and Ryan Ramaker

According to a 2014 report on energy-efficient commercial building retrofits, the worldwide market for energy efficiency retrofits in commercial buildings will increase from $68.2 billion in 2014 to $127.5 billion by 2023. This ever-present trend for renovations to commercial facilities is driven by facility managers who constantly strive to maintain successful facilities. However, budgets are often minimized and facilities managers are challenged with making the dollar go further. 

The good news is there are options that can make tremendous improvements while reducing costs in other aspects of the building portfolio. Lighting is one component of these upgrades and the building industry is moving towards LED lighting – and for good reason, compared to other renovation options, LED lighting renovations can be relatively inexpensive, providing a quick return on investment, and can improve the lighting quality of the built environment.  

Often times, the decision to proceed with a LED lighting retrofit project is based largely on the anticipated energy saving in conjunction with recuperating the cost of completing the retrofit project. In recent months, the cost of the LED lighting has decreased significantly and assists with making the case for moving forward with replacing incandescent and fluorescent lighting with LED lamps and luminaires. Retrofitting to improve lighting quality may not be an initial consideration, but facility managers should be aware of this key benefit and need to be equipped with information to make good choices that influence lighting quality. 

What is lighting quality, or quality lighting? The answer to that question has been debated and is considered subjective in the lighting design and technical community. For the purposes of this article, lighting quality encompasses many attributes from color, to ease of control and comfort. 

Color attributes for lighting remain critical components of lighting quality. Correlated color temperature (CCT), expressed in Kelvins (K), describes the appearance of a LED light source, and will affect how objects appear in the environment. LED sources provide more color temperature options than incandescent and fluorescent sources and include standard color temperatures of 2700K, 3000K, 3500K, 4000K/4100K, 5000K and 6500K.  It is important to choose luminaires with color temperatures that will provide an appropriate experience. In a residential setting, warm white or lower color temperature LED sources are a closer match to the traditional incandescent source, so installing a cool white or higher color temperature source in a residential application, such as placing a 6500K luminaire in a multifamily dwelling, is unexpected and may appear harsh to some occupants. 

LED light sources of the same color temperature can look noticeably different when in close proximity to one another, and ensuring color consistency is a priority for spaces with luminaires with multiple sources or spaces with luminaires laid out in a pattern, e.g. a row of downlights to highlight an accent wall. Requiring LED sources to fall within 7-steps maximum of the ANSI quadrangle (sometimes referred to as the MacAdam ellipse) for the designated color temperature will provide a level of color consistency from source to source.   

Color fidelity or color rendering index (CRI) provides a measure of how accurate a light source causes objects to have the same color appearance as they do under a reference light source, such as black-body radiators or daylight, based on a scale to 100. For indoor applications, a CRI greater than 80 is desirable, and the market contains several LED products with a 90+ CRI. A lower CRI value may result in object colors looking unnatural, and may cause occupants to feel uncomfortable in a space. It is important, however, to remember when comparing CRI values, it is only appropriate when the light sources have the same color temperature. 

Additionally, an LED lighting retrofit project can increase the visual comfort of occupants. LED luminaires are often designed for optimizing optical performance, producing light where needed and reducing or eliminating light in trouble zones that can cause discomfort from glare. The optical precision also allows for effectively placing light high on vertical surfaces, giving a brighter appearance and an open feeling in a space. LED lighting products can now match the light output or brightness level of traditional light sources and are able to maintain the light level over the life of the product. Choosing LED luminaires with dimming capability paired with a compatible lighting control device, like a wall dimmer, can provide a comfortable environment, giving occupants the ability to adjust the brightness to a desired level. 

With improved energy efficiency resulting in decreased operational costs and optimized lighting quality, LED lighting offers a well-rounded, beneficial solution. LED lighting retrofits serve as a simple way to maximize return on investment. 

Tanya Hernandez is manager of energy and environmental standards at Acuity Brands Lighting. Ryan Ramaker is director of product solutions at Acuity Brands Lighting.



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6 Tips to Maintain NFPA 70E Compliance

Posted on 10/24/2014 1:36 PM by Emily Aschinger Martin

With the deadline of January 1, 2015 quickly approaching, facilities that are not in compliance with National Fire Protection Association 70E requirement run the risk of violating the new OSHA regulations. The mandate requires all equipment to be put in a location that is electrically safe prior to any worker engagement with or near the equipment.

The requirement also specifies that arc flash, arc blast, shock hazard, and electrocution risk should only be present when equipment is energized. When such equipment is being used, the owner is responsible for warning workers of potential hazards when working on energized electrical equipment. 

Due to the high potential for danger and penalties caused by noncompliance, keep these six tips in mind to ensure your facility stays on the right side of the new regulations:

1) Have a complete written safety plan that directs activity appropriate for electrical hazards, voltage, energy level, and circuit conditions.

2) Perform an incident energy analysis, apply labels to equipment that define the arc flash boundary, and identify the personal protective equipment (PPE) that must be used within the boundary.

3) Provide an up-to-date electrical one-line diagram identifying sources of supply to specific electrical equipment.

4) Train employees to understand the specific hazards and safety-related work practices. 

5) Purchase personal protective equipment (PPE) and provide it for all employees that work in areas that are within the arc flash boundaries.

6) Design overcurrent protective devices and perform maintenance on electrical equipment to reduce the risk of failure and the possibility that employees will be exposed to electrical hazards. 

Emily Aschinger Martin is president and CEO of Aschinger Electric



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