Cost vs. Benefits
Like many lighting retrofits, the availability of financial incentives helped justify the project, but also imposed a few challenges. The tax deduction provided under the Energy Policy Act of 2005 (EPAct) requires packages to have at least two levels of light (not counting off) to qualify, so Eco Engineering installed 5,652 bi-level switching controls that reduced kWh usage by 20%.
This requirement also led to an unexpected opportunity, Minard notes.
"We're actually doing some load shedding with high-end control dimming for the ballasts," Minard explains. "The existing control system in the building sends a signal to a certain area to tune down the lighting from 100% to 75 or 85% of the output. We were dialing it down to a comfortable light level for each space, reducing the load a little. Later we went back and found that on some circuits, there might be an additional 10 to 15% we couldn't measure because we weren't exactly sure what a comfortable light level would be."
Like the phase-out that concerned Green's team, the longer you wait to update, the more you risk missing out on financial help. While federal incentives like EPAct are still available now, some state-level programs are already disappearing, notes Mark Havira, senior consultant for Efficient Lighting Consultants.
"Any T12s on the shelves are only going to get more expensive, and you'll have to upgrade anyway, it's just a matter of when," Havira says. "Right now, there are still incentives – but Pennsylvania, for example, stopped giving incentives to replace T12s because that train left. There should be money out there, so take advantage of it."