As the pressure piles on to save energy, reduce carbon footprints and generally ‘go green’, there is a need for increased understanding in how best to achieve energy efficiency. Choosing the right lighting solution goes a long way to achieve this environmental aim, higher installation costs should not deter the selection of a product that will prove to be the most cost and energy efficient in the long term.
In recent years there have been many new building regulations that affect heating and lighting in commercial structures. The most recent, and perhaps most important at present, is the introduction of Energy Performance Certificates, which, after 1 October 2008, means that all commercial sites in the UK will be assessed and certified before they can be sold or let, regardless of whether they are new builds or existing premises.
Industrial and commercial properties are a key focus because they are responsible for 45% of the energy usage in the UK (1) and, with lighting making up a large percentage of this, commercial property developers and owners are looking at how lighting can help them to achieve a better energy performance rating.
In addition the Carbon Trust UK estimates that businesses could save £1.4 billion and in excess of 11 million tonnes of CO2; this year alone, just through implementing simple low or even no cost energy efficient measures and one of the biggest, they claim, is replacing inefficient lights.
…the Carbon Trust UK estimates that businesses could save £1.4 billion and in excess of 11 million tonnes of CO2 this year alone…
In recent years, advances have been made in lamp and optical technology, as well as HF control gear and light fittings, which have resulted in increased options across the board. A number of new products have come to market, for example energy efficient LEDs, with manufacturers dedicating significant resources to new product research and development. Looking to the immediate future, improvements are being made in energy efficient LEDs, to make them brighter and more suitable in a wider range of applications. Advancements in CFL technology will allow the lamps to be dimmed and achieve full brightness at a quicker rate.
A common deterrent to opting for an energy efficient lighting solution can be the initial investment that is required, as many businesses can be unaware that financial support is available to organizations under the climate change levy package, when they invest in low carbon technologies. Put simply, this allows for a 100% first year Enhanced Capital Allowance (ECA) scheme, and a £50m fund for energy efficiency and renewables, which means some of the cash spent on converting lighting to energy efficient products, can be claimed back.
The cost of the product throughout its life is also becoming increasingly more important than the initial outlay, as low maintenance costs have also started to be seen as a key factor in product selection.
Within any organization, performance and reliability are paramount, and the evolution of energy efficient lighting technology offered by a raft of manufacturers means there is no need to compromise on quality. In some cases, energy efficient technology, such as the new T5 fluorescent lamps offer best in class performance with no noticeable drop in performance towards the end of its life.
However, it’s not just the type of lighting installed that can reduce energy consumption; lighting controls, when used effectively, can also dramatically increase efficiency and reduce energy bills.
Along with timers and manual dimmers, which have been on the market for several years, sensors are becoming increasingly popular in commercial and industrial buildings. Designed to detect and activate when someone enters the room and switch off when they have left, PIR sensors can prevent lights being left on in empty areas of the building.
Toilets continue to be the biggest culprit for wasted energy in commercial premises, with lighting and ventilation only needed when they are occupied. This problem is being addressed by ceiling mounted PIR sensors, which detect presence by passive infrared, effectively enhanced for the smallest of movements and holding lights off in bright ambient conditions. Providing an off delay after the last observed movement can save an average of 80% on energy wasted. If the same product is used in meeting or staff rooms up to 65% can be shaved off the energy bill.
A more advanced PIR can also offer programmable presence detection for lighting control in offices and open plan workstations.
Providing an off delay after the last observed movement can save an average of 80% on energy wasted. If the same product is used in meeting or staff rooms up to 65% can be shaved off the energy bill.
Long range detectors provide effective energy saving control for large areas such as those in warehouses, sports halls or conference centres and offer incredible energy savings of up to 80%. These products consist of a control unit and low voltage microwave detectors, which can be combined to create one self-contained unit. The detectors can even see movement through glass and are fixed in a robust unit, secure against accidental damage.
Reducing energy consumption has become so important that increasing numbers of intelligent products are being introduced to the market. Already, some superior PIRs can detect the level of light entering the room from other rooms or through doors and windows, and adjust the brightness of the light accordingly.
Microwave sensors are another option open to facilities managers and specifiers. Used most often in applications such as larger classrooms, storage aisles and conference rooms, these devices are directional presence detectors with built in photocell use, utilising microwave technology and featuring a movement detector. For example, if used in a storage facility, an employee walking along the ends of the aisles will not activate any lighting – only once they have entered a specific aisle will those lights be activated and then deactivated as they leave.
Ultrasonic sensors are perfect for corridors, as they are fully automatic, directional presence detectors with photocell, and save energy by switching off lights in unoccupied areas and by holding lights off in occupied areas that already have adequate natural light. The sensor works by using ultrasonic radar to detect movement, which involves transmitting an ultrasound signal and examining the reflected signal for frequency variations.
Lighting is responsible for a large proportion of the energy used in commercial buildings, and by using new lighting technologies and installing the most intelligent controls, companies can save hundreds if not thousands, on wasted energy, much more than the initial outlay for the upgrade. On the whole, if a system is more energy efficient it may have higher initial costs, but it must be remembered that greener products and controls can dramatically reduce energy consumption and maintenance requirements.