Maintenance-driven energy efficiency
Published: 04 August, 2010
Enormous improvements to the energy efficiency of old-style fluorescent lighting systems can be made at the same time as reducing maintenance costs, without having to rip out existing fittings, as Aidan Salter explains.
Replacing a light bulb can seem like a straightforward task. However, in a large building, where the lighting is comprised of hundreds or even thousands of fluorescent lamps, there can be massive disruption when a lamp fails.
Within a working environment, there is typically protocol to follow. A maintenance technician must be called for, who is likely to be called away from completing more important tasks. In the interim, a dark or poorly-lit room might become a health and safety hazard, or simply render a space unworkable — leaving staff to twiddle their thumbs as they wait for the situation to be rectified. In a building that is open to the public, such as a hotel, shop or attraction, a dead lamp looks unprofessional and invites customer complaints.
If a building uses a thousand fluorescent lamps, which are on half the time, then, on average, half the fluorescent lamps must be replaced each year. It is easy to see how lighting maintenance can cause regular disruptions, with costs mounting. With this in mind, more and more building managers are looking to improve the lighting efficiency of their premises — not just in a bid to cut energy use, but also as a way to reduce their maintenance burden.
The energy efficiency of new-generation, low-energy lamps is well established, with T5 fluorescent lamps able to cut energy consumption in lighting by up to 65%. However, an overlooked benefit of energy-efficient lighting is the long lifespan of the lamps.
An old-style fluorescent lamp tends to have an average life of 7000 to 8000 h, dependent on switching cycles. An energy-efficient T5 lamp can last for 30 000 h on the same switching cycle. With lamps lasting more than three times as long, a technician needs to be called out substantially less often. If, for example, the old-style lamp needed to be replaced once every two years, the new T5 lamp should require replacing only once every six years. LED lamps, generally used for directional or spot lighting, are also reaching market viability. Although some LEDs suffer lumen degradation, a good-quality LED can last 50 000 h or more, cutting the maintenance burden even further.
When The Flambards Experience, a Cornish amusement park, chose to install 349 energy-efficient lamps of varying sizes across its site, maintenance was very much an issue. For a theme park that is open to the public, offering a good standard of lighting is obviously a must. And, since making sure all the rides are running correctly is the maintenance staff’s top priority, spending less time maintaining lighting levels was an important consideration.
Physical and technical differences between the old and new styles of lamps have previously required the old light fittings to be ripped out and replaced before energy-efficient lamps could be installed. However, Flambards opted for a retrofit technology when upgrading its lighting, using Save It Easy from Energys Group to enable new-generation T5 lamps to be plugged into the existing fittings.
The higher efficiency of the new lamps, plus the more efficient control gear in the Save It Easy units, typically adds up to combined energy savings of 37 to 65%, according to size of lamp being used. Energys has also recently launched the Save It Easy LED replacement lamp for 2D fittings, which replaces 2D lamps in the existing fittings. The new lamps considerably reduce the wattage needed and typically last six times longer than the old-style equivalents.
As a result of its lighting upgrade, Flambards is set to save about £2200 each year on its electricity bills, with annual savings of 12 t of carbon.
Paul Morris, technical services manager with Flambards, comments, ‘The Save It Easy units were simple enough to install that our onsite team could easily handle all the installation work. We were concerned about the brightness of the new lamps, but the light quality has turned out to be even better than before. We’ve also found the Save It Easy equipment so durable that, in the nine months since the installation, we have had to carry out no lighting maintenance.’
Another client that has reduced its maintenance burden through improved energy efficiency is Warwickshire County Council. Following a successful first installation at its headquarters, Shire Hall, where its annual electricity bills were cut by £15 649, the council is now rolling out Save It Easy installations to all of the properties that it manages —including office buildings, schools and maintenance depots across the Warwickshire.
With Government spending cuts already taking place, achieving true cost efficiency in public sector buildings has never been more essential.
In particular, the Summer months are a good time to replace lighting systems, since natural light is in abundance. By the time the gloom of the Autumn rolls around and artificial lighting is needed once more, the new systems can be in place and have a substantially lower burden in terms of both energy use and maintenance.
Aidan Salter is managing director of Energys Group.
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