Lighting the way to an energy efficient future

When it comes to lighting for public or commercial buildings, reducing maintenance cycles will often feature high on the agenda. With this in mind, Mike Barrett Commercial Director at GE Lighting for UK & Nordic, looks at how modern lighting is addressing this issue through the development of lamps capable of lasting longer and saving energy – without compromising on light quality.

Thankfully, in light of the need to improve the performance of our buildings, we have collectively recognised the benefits of energy efficient lighting. Yet surprisingly, large quantities of property managers still operate under the misconception that achieving higher lumens per watt is of the most immediate commercial benefit when in fact the savings in total cost of ownership delivered by the longer life of the latest available lamps and systems are just as significant.

This extended working life delivers benefits on two levels. Firstly, there is the reduction in replacement costs; modern lighting can last five, 10 or even 20 times longer than traditional technologies, eliminating the need for replacements for years to come and dramatically reducing the need to carry stocks of replacement lamps.

Secondly, there is the cost associated with maintaining a facility and replacing lamps at the end of their life. The reduction in replacements delivers major savings in labour costs, particularly in areas where lighting is difficult to access, such as high atriums, or in public buildings or retail operations where maintenance has to be managed outside of normal office hours and equipment is required to access the lighting. So, while upgrading to new technologies may require a higher initial investment, payback is rapid and overall lifetime costs are significantly lower.

Making replacement easier

The good news is that building service engineers now have access to a wide range of products, designed to make replacement now and in the future a lot easier. It’s an area that continues to evolve, meaning it pays to keep up to date with the latest energy efficient technologies. And let’s not forget that Part L of the Building Regulations demands action to reduce the wattage output for lighting per square metre of commercial buildings.

Of course when we envisage energy efficient lamps we think of LEDs, which have exploded in recent years, reducing energy costs and carbon emissions across a host of sectors. First invented by GE Lighting, LEDs were initially viewed as an ideal light source for purely aesthetic reasons. LEDs have now positioned themselves as one of the front-runners in energy efficient lighting technology. Key maintenance and performance qualities mean LEDs truly are the ultimate fit and forget solution and ensure a high efficiency output is maintained throughout a building’s life.

There is now a wide range of LED retrofit lamps that offer the aesthetic qualities of conventional lamps, much longer life as well as energy efficiency benefits that can ensure maintenance costs can be kept to a minimum. Suitable for a range of fixtures, they offer a simple like-for-like replacement for inefficient incandescent lighting.

Commercial environments

LED technology has now also reached a point where it can absolutely compete in commercial office environments with traditional linear fluorescent lighting. A good example of this is GE Lighting’s Lumination LED Luminaires, which replace traditional T8 and T5 office lighting products. The output matches that of linear fluorescent products, with up to 40% energy savings and the controlled light distribution means that, in most cases, fewer fittings need to be used to achieve a similar or improved result.

Another great example of a practical LED solution is the Infusion LED module. The key to this technology is that it is a replaceable module so, as technology improves, you replace only the module and re-use the housing. Furthermore, due to its outstanding performance capabilities they can offer a lifetime of over 50,000 hours, which means the period between having to replace the light source is significantly extended.

Of course LEDs aren’t the only answer and in fact energy savings can still be made by making some simple changes. Linear fluorescents such as the GE Watt-Miser range are specifically designed to reduce energy costs in existing installations. For large offices and public buildings where lighting is on for long periods of time, these lamps can cut energy costs by up to 10% versus standard linear fluorescent lamps. The GE Watt-Miser lamps have been designed as direct replacements, meaning no new ballast or fitting is required and they are available in T8 and T5 versions.

And for CFL downlights, significant savings can still be made by simply opting for products that offer longer life. With some CFLs achieving 20,000 hours life, switching the specification will extend maintenance cycles, bringing an organisation real cost savings on re-lamping.

For any building services engineer looking at a lighting upgrade it pays to research the options thoroughly; taking into account where the lighting is being installed, the budget and what kind of light output is required. As only then will you be able to identify the most suitable lamp solution.

The fact is, reducing energy consumption and improving energy efficiency through lighting really is a straightforward solution and by upgrading a lighting system today you will not only save money, but you will also lower your carbon emissions and reduce maintenance costs for the long term.

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