The simple route to energy saving

Many commercial building owners and managers believe that the route to achieving substantial savings and reducing operating costs is a difficult one and that true savings can only be achieved in a brand new fit for purpose building. Paul Mans of CP Electronics explains why nothing could be further from the truth and looks at some simple retrofit solutions which can achieve payback in a relatively short period of time.

In the past, if a company wanted to update or upgrade their premises they simply moved and as a result making energy savings was easy because a new building generally provided all of the latest up to date technology on the market. But over the past few years, fewer companies are moving and more are making do with their current buildings and as a result they have had to upgrade the relevant services and facilities to meet their needs.

The change in direction from new-build to retrofit is largely as a result of a reduction in the budgets available and where once it would have made economic sense to move to a new building, increasingly retrofit is proving to be a more cost effective solution which meets the aims of the building owner.

The motivation to achieve cost savings is not the only reason that energy efficient retrofits are implemented because many are now undertaken through a sense of social responsibility to reduce emissions. Another reason for the growth in this market is that the ability to label a building as being green provides a means for the landlord to retain their market share in what is an increasingly competitive market.

Regardless of what the motivation is, the retrofit market continues to grow and is proving to be one of the greatest opportunities facing the industry. However many still see a number of barriers to achieving the success and the energy reduction which they are aiming for, such as the lack of available capital and unproven returns on investment.

Finding a solution

As far as the lighting industry is concerned, energy efficiency has always been a hot topic because lighting continues to be seen as one of the main areas of energy wastage. In fact even today, when we are all switched on to the need to save energy, it is still typical to see commercial buildings lit up long into the night after everyone has gone home.

The problem here of course is not that the technology isn’t available – more that it isn’t being used correctly, so whether the building is a brand new fit for purpose property with all of the latest energy saving technology installed or an old building which has undergone refurbishment, the problem will remain.

What is important to bear in mind is that it is no longer just about the luminaires and lamps which are installed, because in order to achieve greater savings and a shorter payback period, a degree of control is an essential part of the equation.

The simple solution comes in the form of PIR detection which is used to switch the lights on and off in response to a change in temperature at a given point. So for example, if a person passes within the range of the detector, the temperature at that point will rise from room temperature to body temperature which triggers the detection and as a result switches the lights on. After a pre-set time delay, if no further changes are detected the lights are switched off.

Controlling lighting with a presence detector can save up to 60% of lighting energy costs (dependent on occupancy behaviour and the amount of natural light available) which is why it is proving to be such a popular solution in the retrofit market. But the key to the success of this type of solution is the ease of installation.

New technology

One of the other main barriers to refurbishment is the time taken to carry it out. If a company cannot afford to move to a new building then they certainly can’t afford for their work spaces to be out of action for long periods of time while a refurbishment takes place. As a result manufacturers have worked to provide a solution which makes it easy for the building owner to achieve savings with a relatively short payback period and with minimal disruption.

A good example of this is the introduction of our Batten Mount PIR Detector which provides a cost effective way to make any T5 or T8 batten an energy saving luminaire.

The luminaire mounted miniature PIR detectors provide automatic control of lighting loads and are believed to be the smallest PIR detectors in the world, making them ideally suited for applications that require an unobtrusive solution or where space is at a premium. They can also be easily set up from ground level with an IR handset meaning that commissioning is easy and changes can be made at a later date should the need arise.

This particular product is proving to be very popular in the retrofit market because it is suitable for a wide variety of interior spaces where a simple or quick improvement is required. What this essentially means is that it can provide the quick paybacks which the building owner requires, and because it is pre-set for the detection of movement to turn lights on, and then off after a set period of time, the installation time is greatly reduced – which is good news for the building occupier.

Keep it simple

I often think that in the building services industry we try to make everything difficult for ourselves and as a result we often fail to see the obvious. Lighting control is a case in point because many people believe that a lighting refurbishment will be costly and that the upheaval to the company will be great. The fact is that neither of these statements needs to be true because there are some very cost effective solutions on the market which will bring instant savings at a fraction of the cost which you were expecting to pay.

With new legislation and regulations constantly on the horizon there will inevitably be some point in the not too distant future where difficult decisions need to be taken but lighting refurbishment needn’t be one of those difficult decisions. So if there is a simple solution then my advice would be to take it and give yourself a bit of breathing space while you make some savings on the bottom line.

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