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In recent years, building and equipment efficiency standards have dramatically impacted the use of lighting in commercial facilities. According to the Lighting Controls Association, or LCA, a recent landmark was the virtual elimination of the the fluorescent magnetic T12 ballasts starting in July 2010. And the fluorescent T12 lamp is next. Here is an update from the group:

In 2012, Department of Energy regulations will take effect that create new energy standards for selected linear T5, T8 and T12 lamps. The net result, with few exceptions, is a majority of 4-ft. linear and 2-ft. U-shaped T12, many 8-ft. T12 and T12HO and some low-color-rendering 4-ft. T8 lamps will be eliminated. Due to energy codes, magnetic fluorescent lighting systems already have been largely eliminated from new construction, but are still in service in many older buildings.

Given the above, industry experts argue that the time is right to upgrade existing lighting and control systems to improve energy efficiency and lighting quality. In doing so, many operators will face a basic choice: whether to replace the existing T12 lighting system all at once in a planned upgrade or replace individual components as they fail.

“At first glance, replacing individual components as they fail appears to be the easiest path forward, as it avoids the upfront cost of equipment and installation labor and potential disruption of a renovation,” said Craig DiLouie, education director for LCA, which is administered by the National Electrical Manufacturers Association, or NEMA.

However, according to DiLouie, a planned upgrade has several major advantages:

  • Provides opportunities to upgrade lighting quality to ensure good performance, uniformity, color and space appearance;
  • Avoids lighting quality problems that can easily result from mingling different lamp and ballast types in the same space;
  • Avoids confusion resulting from maintaining two incompatible lamp and ballast types in inventory;
  • Provides opportunties to generate higher energy savings and greater lighting quality resulting from reevaluating the existing lighting system and upgrading it to current best practices.

The opportunities for the biggest energy savings and lighting quality upgrades are in older, overlighted buildings that still use such older technologies as T12 systems, in areas where utility costs are very high, and where lighting is uncontrolled and left on all night.

ENERGY-EFFICIENT TECHNOLOGIES: When it comes to lamps and ballasts, the LCA urges facility managers and owners to consider T8 systems. It points out there are now 23W, 25W, 28W, 32W (normal output) and 32W (high output, or “Super T8”) T8 lamps available, offering a choice of power and light output.

There are also electronic ballasts available with a range of efficiencies and ballast factors enabling further tuning of wattage and light output. The most efficient ballasts, according to the LCA, carry the NEMA Premium mark on the ballast label.

NEW FIXTURES: Instead of upgrading existing fixtures, energy cost-savings may be used to justify an entirely new lighting system based on a fresh design incorporating current design best practices. For applications where lighting is used to sell, this can be a highly desirable option.

CONTROLS: According to the New Buildings Institute, advanced lighting controls can generate up to 50% lighting energy savings in existing buildings. Effective strategies include automatic shutoff, light reduction control, daylight harvesting and demand response.

The first lighting control strategy to consider is automatic shutoff, which is considered the easiest, lowest-risk path to energy savings and is relatively simple to set up and commission. If LEED (for existing buildings) is used as a model path or actual requirement for the upgrade, this will be essential, as LEED requires that buildings meet the ASHRAE 90.1 energy standard as a prerequisite to gaining points for transcending it.

If the existing installation already includes automatic lighting controls that will be retained after the upgrade, it’s important to make sure the controls are working properly by recommissioning them as part of the project. The system may have been improperly designed, installed or commissioned when first put in place, or its operating parameters may have drifted out of sync with the space and how its lighting is used. In such a situation, recommissioning can become a source of energy savings by itself.

“The bottom line is that in most spaces, simple control strategies can be economically incorporated into lamp/ballast upgrades and fixture replacement projects, accelerating energy savings and, in some cases, improving flexibility,” DiLouie said.

© 2014