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Early Returns: LEDs Show Promise for Facilities

By Renee L. Shroades - November 2005 - Lighting


THE LIGHTING INDUSTRY is on the verge of a new era. Many researchers agree that light-emitting diodes (LED) are revolutionizing illumination in institutional and commercial facilities. LED technology offers maintenance and engineering managers the promise to save energy, reduce maintenance and change their entire lighting infrastructure.

“They hold promise for so many things,” says Patricia Rizzo, lead research specialist at the Lighting Research Center (LRC). They have the potential to be the biggest change in lighting since Edison’s invention of the incandescent, she says.

But before the pinnacle of this lighting transformation takes place, manufacturers have more work to accomplish. The LRC’s Solid-State Lighting Program conducts research and education needed to help LED technology overcome the barriers it faces in gaining widespread acceptance.

Elevator Test

LED technology has been around for more than 30 years. Until recently, however, only small electronic devices, such as indicator lamps, used it. Many researchers say LED technology isn’t ready for general lighting use, but each improvement in its development opens doors to more applications in which it can replace less efficient light sources.

During a two-year project, the LRC retrofitted an elevator with LED downlight fixtures.

“The project worked out very well, Rizzo says. “We were getting the light levels that we were aiming for, and it demonstrated that elevators are a viable application for LED fixtures.”

Besides lasting much longer than traditional incandescent fixtures, (LEDs) have the ability to work with on-demand dimming and motion-sensing lighting controls, which could bring added savings. Their rugged design makes them resistant to elevator cabin vibration, which might reduce maintenance needs.

Setting Standards

While manufacturers are already introducing general-illumination LED products, Rizzo offers a word of caution to specifiers:

“They might not always perform the way you would expect them to because (the lighting industry is) still in the process of setting standards,” she says. Unlike other lighting technologies, LEDs have no standards that address such issues as life cycle, light output and color consistency.

“We don’t want people to be disappointed,” she says. “We want expectations to be realistic.”

LRC is working to establish LED standards through its Alliance for Solid-State Illumination Systems and Technologies (ASSIST) organization, a collaboration of researchers, manufacturers and government agencies. The first LED standard recommendation ASSIST issued addresses LED life.

“They don’t burn out like incandescents,” she says. “LEDs just kind of fade away.” As a result, it has been challenging for the industry to define the life of LED products.

Training Matters

Before LEDs can become mainstream technology, lighting technicians will need training on their proper installation and maintenance, and education will be critical to the success of LED technology.

“LEDs have very different system components that have to be managed well for them to perform well,” Rizzo says. LED performance depends on the interaction of individual components. Poorly integrated systems might experience premature failure.

So, in part, maintenance and engineering managers will determine the success of LED technology. By learning about the technology and educating their technicians on the systems, they could lead their organizations to a much brighter future.


Underground Tanks Draw EPA’s Interest

Two recent agreements with and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) give an indication of the expanding scope of the agency’s efforts to enforce federal laws in institutional and commercial facilities.

In late October, a hospital in Sanford, Me., and another in Exeter, N.H., each agreed to pay $3,000 in penalties to resolve EPA claims that they had violated the federal Clean Water Act by not having proper plans in place to prevent spills. Exeter Hospital and Goodall Hospital agreed to the reduce penalties under an expedited settlement program of the EPA’s New England office in Boston.

The cases represent the first two instances the office has negotiated such settlements involving violations of the act’s oil pollution prevention regulations.

Facilities that can store more than 1,320 gallons of oil in above-ground tanks or 42,000 in underground tanks must have spill-prevention, control and countermeasure (SPCC) plans if it could reasonably be expected that a discharge of oil from the facility would reach a body of water or its adjoining shoreline in a worst-case scenario.

Although both hospitals store oil in amounts above thresholds requiring the preparation and implementation of an SPCC plan, EPA inspectors found they did not have such plans.

“All facilities, big or small, need to abide by the law requiring plans to prevent oil spills,” says Robert W. Varney, the office’s regional administrator.

In the other case, Howard University in Washington, D.C., announced last month that it has reached an agreement with EPA’s Region 3 office in Philadelphia to settle alleged violations of the regulations governing underground fuel-storage tanks. The university agreed to pay a $59,589 penalty and comply with the regulations.

The violations involved various storage-tank safeguards, including monthly monitoring. The case involved a 3,000-gallon diesel-fuel tank, a 6,000-gasoline tank at the university’s service center, a 12,000-gallon tank at its cancer research center, and two additional tanks.

For more on EPA’s underground storage tank program, visit www.epa.gov/swerust1/


EPA Proposes Largest Fine of Federal Facility

A Veterans Hospital in Vermont has been hit with the largest proposed fine ever issued by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s New England office to a federal facility — $372,254 — for improper handling and storage of hazardous waste. The fine is also the one of the largest ever issued by the EPA against a Veterans Administration facility nationwide.

According to the EPA, “the hospital’s actions posed a significant threat to human health and the environment. The EPA’s complaint cites numerous hazardous waste management violations, including improper storage of containers of ether and picric acid in clinical laboratory and pathology areas. Both substances are potentially explosive and shock-sensitive.


Associations Heed the ‘Green’ Call

As more maintenance and engineering managers strive to make their facilities greener, professional associations are stepping up their efforts to address energy-efficiency and sustainability issues.

The Association of Energy Engineers (AEE) recently unveiled its Green Building Engineers (GBE) certification program, which is designed to help its members reduce energy use in buildings by 10 percent or more. Developed in partnership with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) through its Energy Star® Challenge, the GBE program educates energy engineers about ways to improve energy efficiency in buildings. AEE designed the program to serve as a resource for organizations applying for Energy Star. For more information, visit www.aeecenter.org

Also, the American Society of Heating, Refrigerating and Air-Conditioning Engineers (ASHRAE) has launched a campaign emphasizing its role as “the engineering engine that drives sustainability.” ASHRAE will use the campaign’s logo, theme, and web site — www.engineeringforsustainability.org — to identify its products and services related to sustainability.





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