3 FM quick reads on LED lighting
1. LED Retrofits Pave the Way for More projects
When maintenance and engineering managers with institutional and commercial facilities seek to upgrade their outdoor lighting, they are more often turning to LEDs. Staples Inc., the office supply retail giant, followed that script in 2011 when it sought to curb energy use at its corporate headquarters, a 650,000-square-foot building in Framingham, Mass.
The decision did not come without a great deal of research and testing, after which the company realized that LED technology could provide the most effective option for its needs.
"The advancements in technology keep coming faster and faster, and we are constantly evaluating when it makes sense to get in the game," says Bob Valair, the company's director of energy environment and management. "When we decided to pursue the project, the time was right in terms of technology and cost and return on investment."
Staples replaced more than 150 parking lot lighting fixtures in its three parking lots — two employee lots and one for visitors — on campus. The project resulted in a 14 percent energy reduction from the retrofit and was so successful that the company is rolling out LED retrofits elsewhere at its corporate headquarters, as well as at Staples facilities nationwide.
"LED has been making inroads," Valair says. "It's just a matter of when you transition that lighting system to an LED product."
The parking lot project opened the door for more company LED projects, both at the corporate headquarters and beyond.
Since the project, the company has added a 63,000-square-foot parking garage that has four levels and 800 parking spaces, including designated spots for carpool parking and plug-in stations for electric cars. The addition of the parking garage brings the total number of parking spaces at the headquarters to 3,200.
Other LED projects at the headquarters include the renovation of the 50,000-square-foot cafeteria and adding LEDs to the dock lights in the shipping area. LED projects are also taking place at Staples distribution centers and stores across the country.
2. LED Retrofits Offer Lessons in Savings
The University of Minnesota campus in Minneapolis is poised for major changes. The university is looking for new technology applications that will help hold down costs related to building operations and maintenance.
Most of the attention being paid to savings relates to retrofits of existing buildings involving LED lighting of campus parking structures and lots. The success of the university's LED retrofits required careful planning and execution, along with the support of the department's front-line technicians.
"Parking and Transportation (department) technicians were instrumental in providing access to the facilities, as well as coordinating area and space closures within the ramp as necessary for the installations," says Alicia Phillips, an engineer and senior energy auditor with the university's facilities management department. "They also provided assistance with troubleshooting existing wiring issues as a result of the changes. The new wireless system we chose to install with the LED fixtures created additional responsibilities of monitoring and reporting through a web interfaced program with and e-mail alerts for operations staff."
The retrofit of the Oak Street Ramp, the university's largest, also provided a lesson in knowing the experience level of contractor partners.
"The wireless control company that we decided to go with had not done a facility that large before, so they underestimated the size of the router needed to run the wireless controls," she says. "So we had to order two additional routers to cover that number of fixtures. Also, the time of year we started, it was brutal weather here in January. That slowed the project down quite a bit." With a number of retrofit projects under its belt, the department finds itself in position to take full advantage of the opportunities for greater savings and efficiency that are available in its 857 buildings with 27.8 million square feet — once the cost of LEDs reaches an attractive point.
"The cost (of LEDs) has come down quite a bit, but there's still room to go," Phillips says. "Once that changes, I think that will make it an easier decision to retrofit."
3. Lighting Upgrades: LEDs to the Rescue
The University of Minnesota campus in Minneapolis is poised for major changes. As with many other institutional and commercial facilities, the university is looking high and low for new technology applications that will help hold down costs related to building operations and maintenance. A sizable part of the attention being paid to savings relates to retrofits of existing buildings involving LED lighting.
"Essentially, we were trying to find low-hanging fruit where we could really kick off our energy savings on campus with respect to lighting," says Alicia Phillips, an engineer and senior energy auditor with the university's facilities management department. Over the last few years, a series of LED retrofits in campus buildings — including parking garages, stairwells, food-service areas and classrooms — has provided a laboratory for Phillips and the department to test various lamps, ballasts and control systems to find the most effective combination for a range of applications.
"We typically will retrofit anything that's five years or less for the return on investment, and we also always take advantage of energy rebates from our energy company. I think it's probably two years before it's a no-brainer to sweep across campus," Phillips says. The most recent targets of the university's search for greater energy efficiency are campus parking structures and lots.
"Our parking facilities are, for the most part, unoccupied, and the lights are on 24/7," Phillips says. "We thought that would offer a good opportunity to take advantage of LED technology and incorporate into that lighting controls."
The previous lighting system featuring 150-watt high-pressure sodium lamps had not presented problems but instead simply represented an opportunity, she says, adding, "We just wanted to not have the lights on all the time. We did a survey and found that our parking facilities are only occupied about 3-5 percent of the time, so it's a huge opportunity to either turn the lights off or lower the light level when they're unoccupied. High-pressure sodium is not a source that can be turned on and off based on occupancy."