4 FM quick reads on lighting
1. 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."
Restroom Image: The Maintenance Connection
Restrooms are one area of facilities that most people never notice — until they do. When managers notice a restroom, it is usually because someone has complained about it. Even though restrooms frequently go unnoticed by managers, they are one of the most visible and memorable areas within any facility for both building occupants and visitors. Paying close attention to maintenance can pay major dividends when it comes to improving the image of restrooms.
While cleaning is the most significant maintenance cost, there are other issues that should be addressed during the design phase that will have a major impact on maintenance costs. One of the biggest complaints of maintenance crews is the lack of isolation valves on restroom fixtures. Without isolation valves, a problem with one fixture takes the entire restroom out of service. Each fixture must be installed with its own isolation valve.
During the selection process, particularly for fixtures and their controls, attention must be paid to the maintenance requirements of different options. While the rated service life of the fixtures may be very similar, the actual service life of individual components, such as seals, may differ widely. And the time and ease of getting to components that must be periodically replaced also varies widely from unit to unit. Components should be evaluated in part on how difficult it will be to maintain them.
Selecting dispensers for consumable supplies that are adequately sized for the level of use in a particular restroom will reduce the number of times that dispensers must be re-supplied, reducing maintenance costs. Touchless controls on these devices will limit the quantity of product dispensed, which also reduces the frequency with which they must be refilled.
Even something as simple as selecting the right lighting fixture can impact maintenance costs. A well-designed lighting fixture will require no special tools or disassembly of the fixture in order to replace the fixture's light sources. Similarly, the fixtures should be selected in part based on the cost of the lamps that they require.
Lighting Upgrades and the Bottom Line
Retrofitting the lighting system in any institutional or commercial facility is challenging for any maintenance and engineering manager.
But the challenge becomes even more daunting when the facility in question is a 1.6-million-square-foot regional medical center that provides round-the-clock service to the entire gamut of patients across several counties. The retrofit of the Georgia Regents Medical Center in Augusta required strong communication between in-house maintenance crews, contractors and the medical staff to ensure work was completed as efficiently as possible without interrupting patient care.
"When you are changing out ballasts and lights, sometimes you have to kill the power," says Jimmy Taylor, the medical center's electrical services manager. "It's hard to do that when you're talking about being in a hospital, and you are going to tell the staff or department that you have to turn off lighting in the area.
"It was very challenging to come up with a timeframe. We needed to get it done, but we had to work around their schedule, which was sometimes tough because things run 24/7. That was one of the toughest challenges, working with the staff, but they worked well with us."
The initial investment for the medical center's lighting retrofit was about $433,000, which represented about 81 percent of the entire project, and the project's annual savings totaled $175,000 a year. The original return on investment was 2.4 years.