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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."
Engineers, along with the lighting manufacturer, tested a variety of fixtures to replace the 400-watt (W) metal halide fixtures that stay on from dusk to dawn. Product evaluation lasted two-three months, and the installation period lasted six weeks. Valair's role in the project was to evaluate finances and determine the energy savings benefits.
"We partnered with utilities and lighting manufacturers as well and said, 'What's the right product?' " Valair says.
The company considered several options before settling on a 148 W LED fixture that uses 10 percent of the energy of the 400 W fixtures.
"We started at 400 watts, went down to 225, and then 190," Valair says about the evaluation process. "It took just a couple of different tests to see if we liked something. We took some photos, and had two-three months of evaluation."
One appealing aspect of the LEDs was a life expectancy of seven-eight years, depending on the hours of operation.
"We saw we were able to get better color, direct the light into better areas of the parking lot, and it would cut right off," Valair says. "So where before we looked at foot candles over a certain amount of distance, we were able to put that light exactly where we want it to be."
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