The U.S. Energy Information Administrationreports the U.S. government consumed 192.2 trillion BTUs of energy in 2010 for electricity alone. The same year, the federal government announced it would take steps to cut its own energy use 28 percent by 2020. One way government facilities can contribute to this goal is by installing energy-efficient lighting solutions to replace outdated, inefficient T12 fluorescents and parabolic systems.
According to the Buildings Energy Data Book (2009) from the U.S. Department of Energy (USDOE), lighting accounts for 24.8 percent of a building’s primary energy use. The USDOE also reports electricity consumed in 2010 by lighting alone was 700TWh (700 billion kWh) — 19 percent of total U.S. electricity. So, even a simple lighting upgrade — whether to some or all outdated fixtures — can be a significant step in the direction of reducing energy use and costs.
Lighting retrofits are an ideal solution to achieve energy-efficient and aesthetically pleasing luminaires while also supporting sustainability goals. However, government facilities must still contend with the prospect of costly and/or disruptive construction that can make even a basic retrofit seem out of reach. Fortunately, a number of current market factors have converged to make this the ideal time to retrofit old, energy-hungry light systems.
Consider the state of lighting today. Once standard, T12 and even some T8 fluorescent and parabolic lighting systems are not nearly as energy efficient as more contemporary options. They also produce more heat, increasing a facility’s HVAC costs. Both the lighting and the increased cooling places a strain on utility companies trying to meet rising energy demands. Some utilities are providing rebates to facilities that install energy-efficient lighting retrofits. And just in case this was not enough motivation, the U.S. Department of Energy has mandated manufacturers phase out production of most T12 lamps (nearly 1 billion installed across the country) by July 2012, making it more difficult to maintain outdated systems as time goes on.
New solution for old lighting
New lighting technology is making it easier, faster and more cost-efficient for facilities to replace their less-than-efficient lighting systems. Lighting retrofit kits are a fairly new solution to the problem. Available in efficient fluorescent and LED options, retrofit kits enable installation of components into the housing of existing fixtures while dramatically improving the quality of light, the energy efficiency and the appearance of the fixtures. In addition, the installation of retrofit kits involves only minimal disruption to a facility’s productivity, primarily because they are installed below the ceiling plane, making them easy for contractors to access.
Lighting retrofit kits also result in a relatively quick payback period of two to three years or better.
For government facilities that need or want to make an immediate and measurable impact on the appearance and efficiency of their lighting, a lighting retrofit kit can achieve those goals.
Kurt Vogel is director of product development, RELIGHT, Lithonia Lighting. He has more than 22 years of experience in the lighting industry, most recently driving the development of Lithonia Lighting’s first indoor, ambient LED relight product, RTLED Relight. For the past four years he has been helping commercial building owners, engineers, lighting designers, architects and others realize the benefits of conventional and LED retrofit lighting.