Lighting shouldn’t cost the earth

Lighting Technology is experiencing a period of rapid change. Not since Thomas Edison invented the light bulb in the 1870s have there been such radical developments as we see in lighting today, which is driven by the need to reduce CO2 emissions and protect the environment.

Last March the European Commission adopted The Energy Using Products Directive (EuP) to ensure manufacturers of electrical devices and heating equipment design products with the environmental impacts in mind throughout their entire lifecycle, in order to improve their environmental performance. In respect of lighting, the Directive has set efficacy targets that require the use of low energy CFLs and other technologies such as halogen or LEDs.

We have already seen a step change in the household market, where the gradual phasing out of incandescent lamps commenced last September, with the goal of reaching a complete ban by 2012. The implementation of the EuP Directive covers change beyond the household market and within the industrial, commercial and public sector, users are also realising that efficacy and carbon reduction are vital elements to be considered, especially with financial penalties coming into place as the UK government strives to meet the challenging target it has set itself – to reduce carbon emissions by 80% by the year 2050.

For commercial users the main driver for investing in alternative lighting technologies has been reducing energy costs, given the increase in both energy and maintenance costs across Europe. This has led to a demand for reliable, high quality lighting products that offer good energy savings, but which also allow extended maintenance cycles. 

Alternative solutions

One of the main advances in outdoor lighting in recent times has been the use of electronic control gear enabling local authorities to reduce energy consumption and improve light source performance and stability. Predominantly used with High Pressure Sodium and CMH lamps, electronic control gear can additionally be linked to monitoring or Central Management Systems. Elexon, the governing body overseeing connections and setting tariffs to the UK unmetered supply network has worked closely with the manufacturers to ensure that investment in these CMS systems facilitates the proper financial rewards expected by the local authorities who are investing in these emerging technologies. In essence, for the first time a local authority can make use of monitored load values when purchasing in the half hour trading regimes, subject to an approved CMS being used.

In addition, CMS systems allow proper pro-active maintenance scheduling identifying which lamps are drawing more power as they reach end-of-life. Many CMS systems also allow the local authority to maximise energy savings and emissions reduction by employing in-built algorithms to provide constant light output thereby removing the significant initial overlighting that is a by-product of the depreciation adjustments in every newly installed lighting design.

LED lighting advances

Perhaps the most exciting advance in lighting at the moment is the emergence of LED technology for both indoor and outdoor lighting applications. LEDs are becoming increasingly important with their potential to achieve impressive energy savings and reduced maintenance costs. Using less energy and providing significantly longer life LEDs offer a low maintenance solution with the potential to revolutionise the way we light offices, houses and streets. GE lighting is at the forefront of these emerging developments and has deployed in excess of 80 million LEDS in lighting applications globally.

LEDs provide building owners with the best opportunity yet to achieve energy savings and reduce cost without compromise to light quality.  With its award winning LED technology, GE is leading the way in applications such as traffic, area and rail signals, signage and display lighting.  In the last year GE has launched two outdoor LED lighting solutions, Area Lighter and Iberia, which provide up to 60% energy savings, longer life and significantly improved light level uniformity compared with traditional HID lamp sources and optical systems. Unlike other light sources which can waste up to 50% of the light generated due to lack of directionality, LEDs provide directional light and the advanced optical design of the luminaires delivers light exactly where it is needed.

Another plus for outdoor lighting applications is that LEDs, unlike fluorescent lights, become more efficient as the ambient temperature decreases. Unlike many other outdoor light sources there are no problems turning on LEDs in cold conditions, ideal for many exterior lighting applications. Cold Start and instant restrike are of considerable benefit in the outdoor market. Toxic waste is also reduced with LED’s as no sodium or lead is required in their production.

For indoor applications, businesses are already embracing LEDs; Starbucks has recently begun implementing its LED conversion programme as part of an energy saving initiative to reduce the environmental impact of its stores on a global scale.  Major retailers such as Walmart are making considerable savings with LED refrigerator and display case lighting solutions and now we are starting to see consumers embracing the environmental benefits of LED lighting as well.

LEDs in the home

One such domestic LED installation was featured on Channel 4’s Grand Designs in February 2009. The Marlborough Farmhouse in the rolling chalk hills of Wiltshire was designed to blend with existing farm buildings and the surrounding countryside, with a curved metal roof (made of zinc) overarching the whole building.

When it came to lighting the building, the electrician was originally planning to install 50W GU10 Main Voltage Halogen lamps, but lighting engineers suggested there was an alternative, more energy efficient and sustainable option.

Design 360 used GE Lighting’s award winning Vio LEDs to develop their G4 3.6W LED luminaire with a total circuit wattage of just 4.5W, considerably less than the 50W GU10 lamps which were to have been used originally. Electricians installed a total of 98 LED luminaires throughout the entire house.

Adopting LEDs at a time when most householders are still getting used to the switch from incandescents to CFLs shows considerable forward thinking and the results demonstrate that the investment will be well worth it – both for the energy savings and the quality of light good LEDs can produce. LEDs have an even longer rated life than energy saving CFLs, with 50,000 hours equating to approximately 10 years, and unlike other lighting options they are mercury free.

The long term energy and maintenance savings associated with LEDs make them one of the most environmentally sustainable lighting solutions available today for both indoor and outdoor applications. As LEDs develop we expect to see domestic solutions become more readily available, enabling everyone to benefit from the considerable energy savings and longer life of this technology, and, most importantly, ensuring lighting our environment doesn’t cost the earth.

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