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Thursday, April 19, 2012 03:28 pm

Green lighting

Ways to cut costs and save energy

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Starting in July, the U.S. Department of Energy has new regulations to upgrade old, inefficient, mercury-laden fluorescent light bulbs. About 500 million of the lights, called T12, need to be replaced. The change will save $10 billion a year in energy costs nationwide.

There are at least two kinds of lamps that are more energy efficient than the 80-year-old T12 tubes – T8, developed in the 1980s, and T5, which were produced in the mid-1990s. According to Katrin Mehler, president of the Miami-based company LUXADD, a leading lighting solution provider, upgrading to the T5 light is the best – though not necessarily the easiest – choice.

“The T5 has the best lumen maintenance, and it has an extremely low mercury content. It doesn’t evaporate like in the old tubes,” Mehler says. “But it is shorter in size, and that’s a big problem because it requires a different fixture and changing a fixture is very expensive.”

Mehler says one alternative to having to rip out a fixture and put in a new one is a new T5 fluorescent lighting adapter, recently introduced by LUXADD. The company’s Express T5 Retrofit Kit Series is designed to retrofit old T12 light fixtures to the T5 fixtures without the significant costs of parts and labor to replace the entire fixture. The T5 saves up to 73 percent on lighting energy costs and reduces a company’s carbon footprint by up to 60 percent. And because the T5 tubes don’t produce the same amount of heat as the old T12 bulbs, businesses will also save about 15 percent on air conditioning costs, Mehler says.

Retrofitting fluorescents has brought happy side effects. “Most of the time (the buildings) have been overlit to begin with, so we can go from four T12 to two T5 and nobody’s going to know,” she says. “It’s a little less lumen, but it’s still enough light.”

She says one client, from a CPA company, also noticed a noted difference in temperature after changing to the T5 lamps.

“He could never close the door of his office because the T12s were getting so hot and the air conditioning couldn’t go against it, and ever since he’s had T5s, he can close the door,” she says.

Mehler pointed out that some people are opting to switch to the T8 light because it doesn’t require a new fixture, as it has the same pins and length as the T12.

“But it’s still 30-year-old technology; it’s not a new technology at all,” she says. “What you really want to do if you retrofit and spend (big) money, you want to go all the way. You don’t want to get stuck halfway and go only to T8. You want to go to T5.”

Mehler says T5 tubes are also much better for the eyes than another type of energy-efficient light – LED.

“LED still has the bluish effect, like the ‘Twilight Zone’ ... and T5 has a beautiful light,” she says.

Mehler says that with the savings in lighting and cooling costs, the Express T5 Retrofit Kit Series pays for itself within one year. Companies can add to their savings by installing things such as occupancy sensors, which detect motion in a room and turn on and off accordingly, as well as dimmers, which vary the brightness of a light.

“There are a lot of possibilities for consumers and companies to save on energy,” she says. 

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