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Updating interior lighting a bright idea for cost savings

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According to Kurt Kammerer, principal of the energy consulting firm K.J. Kammerer & Associates, commercial buildings are the largest single consumer of electricity, consuming up to 38 percent of energy usage. Of that, lighting is the most predominate end use, accounting for 40 percent of total consumption and 33 percent of peak demand of commercial consumers. Electricity costs can make a considerable impact on a building's bottom line, however with a little thoughtful interior design planning, building owners and managers can experience substantial savings.

According to Irene Stillings, executive director of the San Diego Regional Energy Office one of the easiest, yet most important changes that can be made is the use of LED technology or light emitting diodes in a building's exit signs.

"A large commercial structure can house countless exit signs that stay on 24 hours a day so it makes sense to start here when incorporating energy efficient lighting," Stillings said. "The use of this incredible LED technology not only reduces energy costs but maintenance costs as well."

Maril Hamilton principal of The Design Consortium said her firm is seeing an increase in the use of linear, direct lighting in commercial buildings. In addition, the firm is replacing more T12 fluorescent lamps with the T8 and the T5/T5 high output lamp. John Freese of the Lighting Association of America maintains while these lamps are not more energy efficient, incorporating these fixtures will result in better-controlled light distribution that allows for greater spacing, thus requiring the use of fewer fixtures. Freese also said he is using increasingly more T8 lamp/ballast combinations in commercial structures, because of the reduction of overall wattage while maintaining light output.

Hamilton said that the changes in California's Title 24, effective in 2005, will have a substantial impact in lighting for office space.

"The Title 24 changes will most likely result in the more frequent implementation of direct lighting, either recessed parabolic or lensed type fixtures," Hamilton said. "Not only is task lighting a possibility, it will most likely become a necessity."

Kammerer said that there are countless interior lighting modifications that can potentially result in more than a 50 percent savings. Some of the changes include installing occupancy sensors that turn lights on only when needed, replacing standard incandescent and halogen lamps with compact fluorescent lamps (CFLs) and, depending on the requirements of the facility, incorporating metal halide lamps, high pressure sodium lamps and lamp reflectors. Kammerer recommends investing in a comprehensive building energy analysis to assess which technologies are the best fit for the property.

"Costs of various lighting strategies vary considerably, however, energy efficiency lighting retrofits in general tend to be one of the most cost effective investments," Kammerer said. "In many cases, the energy costs savings pay for the total upgrade costs in two to three years, and sometimes the payback is actually a year or less."

All of these new technologies can be very confusing and although many times an experienced designer can guide a building owner into making the right choices for their building, some managers still want to know more about the process. Fortunately, there are a host of seminars and incentive programs available offering information on the newest advancements in energy efficient design.

Kammerer recommends San Diego Gas & Electric's (SDG&E) Savings By Design program for nonresidential new construction and renovation/remodeling projects. The program offers building owners and their design teams design assistance, owner incentives of up to $150,000 per project to help pay for the investment in energy-efficient buildings and $50,000 per project to reward designers who meet ambitious energy-efficiency targets.

SDREO offers several seminars throughout the year on the latest advances in energy-efficient lighting technologies. In May, the SDREO is holding a seminar on the current state of LED technology and its potential for development over the next five years. Presenters will also discuss new applications where LEDs are likely to make the biggest impact in the coming years and issues that will need to be considered when developing products or installations for each of these applications. Those interested in this and other seminars can visit www.sdreo.org.

In addition, SDG&E has once again teamed up with BOMA San Diego to host a series of energy seminars throughout the year. Topics range from the cost benefits of lighting retrofits to the latest systems currently available. Those interested can contact the BOMA San Diego office at (619) 243-1817 or visit www.sdge.com/construction/seminars/html.

Kay is on staff at BOMA San Diego

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