Once again, with the price of everything going through the roof, politicians, consumers and the media have (justifiably) moved energy conservation to the forefront. To its credit, the lighting industry continues a pattern of forging ahead with the development of energy-saving lamps and fixtures. For corporate facility managers challenged with minimizing the cost of lighting plants and warehouses, these are good times.

Martin Weir, director of brand development at Columbia Lighting, Greenville, S.C., said 50 million high--intensity discharge (HID) luminaires in the United States could be replaced by modern high-bay lamps, according a recent study.

“If we as a nation were to do that, we would save 35 million metric tons of CO2 emissions annually,” he said. “The savings to American business would be approximately $5 billion or the equivalent of removing 6.5 million automobiles from the highways.” That’s a start.

The alternatives

Among the several issues receiving increased attention are the types of lamps and fixtures being employed, computerized system-management protocols and recently developed technology.

Grand Haven, Mich.-based Light Corp.’s Larry Leete describes his company’s product, Intu, as a computerized system designed to manage a facility’s entire infrastructure.

“The question was, ‘What can we do to make workplace lighting more reactive to the people?’ We were looking for a command and control method of creating a new environment by using the existing infrastructure as the foundation,” he said.

Meanwhile, Full Spectrum Lighting, Jackson, Mich., has recently released Everlast lighting technology.

“It is essentially a fluorescent lamp without electrodes,” said Justin Baldwin, commercial sales manager. “The lamp relies on the fundamental principles of gas discharge and electromagnetic induction to produce light. The result: a lamp with an unmatched life span. Lasting up to 100,000 hours, this system can last longer than 100 incandescent, five HID or five typical fluorescent lamp changes.”

Motion sensors also have established a presence in the energy-savings world. However, frequent on/off cycles have an adverse affect on a lamp’s life expectancy.

The details

Compared to major industry players, Light Corp. is tiny. Formed in 1986, the privately held manufacturer of lamps employs 160 workers and reports gross sales of $36 million. Nonetheless, following six years of development, its Intu system may have a big lighting impact. In short, Leete said, Intu allows control of a facility’s lighting; heating, ventilating and air conditioning systems; and security systems. It also can to predict system inefficiencies.

In Leete’s description of a typical workplace situation, the first plant worker to arrive turns on the lights, regardless of the need for them to be on. As a result, areas are unnecessarily or prematurely lit, or more light is supplied than necessary.

In operation, Intu programs on/off cycles as required and dims lamps when daylight harvesting is an option.

Beyond the energy-saving advantage, the entire system is wireless. It uses a “mesh network” located in the ceiling and transmitters and receivers attached to fixtures. And, since the system is Internet-based, no additional computer capability or equipment is required.

Monitoring the life span of lamps is the responsibility of life-cycle meters, nodes connected to lamp ballasts that alert facility managers when output is reduced by old age. At present, the system is designed for use with fluorescent lamps and fixtures.

However, Leete said Light Corp. currently is testing HID lamps, he hopes to be fixture-neutral by January 2009.

Meanwhile, recent focus at Columbia Lighting is the reduction in the life span of electronic ballasts caused by overheating. At ceiling level, the combination of ambient, ballast and lamp heat may combine to elevate ballast temperature well beyond manufacturers’ recommended levels, which is typically 90°C.

“We’ve come up with three solutions to that problem,” Weir said. “First, a unique design that removes heat from the ballast. In a typical configuration, a ballast is located above a lamp, which generates heat, which intrudes on the ballast. VersaBay’s ballast is placed on the same plane as other heat-producing elements, allowing lamp heat to radiate out above the ballast into free air, preventing it from elevating the ballast can temperature.

“Plus, vertical heat radiating slots have been created in the fixtures. An open-back design allows a free airflow path for lamp and ballast heat into the space above and away from the ballast,” he said.

VersaBay fixtures are easier to service, since the ballast may be accessed without removing the lamp.

“That reduces maintenance costs,” Weir said. “Our lamps outperform the competition because they draw fewer watts to achieve maximum efficiency.”

Another small player

Full Spectrum Lighting is a privately held, 30-employee company that reports gross sales of $10 million. The company has historically marketed Paralite, UltraLux and BlueMax table and floor lamps, notable for producing natural light, in the retail sector. However, beginning in 2002, the company entered the commercial market with a high-bay lamp and fixture.

The recently patented Everlast features a fluorescent lamp that is absent electrodes.

“[The lamp] will play a part in the reshaping of lighting warehouses and other commercial spaces, including parking lots and roadways,” said Justin Baldwin, commercial sales manager.

The lamp’s electronic ballast operates at 200,000 kHz, a level that eliminates the bothersome, irregular flickering of fluorescent tubes. Additionally, lamps will operate in temperatures ranging from –22°F to 130°F.

“These lamps produce near perfect color rendition that lasts the life of the lamp, and lumen maintenance unaffected by continual on/off cycling,” Baldwin said. “Plus, lamps are dimmable in stages, or on a progressive pattern to 50 percent of maximum output.

“We see EverLast making the largest impact anywhere that the lifetime cost of lighting fixtures are considered. The technology will allow for businesses to become more competitive, and municipalities to reduce their spending through decreased energy and maintenance costs,” he said.

Resolving dimming issues

Since the use of occupancy sensors with fluorescent tubes is often accompanied by a reduction in lamp life, Crescent-Stonco/ExceLine, Union, N.J., recently developed SmarT-Bay motion-sensored fluorescent lighting designed to eliminate that shortcoming.

“Because of the design of the lamps, and the characteristics of the lamp electrode system, fluorescent lamps perform best when switching is kept to a minimum,” said Phil Henry, vice-president at Crescent Stonco/ExceLine. “The longer the lamps are allowed to operate, the longer the expected life because they are (typically) rated to be started once every three hours.”

The Catch-22 is that most occupancy sensors have a 30--second to 20-minute delay timer. Faster shutdowns mean greater energy savings accompanied by increased fixture cycling, which ultimately reduces lamp life.

“The SmarT-Bay matches the correct Advance ballast and Philips Lighting low-mercury ALTO lamp within a Stonco and ExceLine high-performance high-bay fixture,” he said. “Using two timers, operation is controlled through Sensor Switch’s occupancy sensor technology, which assures lamp cycling does not exceed the lamp manufacturer’s recommendations.

“The SmarT-Bay incorporates state-of-the-art motion sensor technology from Sensor Switch, combined with ballast, luminaire and lamp technology from Advance/Philips. It is the only motion--sensored linear fluorescent high-bay with a 36-month complete system warranty,” Henry said.

Not to be neglected

As the lighting world seems to focus on fluorescent fixtures, Joe Engle, product manager at Hubbell Lighting, Greenville, S.C., has a different perspective.

“It seems that we in the lighting industry allow trends to go too far before sanity [prevails] and we move on to the next hot item. Linear fluorescent is like that now,” Engle said. “The common comparison is to standard 400W probe start lamps driven by CWA-style magnetic ballasts. One of the main problems with the old MH systems are the fast light loss, due in part to the starting routine. It causes sputtering and this causes blackening on the arc tube walls. The lamp loses lumens fast and its life is relatively short.

“Electronic HID ballasts help this by a much improved starting routine. They use short bursts of power to start the arc and, once started, stop the starting cycle, which helps preserve the electrode and gives us better lumen maintenance and longer lamp life. In addition they are more efficient, losing fewer watts for the total system.

“Electronic ballasts also are designed to use the pulse start lamps, which offer quicker initial warm up and quicker hot restrike. Pulse Start lamps are more efficient and more color stable over their life.

“Given that some applications need a high-output point source, they are a great choice,” Engle said.

The good news on the lighting front is brilliant minds are hard at work. Regardless of the type of lamp necessary to fill a client’s need, today’s electrical contractor has the appropriate energy-saving solution close at hand.

LAWRENCE is a freelance writer and photographer based in Bozeman, Mont. He can be reached at hrscrk@mcn.net.