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Sat 19 Feb 2011 12:00 AM

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Smart lights, bright savings

Sustainable energy solutions could brighten the regional lighting market.

Smart lights, bright savings

Lighting represents 22% of electricity usage in the Middle East – a much higher statistic than anywhere else in
the world. If GCC consumers switch the lights in their homes to more efficient solutions,
this will save up to $400million and 5.1 megatonnes in carbon dioxide emissions
annually.

Light Emitting Diodes
(LEDs) are often touted as the most efficient lighting solution for today’s energy
issues. “The future of lighting will soon see a widespread adoption of this solution,”
says RWN Trading marketing director Carol Prince. However, Fagerhult GM Gary Turner
argues: “There is unfortunately no ‘silver bullet’ approach to providing a low-carbon
lighting solution. Even the much-hyped LED cannot do that on its own.”

LEDs are available as small, solid lightbulbs, or in cluster
form with diffuser lenses, which are ideal for the home. These cluster beams can
use as many as 180 bulbs per cluster, which means that the light is spread evenly.
“A recent addition to the market is an LED that can be dimmed to the zero position
and that emit no energy, unlike their traditional counterpart that still emit energy
loss even at zero,” says Prince.

At present, the drawback to switching to LED is the initial cost,
but the efficiency and cost-effectiveness of LED lighting systems will drive demand
for more affordable LED lights. Furthermore, even with the high capex at present,
there are still tremendous financial and energy savings to be achieved. Prince points
out that the operational life of white LED lamps is 50,000 hours. This is more than
ten years’ continuous operation. “The long operational life of an LED lamp is in
stark contrast to the average life of an incandescent bulb, which is about 5,000
hours.” The long lifespan of the LED naturally has a direct impact on reducing maintenance
requirements.

“The true expense of incandescent bulbs is in the cost, labour
and time needed to replace them. These are important factors when considering lighting
options for an office, as maintenance costs to replace bulbs can be enormous. These
can be virtually eliminated with the LED option,” says Prince. The key to switching
to LED lighting is reducing the overall power consumption. With correct design,
an LED circuit will realise about 80% efficiency, meaning 80% of the electrical
energy is converted to light energy.

The remaining 20% is lost through heat. Incandescent lamps operate
at about 20% efficiency, with a staggering 80% lost as heat. Furthermore, LEDs do
not cause heat build-up, producing only 3.4 British Thermal Units (btu) per hour,
compared to up to 88btus for incandescent. Comparing LEDs and incandescents financially,
take a 100W incandescent in use for 12 months, with the electrical cost at 33fils/kWh,
at a total cost of AED290. Using the same example for an LED with 80% efficiency,
the electricity cost would be AED44 per 12 months – a saving of AED246 over the
period.

“The true savings are actually much higher when you take into
account that traditional lamps need to be replaced more frequently, usually within
a year, and this involves labour and maintenance costs. Also, some areas will remain
unlit if traditional lamps lose their power, due to contractual obligations. Many
buildings do not allow repairs to be carried out when public areas are open, so
maintenance must be carried out within set periods and limits,” says Prince.

“RWN Trading recently conducted research on lighting for a carpark
that had 900 incandescent four-foot tubes on for 24 hours. Most last one year, and
some last no more than six months. When the company conducted the survey, 30% of
the lamps had blown and had yet to be changed. The results showed very clearly the
huge savings by swapping from the standard 40W lamp to an 18W LED. You need to look
at the bigger picture when analysing the true cost of energy saving with LEDs. The
obvious figures start with the lights themselves, but further savings can be made
in reduced cooling expenses, which naturally adds to the reduction in overall power
consumption,” says Prince. “Companies have a responsibility to reduce their consumption
and carbon footprint.”

Turner says the modern building environment is a significant
user of electrical energy, and lighting can account for about 40% of a building’s
total energy consumption. However, he argues that LEDs must be seen as one element
of an overarching process. This process comprises five essential steps which he
terms ‘A Guide To Crossing The Carbon Bridge’. “Step 1 must begin with the design
process. By following the guidelines recommended by the world’s best engineering
and technical brains, the GCC can dramatically reduce the amount of energy needed
to create the perfect lit environment.”

“By eliminating over-design and harnessing the abundance of natural
light that is available to us in the region, the architectural and engineering community
can have a massive impact in ensuring that the initial lighting design is correct,
and still provide the end-user with a stimulating and visually attractive environment.
Designing to meet both the national and local requirements, and by combining this
with best lighting practice, will provide benefits in reducing the carbon output
by up to 10%,” says Turner.

Step 2 recognises the instinctive capability of people to hit
a switch when light is needed … but then to forget to switch off again. “By ensuring
that every building has a lighting control strategy, we can ensure that lights are
switched on and off automatically as required. This can be a very simple step that
allows for a detector in every room that switches lights off when the ambient daylight
is sufficient, or when the room has been vacated. As much as 12% of an installation’s
carbon output can be reduced by simply installing such controls,” says Turner.

Step 3 refers to emergency lighting. All projects require the
installation of emergency lighting in order to facilitate safe escape from the space
in the event of a fire or power failure. Installations tend to either use an option
of standalone bulkhead fittings with integral batteries, or a maintained emergency
conversion option to the standard equipment with integral batteries. In the latter
case, this could amount to converting up to 25% of the standard luminaires.

Step 4 refers to the importance of ongoing R&D. “Major lamp
companies have invested millions in ensuring a continuous drive to increase the
amount of lumens that come out of a lamp, while reducing the amount of Watts of energy that goes into the lamp. This measure of efficiency,
LM/W, is a basic way of understanding how to compare lamps. Thankfully we have available
to us today, and in fact have for many years, lamps that are very long-lasting,
give a fantastic amount of light and use very little energy.

“Beware the simple comparison that some LED-biased companies
make with regard to standard lamps and tubes. Nowadays modern standard lamp technology
means long life, high lumen output and low energy usage. Due to the scale of the
previous investments, the lamp companies will continue to drive the technology forward.
New ‘eco’ lamps are available, and by utilising these sources, we can achieve a
further 10% reduction in total carbon output,” says Turner.

Step 5 focuses on the LED itself. “The good news is that we are
now entering an era of ‘affordable’ LED lighting. As a replacement for low voltage
halogen and lower wattage metal halide lamps, payback periods are now within two
years. As LED prices fall dramatically, and issues such as colour temperature and
consistency are addressed, they will become a viable lighting solution for more
areas in a building,” concludes Turner.

Switch Made Middle East CEO Thierry Burot says the lighting market
in the Middle East is complicated by the different
awareness levels of contractors, consultants and end users. “The construction market
is still very price-sensitive. The problem is that contractors are not the end users,
and thus specify the cheapest solutions. We often find that the end users are more
aware of technology and other issues than the contractors themselves.”

This means that Switch Made Middle East approaches every project
on an individual basis. “The potential cost and energy savings through lighting
are huge. However, it is important to remember that every project often requires
a different solution, and the practicalities of the space involved,” says Burot.
For example, while refurbishment is a major focus, the LED products here are limited
at the moment as the technology advances.

Another problem with the general adoption of LED in the lighting
market is the generally conservative nature of the construction industry. “Many
companies do not want to be the first adopters of new technology in case it does
not work out.

“This is combined with a general reluctance to opt for the latest
technology. We overcome such problems by raising awareness and discussing all these
issues with the entire construction chain, from contractor to interior designer,”
says Burot.

“Many of the projects under construction today were specified
up to two years ago. At the moment there is a shortage of new projects going out
to tender, which has created a lull.”

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