There’s more to the month of October than autumn leaves and Halloween. October is also National Energy Action Month, an initiative from the federal government that encourages Americans to work together to boost the economy, help the environment and make the U.S energy independent.
Some new rules governing fluorescent lamp ballasts were created last year to help the nation achieve some of the goals listed above. They were released by the Department of Energy in November of 2011 and have two provisions:
- Establish a new metric to measure ballast efficiency.
- Set a higher standard of efficiency for the T5, T8 and T12 ballasts made today.
The new metric is called Ballast Luminous Efficiency (BLE), and in short, here’s what it does: Takes the lamp out of the equation when measuring the total load.
Details of the BLE are outlined very well in this whitepaper published in October of this year by the Lighting Controls Association, a trade group “dedicated to educating the professional building design, construction and management communities about the benefits and operation of automatic switching and dimming controls.” From the DOE’s perspective, the new regulations have very tangible benefits: $20 billion in consumer energy cost savings by 2043.
The whitepaper addresses the kind of ballasts covered by the BLE and offers more specific details on technical requirements. Professionals in the lighting design and installation – as well as commercial and residential property managers – should take note of these new rules and plan accordingly.
However, we have two concerns:
- What’s being done – by the industry and the DOE – to make sure news of the November 2012 provisions gets communicated? We did a Google search and found online articles, like the whitepaper referenced here, but nothing on the DOE site. (If you find relevant content online, please share.)
- The rules will be enacted starting November 14, 2014. After that date, the government will prohibit the domestic manufacture and importation of products that don’t meet the new standards. Deadlines sometimes get extended, and sometimes rules aren’t followed. Will that happen if the DOE pushes the compliance date past 2014? And, is the DOE (or federal government) prepared to enforce the regulations?
Are you familiar with the BLE metric and new DOE rules governing ballasts? Do you agree with this development? What are you doing to prepare or educate your team and your clients?
Energy efficiency and saving money are two topics on the mind of a lot of people these days, especially business owners. The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) is constantly working to find ways to help people that fall into these categories. Thanks to the lighting mandate recently put in place by the DOE, people will have a little help when it comes to saving money on energy costs.
July 1, 2010, marked the beginning of a phase out period for most magnetic ballasts most commonly used for the operation of T12 lamps. Beginning July 1, 2012, many T12 lamps will be phased out of production by lighting companies as well. Now the question arises, “why does this matter and what does it mean for me?”
About the Phase-Out
T12 lamps and magnetic ballasts are considered outdated compared to the far more energy efficient T8 and T5 systems available now. The Department of Energy’s objective for this initiative is to remove the less efficient T12 fluorescent systems from the market, increasing lighting efficiency for all who make the switch.
Approximately 30 percent of all fluorescent lamps sold in the United States are of the T12 variety. Of those lamps, 70 percent will be phased out by July 2012 in response to federal regulations. The cost of all remaining T12 lamps will increase as a result of the phase out. Lighting companies will start to focus their efforts on developing the most energy efficient T8 and T5 lamps possible. If your company waits to start replacing T12 lamps, it could miss out on some nice financial incentives offered by your state.
What’s the best way to get people to jump on any bandwagon? If you guessed, “offer them some incentive for participating,” you were right. This can be in the form of a rebate program, or even as simple as a fact sheet describing how much money can be saved by making the switch. This program does both of those things.
- Incentives for the DOE program are offered on a state-by-state basis, so I can’t provide exact numbers for everybody. I will, however, provide the information for incentives offered to Illinois residents. Ameren Illinois, a leader in the Illinois energy industry, offers a nice reward for businesses that perform retrofits on their current lighting fixtures. As the July, 2012 date draws nearer, potential incentives will decrease, eventually disappearing completely. The incentives are as follows (for now):
- T12 to T8 – $3-$7 per lamp + 10% bonus
- T12 to T5 New Fluorescent Fixture – $0.25/watt reduced + 10% bonus
- Lighting takes up approximately 35% of your average energy bill. By replacing your T12 lamps with T8 lamps, you could use 33% less electricity and save about $12 per fixture, each year. Depending on the size of your business, that could add up to some major savings.
- On average, T12 lamps last for 7,000 hours, T8 lamps last for 10,000 hours and T5 lamps last for 15,000 hours. Making the switch to T8 or T5 lamps will also save you money by not having to replace them as often.
- Most facilities can expect to see a payback for making the switch in 1-3 years.
T12 lamps will still exist to some extent. Companies will continue to produce T12 lamps for residential use, and for certain other circumstances
. The price of these will continue to increase, so its in your best interest to make the switch as soon as possible. In order to get maximum energy savings and take advantage of incentives, you should upgrade your lighting system as a whole, rather than individually.
The lighting industry will continue to advance and develop more energy efficient products. By staying on top of the latest technologies, and understanding the benefits, your company will be able to save even more money on energy in the future. Stick with us
and you’ll be saving money
like its your job (or you’ll do it better if it is your job).