A Lighting Control Retrofit can Yield Big Energy Savings
With tighter budgets and decreased giving, many smallto- midsized worship facilities are putting their long-range expansion plans on hold, instead opting to renovate their existing structures.
Proper lighting control is an important decision in any renovation project, and these days, so is energy savings. The impending removal of energy rate caps, along with increasingly stringent building energy code requirements, have all created strong demand for energy-efficient solutions.
While the main sanctuary lights may be dark during the week, systems throughout the office and administrative areas, conference rooms, fellowship halls, restrooms, corridors, and in some cases, education wings, may get a daily workout. Your facility uses electricity, and sometimes, lots of it. Like their commercial building counterparts, lighting can account for 20% – 38% of your church’s electric bill-more than cooling, heating, and other equipment. To control total energy costs, building managers and congregations need to get better control of their lighting costs. And often, the root of high costs is lighting.
The solution is an energy-saving retrofit using light control technology that may not have been available when the building was constructed. “Retrofit” simply means replacing one fixture with another, and installing a system that requires no rewiring, no torn-up walls, and no headaches of new construction.
Why Light Unoccupied Spaces?
Since lighting was originally considered an “on/off” utility rather than a dynamic building system, designers and installers typically treated overhead lights as a single monolithic entity. Entire rooms, hallways, or floors were often designed with just one or two switches for control, leaving a choice of over-illumination, or no illumination.
Another energy waster is failure to take advantage of available daylight. Perimeter areas near windows or skylights are lighted at the same level as areas in the deepest interior areas. Not taking advantage of natural daylight wastes electricity and adds to the problem of over-illumination.
The biggest waste comes from lighting empty spaces such as restrooms, offices, conference rooms, classrooms and storage areas when unoccupied. It is also an issue when areas are kept lighted at night for one occupant, or for the convenience of cleaning staff that are only active In a small area at any given time.
Fortunately for the small-to-medium sized worship facility, these issues can be a thing of the past. Houses of worship can significantly reduce lighting expenses through flexible, scalable retrofits with a payback of just a few years.
Depending on the investment, your facility can shave from 20% to 60% from lighting costs. What’s more, lowering the lights translates directly to lower HVAC costs. Less heat from the lights translates to less need for air conditioning.
The rule of thumb is that for every 3 Watts of lighting cut, an owner can reduce HVAC needs by 1 Watt.
Lighting-control systems employ a variety of strategies to save lighting electricity. These strategies (and their savings) build on each other, so that light-control systems can be built gradually, one strategy at time, to suit any space and any budget.
Retrofit/renovation Strategies: From Simple to Complex
The following strategies build on each other, so that light-control systems can be configured to suit any space and any budget. Examples of retrofits into an existing worship facility building, one room at a time, Include the following: Stand-alone solutions are the simplest and most cost-effective ways to retrofit for energy savings.
Installing occupancy/vacancy sensors can save another 15% in a stand-alone system. Sensors turn off lights completely when a room is unoccupied.
Some wireless occupancy/ vacancy sensors require no additional wiring, and are ideal for retrofit applications. Simply install the sensor on the ceiling and replace the on/ off switch with a matching dimmer.
The latest sensor solutions use radio frequency (RF) technology, allowing them to be installed in minutes with no additional wiring.
For incandescent lighting, replace switches with dimmers. Dimmers will not only extend the life of the bulbs, but using the dimmers for tuning and high-end trim will typically reduce electricity use by 20% in every space.
For fluorescent lights, the stand-alone Solution is to replace switches with dimmers, and switching ballasts with dimming ballasts. Prices of fluorescent dimming ballasts are lower and efficiencies are higher.
With dimmers and occupancy/vacancy sensors, stand-alone systems can cut electricity costs by 35% in each retrofitted space. They are best suited for private offices, conference rooms, Restrooms, and classrooms. Simple retrofits provide savings for individual rooms, but multiple rooms containing these controls cannot be tied together and operated as a single system.
For a fluorescent system retrofit that enables more complex energysaving strategies, start with a digitally addressable dimming ballast. Used instead of standard dimming ballasts, the digital units provide a flexible, scalable foundation for lighting control systems that deliver electricity savings of more than 50%.
It wasn’t too long ago that fluorescent light fixtures were static, individual entities that didn’t communicate with each other or with other building systems. The options were to turn them off with a toggle switch, a time clock, or an occupancy sensor. All that has changed. With digitally addressable ballasts, light fixtures can be directly networked with time clocks and occupancy/vacancy Sensors, not to mention daylight sensors, wall controls, handheld remote lighting controls, automated window shades, building-management systems, and each other.
Since they are digital, they can be easily reconfigured.
As the needs of spaces change, lights can be easily regrouped into different “zones” or to work with different sensors without rewiring, and they allow for maximum scalability from one room to an entire facility. This new technology makes lighting-control systems extremely flexible. Because of their plug-and-play capability, digital ballasts can accommodate any combination of sensors and controls, depending on the room’s or building’s lighting requirements. And here’s good news for your volunteer staffs-the equipment is easy to install, maintain, and use. A daylight sensor can be directly connected to a single digital ballast for daylight harvesting. Because one ballast talks to all the others, all the ballasts in that zone will react appropriately.
The new digital ballasts are the primary building blocks of systems that are fully scalable, from the small standalone spaces described earlier, to multiple rooms or areas, to whole floors, entire buildings, and even whole campuses.
Installation is simplified because there is no need for interfaces or power packs.
As the lighting needs of a building change, due to restructuring the space, lighting zones can easily be reconfigured.
Wall controls, occupancy/vacancy sensors, and daylight sensors can all be reassigned to different fixtures or groups of fixtures simply, without rewiring.
Control the Sun with Sensors
Light control systems can be programmed to control the ultimate light source, the sun. A combination of dimming Ballasts, daylight sensors, and automated window treatments can maintain the optimum light level for each space in an office or classroom, and effectively use the available ambient light to save energy and improve occupant comfort. For instance, electrical lights automatically dim (without being noticed by the occupants) when enough daylight is available. Harvesting daylight in this fashion maintains overall light levels and maximizes the use of free sunlight.
Three-quarters of buildings in the U.S. were constructed before 1979, and still retain the functionality (and performance issues) of their original lighting. They waste billions of kilowatt-hours every year, costing their owners tens of millions of dollars.
Easy-to-retrofit lighting control technologies stop the waste. They can save 35% off the electric bill immediately.
For more comprehensive renovations, savings from lighting-control systems are 60% or more. These flexible, scalable systems are easy to install and can pay for themselves in just a few years.
Why illuminate spaces that are vacant? Daylight and occupancy sensors, digital ballasts, and controls are effective retrofit solutions for older buildings. Shop around, and speak with an expert before making a final decision on what type of system best fits your facility’s renovation project. Your church can use those funds for better things than paying the electric bill.