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Switching on

by CW Guest Columnist on Sep 6, 2010

Carol Prince.
Carol Prince.

The need to switch to sustainable energy solutions is more important than ever in the region, as demand frequently outstrips supply.

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 US$400 million and 5.1 megatonnes in carbon dioxide emissions annually.

Briefly, Light Emitting Diodes (LEDs) are the efficient lighting solution for today’s energy issues. The future of lighting will soon see a widespread adoption of this solution. LEDs are available as small solid light bulbs 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 and the light is spread evenly. A recent additions to the market are LEDs that can be dimmed to the zero position and emit no energy, unlike their traditional counterpart that still emits energy loss even at zero.

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. Further, there are still tremendous financial and energy savings to be achieved.

The operational life of white LED lamps is 50,000 hours. This is more than 10 years of continuous operation. The long operational life of an LED lamp is a stark contrast to the average life of an incandescent bulb, which is approximately 5,000 hours. The long life span of the LED has naturally a direct impact on maintenance requirement.

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, and can be virtually eliminated with the LED option.

The key to switching to LED lighting is reducing power consumption. With correct design, an LED circuit will realise approximately 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, a 100 Watt incandescent is used for 12 months, with electrical cost at 33fils/kilowatt per hour, at a total cost of AED290. The same example for LED with 80% efficiency being used, the electricity cost would be AED44 per 12 months – a saving of AED246 over the 12 months.

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 man-power 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.

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 40-watt lamp to an 18-watt LED.

Facilities managers 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 cooling expenses because LEDs generate less heat, which naturally leads to less power needed.

Companies have a responsibility to reduce their energy consumption and carbon footprint. Swapping from traditional incandescent to LEDs can save up to 80% of your light energy costs.

Carol Prince is marketing director of RWN Trading.