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Energy Saving Warehouse And Exterior Lighting

Furniture World Magazine


You may be looking at 50% electricity savings, reduced bulb and labor costs.

During a recent examination of warehouse expansion plans with a client management team and their architect, the discussion turned to upgrading fluorescent lighting in an existing 12 year old home furnishings warehouse. This led to a review of new technology that provides energy savings, better color rendition and longer lamp life. A walk through the showroom and a nighttime review of exterior lighting indicated that this retailer could achieve energy savings of more than 50%. It was found that further savings could be realized from the decrease in man-hours spent replacing bulbs. This turned out to be substantial for this retailer who employed a worker who spent most of the workday replacing bulbs.

Electricity, lamps and labor are an expensive and often ignored cost component for many home furnishings retailers. Upgrading systems that are only several years old can result in payback periods of between eight months and three years. Most upgrades will be paid back in a one to two year range. In many cases, rebates are also available from your local utility (they don't have to add more electrical capacity or buy more power from other utilities in peak periods). Some states also offer tax incentives.

Use the concepts discussed in this article as a starting point to start your own program. Then draw on the resources of your local lighting distributor, manufacturer's representative, power company or EPA Energy Star facilitator. My promise is that this information will be presented in as plain English as possible because it is too easy to get caught up in technical terms beyond comprehension. A future article will share furniture retailer success stories, so please fax (800)748-8488 or e-mail (russ@furninfo.com) ways that your own efforts in this area have achieved positive results.

Confidentiality agreements prevent sharing specific examples of furniture retailers but there are published examples in general retailing and industrial applications that should hold your interest.


Fred Meyer, a division of Kroger Co., upgraded Oregon operations' lighting with T8 fluorescent lamps and electronic ballasts that cut energy use by 35%. Further, T8 lamps maintain 95% of their initial output throughout their long life. They replace old technology higher wattage T12 tubes, which are bigger in diameter and also present more of a disposal problem.

Simply replacing 400-watt metal halide bulbs with higher efficiency 360-watt bulbs saves 10%. In typical warehouses, an aisle is occupied less than 25% of the time. Sensors control individual or groups of fixtures to dim lights when there isn't activity. That saves about 50% of the energy, yet the perceived level of lighting is about 75% of full. Existing fixtures can generally be upgraded economically rather than replaced. Bi-level fluorescent lighting is also an economical retrofit option.

Aisle lighter fixtures can also be used. These focus the light in the narrow aisles rather than a round pattern that wastes most of the light. Acrylic or glass lenses that distribute a portion toward the ceiling's white vinyl enhances the visual effect.
In another published example, an electronics manufacturer met California's tough Title 24 energy use regulations and saved 38% by upgrading fluorescent lamps and ballasts. In addition, the retrofit gained a $20,000 rebate from the power company.

It may seem hard to believe but exit lighting manufacturers show 97% energy savings with LED upgrade kits that you install by simply screwing a LED unit into the socket. The LED is expected to last up to 25 years. One manufacturer claims typical savings of $52 per year per exit sign!

An area overlooked by many furniture retailers is the use of incandescent bulbs in overhead fixtures, lamps and spotlights. These bulbs haven't changed much in a century with only 10% of the energy becoming light and 90% wasted as heat. This expense is increased further by airconditioning units that must work overtime to disburse this heat. Replace a 100 watt incandescent bulb with a 28 watt compact fluorescent that has the same output and screws into the existing socket. You will save $36 to $59 per bulb. Almost four times more energy efficient, they also last about 10 times as long as standard bulbs.

Don't overlook halogen spots. Compared to standard halogens they last two to three times longer and provide 35% more useful light per watt of energy.

Bottom line, the evidence supporting upgrading lighting is overwhelming. The benefits include saving energy, improving lighting quality and redirecting maintenance labor from changing light bulbs. Few programs provide an ongoing stream of benefits that are so easy to achieve.

Other Reference Sources:
Energy Star Programs: www.epa.gov/buildings 888-782-7937
GE Lighting: www.ge.com/lighting
Lithonia Lighting: www.lithonia.com
Exitronix: www.exitronix.com 888-LED-EXIT
Synergy: Synergyinv.com 800-762-1607 lighting retrofits.

Note About Lamp Disposal: Many states have mandatory rules for the disposal of lamp bulbs because they contain mercury and lead. New federal rules were effective in January 2000. Recycling is the responsible way to deal with this issue. Check with your local officials to determine specific requirements in your community.

Daniel Bolger of The Bolger Group helps companies achieve improved transportation, warehousing and logistics. Questions can be directed to Mr. Bolger care of FURNITURE WORLD at dbolger@furninfo.com.
Operations Articles By Dan Bolger

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