The Retrofit Companies Blog

Parking Garage LED Lighting Retrofit Case Study

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This parking garage lighting project's dramatic improvement in lighting came along with $23,634 in utility rebate incentives, plus a Green Business Cost Sharing program from the city of Minneapolis when this client upgraded the aging, inefficient high pressure sodium lighting. They now have better light quality in their facility, increased safety for their patrons, and they are saving money and resources at the same time! Keep reading to see more specifics about how Allied Parking upgraded to LED lighting in the MTC facility at their Gateway ramp downtown Minneapolis.

 

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Facility Statistics: The Benefits of a Lighting Upgrade

Common lighting issues in parking garages include dark, shadowy areas and poor light quality. By replacing the existing High Pressure Sodium lighting with energy efficient LED that consume only 45 watts each, this facility is taking advantage of major energy savings. At the end of this project the client was saving 143 watts per fixture, reducing energy usage by 76%!

Cost Savings: Does is really add up?

Before completing this LED lighting retrofit project, TRC performed a full facility audit. This means all of the existing fixtures were counted, along with their rate of energy consumption and hours of operation, and a cost of operating was established. The new, more energy-efficient system was also proposed in the same way. The difference in energy usage totaled $14,430 in annual lighting cost savings. 

Kw and kWh were both reduced by 76% annually with this LED retrofit. The client qualified for $23K in energy-efficiency rebates from their local utility company, and an additional cost sharing program amount was awarded to them by the city of Minneapolis' Green Business Cost Sharing Program

Carbon Savings: What does it mean? 

Based on kWh reduction from our facility lighting audit and using a Greenhouse Gas Equivalencies Calculator, we can determine carbon savings of 110.6 tons of CO2 for this energy efficiency project. This is equivalent to keeping 21.7 cars off the road for a year, 12,395  gallons of gasoline saved, or 38.5 tons of waste recycled instead of land filled!

 

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Find out how you can start saving energy & money today.

get a smart start to your lighting project

Understanding LED Linear T8 tubes

In our previous two blog posts, we discussed LED linear tube options for your LED lighting retrofit. First we gave an introduction and discussed some safety concerns, and then outlined the three types of LED tubes. Keep reading to learn a final set of variables to consider when selecting LED tubes, and next steps to get your project going on the right foot!

Know what you are trying to accomplish when selecting LED tubes

Even when you have the correct combination of linear LED tubes and existing ballast or wiring configuration, simply grabbing an LED tube and installing it may change lighting levels drastically, undoing the original success of a well-designed lighting solution. Safety and compatibility requirements aside, there are two additional primary factors to consider when selecting LED T8 linear lamps to help maintain good lighting design that may already exist in your space. The first is lumen output and the second is the beam angle of the lamp.

When LED tube wattage is too high, the result is an over lit space. This may mean you have more light than you need, and that’s not the end of the world; however, that result means energy is being wasted. You are dismissing potential energy and utility-cost savings. You don’t have the optimum lighting design for your application.
Beam angle is critical. A traditional fluorescent lamp casts light 360 degrees around the linear tube, but T8 LED is available in a range of beam spread from 160 to 325 degrees. Simply put, this beam spread can dramatically affect how a space looks when lit with linear LED. There are specific applications for beam angle, and using the incorrect beam angle could achieve undesired results. For example, a 160-degree beam angle will stripe a fixture and also change the optics of the fixture, once again undoing a well-designed project. A 325-degree beam angle lamp will not "stripe" a fixture and will utilize the optics of the fixture much like a fluorescent bulb.

If you are ready to make a change to energy-efficient LED, and a linear T8 LED seems like the best solution for you, it’s important to understand the variables you will face when confronted with this sizable purchase.

Next Steps for a Successful Lighting Project

  • Look for a neutral vendor, one pushing a single product line or manufacturer should be avoided. Choose someone that can explain the differences between products and price points so you can choose the solution that best fits your needs.

  • Ensure you have partnered with a lighting designer that has seen a variety of these lamps perform. One challenge that we face with this constantly improving technology is that photometric data on the lamps can’t be paired with IES fixture files in some instances.

  • Ask for case studies in industries similar to yours, or ask to see some products in action. It can be very helpful to see these lamps in person.

  • Ask for a test in your space. You may want to hire a reputable lighting partner to install a test area to be sure the results are what you want, and meet your lighting project goals.

  • Consider whether or not you need to increase light levels. Ask whether lighting controls would make sense for your business and lighting project goals. Both of these can impact how much energy a lighting project could save for your organization.

  • Always consult the utility company’s rebate guide to get the system with the most rebate incentive, a higher priced system may result in a lower NET project cost based on rebates. Without understanding these rebate structures, you may be leaving money on the table.

 

Deeply consider how you would like to approach your lighting upgrade investment, are you simply looking for greater energy efficiency, or do you want to improve lighting, reduce maintenance expenses, and step in to the future with a well-designed system? If you would like to know more about the benefits of a lighting retrofit beyond energy savings, we recommend our article outlining 6 other reasons to retrofit beyond money and energy savings.

If you're ready to get started with your energy efficient lighting upgrade, contact our constultants today!

Consult a Lighting Pro

 

3 Types of Linear LED Tubes

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There are 3 general types of T8 LED tubes used in LED lighting retrofit projects. In this post we evaluate each of these LED linear tube options, sharing best uses, and some pros and cons. If you haven't yet read the previous introduction LED T8 technology, we recommend our post called  "T8 LED LIGHTING RETROFIT INTRODUCTION & SAFETY." Keep reading to learn about the three types and how they can benefit your energy efficient lighting upgrade.

TYPE A LINEAR LED TUBES

Type A Lamps are a fluorescent ballast compatible lamp with exceptions. These exceptions are expansive, in fact almost every manufacturer suggests consulting their list of compatibilities before installing LED T8 tubes. We have found that there are even scenarios where the LED lamp product is not compatible with ballasts from the same manufacturer.

The benefits of this type are that they come in different wattages and beam angles, and lumen output for this type can be controlled by the existing ballast: Low Power (LP), Normal Power (NP), and High Power (HP). Most often, these lamps are installed as a simple “relamp” project, but it is important to consider the age of your ballasts when choosing this type. If you intend to change ballasts the week after you install these LED lamps, that may undermine the goals and objectives of your project. Whether or not type A is going to be the best solution for your project depends greatly on your maintenance story.

TYPE B LINEAR LED TUBES

Type B lamps are a direct wire lamp, the most dangerous of the three. This lamp requires the ballast to be removed and the sockets wired direct to line voltage. This system will also require an un-shunted socket, where terminals on the ballast are wired independently. Even though the fixtures are to be marked as having a direct wired lamp, the potential for an LED ballast or LED driver type lamp being installed is great. This will cause severe problems including lamp failure, sparking, even fires. Because you eliminate the need for a ballast, these lamps are chosen when trying to maximize maintenance savings, but safety must be part of the overall consideration to choose a lamp of this type. We have shared a quick video that demonstrates how easily this fire hazard can occur

TYPE c LINEAR LED TUBES

Type C Lamps are an LED lamp with a fixture mounted driver, the drivers are now available with three different standard outputs as well as programmable for more or less output depending on the light levels required. The Type C lamp is also similar to an LED fixture, as you have a light engine and a separate driver. These lamps aren’t considered nearly as often as they should be. They typically offer the longest life, and dimming capability that the others do not. The reason they’re not chosen as often is due to their higher price point. Total Cost of Owning a lighting system should be evaluated when considering whether these are affordable for your project. The type C lamp has just recently achieved controllability using different Mili-amp Drivers. The drivers are more expensive, but in some instances the will achieve a higher lamp life rating 60,000 versus 50,000 hours.

 

Curious about what a LED retrofit can do? Check out our collection of case studies!

read more case studies on TRC blog

T8 LED Lighting Retrofit Introduction & Safety

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Are you considering a lighting upgrade and have you investigated replacing your T8 fluorescent lamps with T8 LED linear tubes for energy efficiency? This is a wonderful leap in the lighting world, affording lighting designers, facility managers, and other contractors the ability to essentially retrofit existing fluorescent fixtures with LED linear tube options. It can be seen to have benefits and cost savings over a major redesign and new lighting system overhaul; however, there are many considerations to be aware of as you begin planning your lighting project if you only intend to replace fluorescent tubes with LED tubes. Unfortunately, it’s never as simple as just changing a light bulb. Keep reading to learn some of the pitfalls and concerns to keep in mind as you learn about LED T8 lamps.

Be careful when selecting LED T8 replacement tubes

True lighting designers design spaces to be illuminated so they meet industry light level standards and the needs of the people who occupy a space allowing them to effectively do their work. After all, the lighting required in a retail setting or a classroom will be dramatically different than what is expected in a manufacturing facility or operating room.

In the days of fluorescent lighting great design was achieved with the correct combination of lamps, ballasts, and reflectors to gain maximum lighting for as little wattage input as possible using photometric design. This meant that these spaces were as energy-efficient as possible while maintaining adequate light levels for the activity taking place in them. Since the advent of LED technology, specifically Linear LED Tubes, many facilities are looking to make the leap into even greater efficiency by replacing their existing fluorescent tubes with linear LED tubes. See some recommended light levels for specific industries and types of tasks here.

Without replacing the fixtures, linear LED lamps allow facilities to effectively retrofit their fluorescent technology to something more efficient with relative ease. Sounds simple enough, right? Well, unfortunately there are many variables among the available LED tube products and selecting the wrong one to update your existing fixture could lead to a poor outcome ranging from being over lit or ruining your existing lighting design, to dramatic malfunctions that end up being an outright dangerous fire hazard.

In our next Linear T8 LED blog post, we will discuss three types of LED tubes, the scenarios where you might find them, and the potential outcome of incorrect energy efficient lighting retrofit procedure. While we know this technology to be effective, safe, energy-efficient, and that it looks great when properly installed, it is most definitely not a one-size-fits-all solution. 

Are you ready to learn more about planning for your LED lighting retrofit project? Read "How Much Does A Retrofit Cost?"

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Has your old, unused material become Explosive?

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UPDATED MARCH 2017

We are often asked to properly dispose of hazardous wastes that have collected over many years, for schools and all types of businesses. These are chemicals and products that were used for maintenance, or in a lab or classroom at one time, that have outlived their usefulness. These products often spend many years in a back room, storage closet, or shed, and aren't easy to dispose of alongside standard trash items. It is important to safely and responsibly handle these products, as many product characteristics change over time and some even become unstable and explosive. Today we will share with you a specific type of compound that we come across quite often, that does just that.

 

WHAT IS A "PEROXIDE FORMING-COMPOUND?"

Peroxides are a class of chemical compounds with unusual stability problems and are one of the most hazardous classes of chemicals routinely handled in the laboratory.

Peroxides can be formed via intentional chemical reactions (i.e., ozonolysis), but just as hazardous is inadvertent peroxide formation during storage of certain compounds. Some compounds form explosive peroxides. Others are polymerizable unsaturated compounds that can participate in a runaway, explosive polymerization reaction catalyzed by peroxides. To varying degrees, shock, heat, or friction may cause unexpected explosion of peroxidized organic chemicals.
SOURCE

We talked with Nick, one of our Environmental Specialists, and asked a few questions about benzoyl peroxide compounds and the proper way to handle hazardous waste disposal for these chemicals.

Where does this compound come from- why is it dangerous?

The product shown above was originally the cream hardener used to set automotive body filler. The primary active ingredient is an organic peroxide called Benzoyl Peroxide. This type of chemical, along with quite a few others, can form shock sensitive peroxide crystals as they age and dry out. Essentially, they turn into explosives over time. These aren’t stable explosives like C4 that require a large amount of energy to set them off though. They are very unstable and can explode seemingly spontaneously.

Are these compounds prevalent? Aside from the automotive body filler, what sort of products can this happen to?

I come across chemicals that we suspect have become explosive fairly regularly. In addition to automotive body filler, we see these types of chemicals in other common products. Many types of activators and catalysts for two part systems contain either benzoyl peroxide or methyl ethyl ketone peroxide, both of which can become unstable. In addition, there are a number of common laboratory solvents which can form unstable peroxide crystals. The two most common solvents we come across that exhibit these characteristics are tetrahydrofuran and ethyl ether.

What do you do when you arrive on a job site and find them?

When we encounter these materials we segregate them as safely as possible and work with the customer and a team of reactive specialists to safely remove the materials from the site.

What should our clients do if they find something like this or think they might have one of these compounds on site? How can they safely address this or identify a safety concern?

In the case of an emergency, they should always call 911. If it is a non-emergency situation, then we can help. It is important not to disturb the materials any more than necessary. I typically recommend that the area be quarantined to the best of the customer’s ability. Once you notify your TRC Environmental Representative, we will work to find a resolution ASAP.

Thanks, Nick. That was really helpful! 

If you have old material that is not being used at your facility, it is probably time to safely remove it! Click below to read the interview with one of our clients who had this waste in their facility. Find out how they were able to safely manage and properly dispose of it!

Managing Haz Waste in Schools Interview

Interview: Safely Managing Hazardous Waste in Schools

Safely managing hazardous waste in schools

photo source

For as long as students have been in schools, the methods and tools of teaching have evolved and changed. Today we're sharing a short interview with a small school district that came up against a confusing, and potentially dangerous set of chemicals in their science labs that needed to go. The chemicals had eclipsed their classroom usefulness, and while they had been sitting idly on a shelf for some time the threat of their presence was real. The story is not unique, but not many clients we've worked with are willing to share. We're lucky to have this insight from a small district in South Dakota and hope it helps you.

If you're not interested in the interview, skip right ahead to get the Hazardous Waste Inventory Kit now and you'll receive:

  • A two page users guide to accurately inventory waste 

  • MSDS (Material Safety Data Sheet) Quick Facts

  • 3 ways to Find MSDS Sheets you need


Roxanne is the Business Manager for a small school district in South Dakota. Her job includes a wide range of responsibilities, which is something many of us are familiar with these days. Many times in our jobs, we are asked to make decisions, buy products, or hire vendors outside our personal scopes of expertise. Roxanne tells us more about their chemical waste disposal project, and how she found and decided to work with TRC. We also interview one of the TRC service techs about safely managing hazardous waste.

 

TRC: What was the nature of your project? Why did you hire TRC?

Roxanne: We had several old chemicals that needed disposal. Our school liability insurance carrier had instructed us (after an inspection) that the old chemicals would pose a liability issue to the school if anything should happen, like an explosion or fire. During the project, your tech discovered a chemical TRC could not dispose of. It was a very old chemical used in making bombs. [Editor: TRC does not handle explosive, radioactive, or bio-hazardous wastes.] The tech instructed us on who to contact and how it would be taken care of. We contacted the Sioux Falls, South Dakota, bomb squad and they set up a date to come down and dispose of the chemical.

 

TRC: How did you hear about us and what made you select TRC as a vendor for your project?

Roxanne: I spoke with your representative at a South Dakota Association of School Business Officials conference in Pierre, South Dakota. When we realized the need for this project TRC was the only vendor I had for this type of service.

 

TRC: Did you feel that TRC did a good job with project management, your budget, and helping you understand the process changes when the unexpected chemicals were found?

Roxanne: We are 100% satisfied with the service provided by TRC. We have received all the necessary documentation needed to show our liability insurance company that the volatile chemicals were removed from the school and disposed of correctly. The project was completed on time. We were quoted a price and were billed for the exact quoted amount.

 

TRC: What is the primary benefit you have experienced by using TRC as your service provider? 

Roxanne: After the TRC disposal visit, we are confident that the remaining chemicals we have are safe for the school environment.  We were contacted several times before the visit (to set up the date and time of visit) and several times after the disposal date (to check on our satisfaction and to check on the remaining chemical that was to be disposed of by the bomb squad of Sioux Falls).

 

TRC: Thanks, Roxanne. We really appreciate you sharing your story with us! 

 

That sounds like a pretty serious set of chemicals that Roxanne was dealing with, so we decided to talk directly to the TRC tech, Nick. He took care of the lab packing on site for this hazardous waste recycling project. 

 

TRC: What was the chemical that you found in the school? And why were you unaware of it before you came to do the lab pack?

Nick: They had solid benzoyl peroxide. We usually see organic peroxides in solution instead of as a solid.


TRC: How often do you find chemicals like this, are they really common? Where are they likely to be hiding out?

Nick: Organic peroxides are fairly common, but the vast majority of them are not explosive when they are initially purchased. More often when we come across explosive peroxides, they are materials that have been kept well past their expiration date and have become explosive over time. Cream hardeners for automotive body repair, ethyl ether, tetrahydrofuran, and picric acid are a few of the most commonly found items.


TRC: What is the best first step you would recommend to anyone trying to safely manage hazardous wastes or get a clean-up in motion?

Nick: For ongoing waste management it is important to be aware of what you have in your facility. Keeping a live inventory of chemicals and their expiration dates will help to ensure that chemicals are disposed of in a timely manner once they are no longer usable. Also, labeling of secondary containers is very important. Disposal of unknown chemicals is always a scary proposition, and for the most part it can easily be avoided by simply labeling containers. Finally, if you already have a large stockpile of chemicals that you no longer need, act quickly. Unfortunately, proper disposal of chemical wastes rarely gets cheaper over time and the risk of spills, reactions, and complications grows the longer you sit on them.

TRC: Thanks, Nick! 

 Are you dealing with a unique waste situation, or curious what it will take to clean up at your facility. Contact TRC today to talk to one of our environmental services specialists.

Free Hazardous Waste Consultation

How can I reduce operating costs at work?

It’s a common question and a concern for every business as modern times dictate we do more with less to achieve better results. In manufacturing, schools, retail businesses and other industries, the question, “How can I reduce operating costs at work?” and “What are the ways I can save money for my company?” are very, very common.  

There are many solutions out there to achieve savings at work, to help your company run more efficiently in these lean times. But one solution can be simple, direct, measurable and achievable. Today we are going to outline the ways a lighting retrofit can help advance your career and better your business.  

DIRECT IMPACT TO THE BOTTOM LINE  

It’s a fact that every business has lights turned on during business hours, and that light costs money. Retrofitting directly impacts your bottom line. Economic and environmental savings are measurable.  With a successful lighting upgrade you will be able to:

  • Reduce energy costs by reducing the number of watts used per lighting fixture
  • Reduce maintenance costs with longer life lamps such as T8 and LED technology
  • Streamline purchasing by reducing the types and quantities of lamps in your building
  • Build property value by updating the lighting system

IMPROVE APPEARANCES

Perhaps a part of your company’s success is directly related to its image and customer perception. Making a good first impression starts from the top down. For example, if the lighting is bad in a retail store, things are going to feel wrong. Most people won’t directly attribute this to the lighting, but by providing better light the products on the shelves and in displays will look inherently better. This could result in increased sales. We all know looks are everything. Here’s what improved lighting will get you:

  • Better color recognition, helps displays or products pop and gain attention
  • Upgraded lighting fixtures look clean and modern, or can be integrated more fully into building design
  • Areas with too little or too much light can be corrected for maximum effect
  • Interior and exterior lighting can affect the way clients or visitors perceive your building
  • Better light can mean better safety, security and building recognition

   
BE SEEN AS AN INNOVATOR & BUILD FOR THE FUTURE

As a part of making operations leaner, lots of employees these days are asked to wear many hats at work. If you can offer up a solution to help your company operate more efficiently or give insight to streamline future growth, do you think it could advance your career or help make your company more profitable? Here are a few reasons that suggesting a lighting improvement could help you be seen as an innovator:

  • This type of project can help attain larger company goals of sustainability and ‘being greener’
  • Suggesting a simple energy-efficiency measure for consideration could get you recognition
  • Quality lighting can positively impact productivity and is proven to have a measurable impact
  • Plan to ‘build for the future’ and reduce circuit load to allow for future expansion and additions
  • Design lighting projects can be planned in phases to help bridge gaps in innovation (HID to T5 to LED)
  • Add  occupancy or vacancy sensors and other wireless controls that can incorporate later into bigger building automation plans

What other ways have you tried or suggested to help improve efficiency at your company?

 

Outdoor Lighting, LED Retrofit Case Study

 

 

 

 

 

TRC clears up 5 myths to ensure proper chemical waste handling and disposal.

UPDATED MARCH 2017

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Hazardous Waste Management shouldn’t be taken lightly, and it is important to address each disposal, recycling, handling, and transportation interaction with care and concern. Waste can become more reactive and dangerous overtime, and not every business has Environmental Health and Safety personnel on their staff, so it is important to find a qualified vendor to answer your specific questions about the wastes you come across in your facility and the waste you generate in your business processes.

 

Today, we are sharing a handful of commonly misunderstood aspects of properly disposing of haz waste. “My product is labeled non-hazardous, that means I can throw it in the trash, right?” There is a very good chance you cannot, but why? First, it is important to know what hazardous waste is.  Wikipedia defines it as a “waste that poses substantial or potential threats to public health or the environment. In the United States, the treatment, storage and disposal of hazardous waste is regulated under the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA).”  These wastes could include items such as those listed below and more:

    • Expired Products
    • Maintenance Chemicals
    • Vendor Samples
    • Process Waste
    • Spill-response Waste
    • Research Waste
    • Lab Waste
    • Paints & Cleaners
    • Abandoned Mfg Supplies
    • Solvents and Thinners
    • Cleaners and Washer Chemicals
    • Oils and Absorbents

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"My product is labeled as non-hazardous; I should be able to just throw it in the trash, right?"

A: While many manufacturers are using non-hazardous ingredients in the formulations of their products, ALL wastes must be evaluated prior to disposal. Some municipalities regulate business wastes as an industrial waste; rules which could be more stringent than state or federal rules. Check with your local environmental regulators before choosing a disposal method. Form an internal process for inventorying, evaluating, storing and managing each waste type to avoid confusion. TRC can help you build a program for managing wastes, if one does not currently exist for your business.

"If I choose to send my waste as a Non-Hazardous Industrial waste, I will not have a paperwork trail to show proper disposal."

A: If your requirement is to have a cradle-to-grave tracking method for all waste sent out from your facility, be sure to specify this with your disposal or recycling vendor up front. Sometimes there is an additional fee for this type of paperwork, but a reputable vendor will be able to provide this service. For example, TRC can ship non-hazardous waste on several types of paperwork which will afford you a direct link to the disposal facility.

"I am just signing a Hazardous Waste Manifest for my employer, I don’t need DOT training."

A: Every person involved in the shipping of hazardous waste is required to have DOT training once every 2 years. This includes any packaging, loading, labeling, handling or paperwork preparation for wastes. The Minnesota DOT has an excellent on-line training program that is free of charge: http://www.dot.state.mn.us/cvo/training.html

"When my hazardous waste is accepted at a disposal facility, I am no longer responsible for it."

A: All generators have “Cradle to Grave” responsibility for their wastes. Under the CERCLA legislation, even after you have paid for proper disposal you are liable for a cleanup.   Read more at the EPA website about CERCLA and superfund sites to better understand your potential liability for mishandled wastes. 

"I can just pour old paint on cardboard, let it dry and throw it away?"

A: In Minnesota, it is forbidden to dry oil based (flammable) paints and throw them away. It is possible to dry Latex (water based paint), but the waste may be considered an Industrial waste and regulated by your local county. With paint and most other questionable wastes, it is recommended that the most responsible waste disposal or recycling effort is made to limit your current and future liability.

Do you have other questions about proper handling, storing or disposing Hazardous Wastes? 

Consult Hazardous Waste Professionals

 

Parking Ramp Lighting Retrofit Case Study

parking garage lighting ret

You can see this dramatic before and after, side by side while this lighting retrofit project is taking place. This client qualified for more than $23,000 in utility rebate incentive when they upgraded. They now have better light quality in their facility, increased safety for their patrons, and they are saving money and resources at the same time!

Facility Statistics: The Benefits of a Lighting Upgrade

Common lighting issues in parking garages include dark, shadowy areas and poor light quality. By replacing the existing High Pressure Sodium lighting with energy efficient 2 Lamp Vapor Tight Fluorescent High Lumen Fixtures that consume only 74 watts each, this facility is taking advantage of major energy savings. At the end of this project the client was saving 114 watts per fixture, reducing energy usage by over 50%!

Cost Savings: Does is really add up?

Before completing this project, TRC performed a full facility audit. This means all of the existing fixtures were counted, along with their rate of energy consumption and hours of operation, and a cost of operating was established. The new, more energy-efficient system was also proposed in the same way. The difference in energy usage totaled nearly $20,000 in annual lighting cost savings. 

Carbon Savings: What does it mean? 

Based on Kwh reduction from our facility lighting audit and using a Greenhouse Gas Equivalencies Calculator, we can determine carbon savings of 380,740.7 pounds of CO2 for this energy efficiency project. This is equivalent to keeping 37.4 cars off the road for a year, 16,699 gallons of gasoline saved, or 58 tons of waste recycled instead of landfilled!

 

Find out how you can start saving energy & money today.

get a smart start to your lighting project

Safety & Savings: Parking Ramp Lighting Retrofits

Parking ramp lighting and other exterior lighting applications are the latest frontier for energy-efficiency projects, and a lot of savings opportunities exist for building owners and managers in these projects.  Utility companies are even offering rebates for exterior lighting improvements, in some cases. Additionally, long-life lighting technology, like LED’s, and rugged fixture designs that perform well in varying weather are now available, making the feasibility and return on investment of these outdoor lighting projects even more appealing.

The importance of lighting design should take into consideration the function of a space, and this is true for parking garages and ramps, as well. For the tasks of driving and navigating a ramp as a pedestrian, fixture choice will influence the spread of the light and therefore the safety and security of the facility. Generally, these applications will shy away from a “cut off” fixture, which results in a cave effect, or dark ceiling which can strain the eyes and make it difficult to distinguish objects and shadows in an area. Not a great choice for place where people will be driving.

Instead, a better option would be semi-cut off or refractor, which will brighten the entire driving area, parking area and walls. Most parking ramp applications will want 5 foot candles per square foot as an appropriate amount of light for the basic tasks required in that space. With the semi-cut off or refractor style fixture, especially now with directional LED options, light can be directed to the places it is needed, without glare and without ‘spilling’ light beyond the intended area to create light pollution.

The Department of Energy offers this checklist to guide decision making for parking garage lighting, and recommends the following steps for a successful project:

1)  Conduct a complete inventory, including information on every fixture: wattage, burn hours, and existing light level.

2)  Decide whether to retrofit or install new fixtures is the best option. Consider fixture condition, and whether or not new lamp replacement options would fit into the existing fixture.

3)  Consider light quality and quantity. Be sure to take into account the importance of lighting design and the function of a space. Ask “what task must be lit?” and “where is it taking place?” In the case of a parking ramp or garage, the tasks will be driving, walking and identifying people and vehicles.

4)  Consider controls for transition areas. “Lighting Controls” can include daylight harvesting and occupancy sensors for dimming during no or low-traffic times.

5)   Take time to investigate utility incentives or rebate programs to help buy down the initial cost of the lighting products used in your energy-efficient retrofit project.

6)  Determine specifications for replacement or retrofit of the existing lighting system.

7)  Solicit bids.

8)  Create your life-cycle cost analysis, include your energy savings, cost reduction, simple payback and return on investment. What is important to you? A lower up front fixture cost, or the best long-term investment? Consider these when you create your life-cycle analysis.

9)  Purchase and install the new lighting system.

This reads like nine concise steps, but keep in mind that an entire industry exists to address your lighting needs. There really should be a funnier punch line to the joke, “how many lighting contractors does it take to change a light bulb?” – But in all honesty, every single lighting contractor you talk to will likely have a different answer for how to save energy and reduce your overhead. Most of them will probably be able to do that for you, but be sure the lighting products and installation configuration you choose is one that has your needs and lighting requirements at the forefront. Arm yourself with knowledge and the ability to choose the best project for you. Read the full DOE check list here

Also, read  11 Questions to Ask a Lighting Contractor for additional insight on organizing a lighting project. 

11 questions to ask a lighting contractor

Recharging your Knowledge of Recycling Batteries

UPDATED AUGUST 2016  // ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED April 2013

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Recycling batteries is not as easy as placing old newspapers on a curb. Apart from the energy they store, batteries can contain several toxic materials which are regulated by the EPA and the DOT can be harmful if exposed. As several unfortunate incidents have proven, even used batteries considered “dead” can be the source of fires when stored or transported incorrectly contacted by conductive materials. Proper, responsible disposal or recycling is a delicate matter whenever there is a potential threat to the environment or the safety of others. Like most potentially harmful wastes, The US Department of Transportation has developed laws in order to transport (dispose) of batteries safely.

Since the mid-1990’s TRC has gained expertise in the safe transportation of wastes ranging from toxic gases to Mercury containing lamps. Our recycling trucks have transported everything from old light bulbs to lead paint. This expertise and knowledge of waste handling and disposal regulations have helped our clients simplify the disposal and recycling process for all types of Universal and Hazardous waste. However, transporting waste is not always a simple task. There are many different regulations on state, county and federal levels, for many different forms of waste. Within the past few years, necessary precautions have been assigned to the transportation of a very common universal waste; batteries.

To help prevent accidents and spills, the DOT has come up with packaging requirements for the transportation of batteries.

  • All batteries must be separated by chemistry. For instance, alkaline batteries must be in a separate container than acidic batteries. Batteries have a higher chance of generating a spark with opposing chemistries.
  • Another requirement is protecting covering all battery terminals that exceed 9 volts to prevent short circuits. The battery electrical terminals are the main source of potential ignition when contacted by a conductive material. The DOT requires all terminals to be taped over, individually wrapped in plastic bags or insulated in another form in order to prevent a short circuit.

Once separated and protected, batteries must be containerized for transportation. Since most batteries are potentially harmful to the environment, DOT requires batteries meeting the definition of a hazardous material be shipped inDOT UN performance packaging. TRC has taken the guesswork out of selecting proper UN DOT approved packaging. We offer a wide range of packing to meet federal and state rules. If you have batteries which are too large for standard containers, (large sealed lead acid batteries), they can still be transported safely. Contact your sales representative and they will put you in touch with one of TRC’s transportation safety specialists, we're here to take the guesswork out of managing waste batteries and provide a safe outlet for proper transportation and recycling!

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