Retrofit Kits Help Businesses Meet New DOE Lighting Standards

For years, many businesses have relied on T12 technology to light their offices. But starting on July 14, 2012, the Department of Energy (DOE) will begin phasing out most T12 fluorescent lights and replacing them with energy-efficient T5 lights. Once the new rule goes into place, the DOE estimates that fluorescent lights – when combined with new lamps and ballasts – could cost 13 times more than current retail value.

Companies that need to switch out their lights may struggle with how much to pay in labor and fees to replace their whole lighting system.

The solution? Retrofitting.

To help make the adjustment to T5 lights easier, one company in the United States has begun making retrofit plug-and-play adapters. These adapters let companies save money by replacing their lights without having to buy new fixtures for them.

LUXADD, a Miami-based lighting solution provider, designed an Express T5 Retrofit Kit Series for linear fluorescent lighting systems. The lights can go in parking garages, office buildings, schools, hotels and warehouses. LUXADD’s 4-foot-long kit includes a replacement light and has a plug that snaps into T12 light fixtures. Each kit also includes an electronic rapid start ballast.

Priced between $29.95 for a single lamp and $55.95 for a double lamp, LUXADD says their products are more cost-efficient in terms of both labor and pricing.

“Our retrofit kit is the only one that has zero labor,” said Katrin Mehler, president of the company. “It’s the only snap-in, true plug-and-play where you don’t have to bridge or replace the old ballast.”

The kit reduces existing input wattage from about 48-52 watts to 23-31 watts and lamp wattage from 40 watts to 28 watts. The lighting solution can save up to 73 percent in lighting energy costs, the company says. The kit can also be used with any T5 lights on the market.

Mehler said the idea for the product originally came from Germany. Then, a U.S. inventor and lamp designer reinvented it for LUXADD in the United States. Now, LUXADD sells their products throughout the country and in Puerto Rico, South America and the Dominican Republic.

In addition to LUXADD, a couple of other companies have begun making similar products. Green Products Co. in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., makes a T5 Retrofit Kit. Their solution promises to be a cost-effective complete conversion system design that will save energy, reduce cost and help the environment. A third company, Calex Global, produces T5 retro kits. However, Calex is based in the United Kingdom.

Retrofitting may be a good solution, but there aren’t a lot of manufacturers making kits in the United States. In fact, LUXADD says they offer the only linear fluorescent lighting conversion adapter specifically designed for the U.S. market.

Businesses that wait until after the July 14 deadline could have problems finding replacement lights if there isn’t enough supply. Light prices could also increase.

But even if company does choose to retrofit their lights now, it will still cost them money in the short term. However, the DOE thinks the new legislation will pay off in the long run. They say the new rules will in time help companies save money on their energy needs and contribute to overall energy conservation in the U.S.

“Despite purchase prices, the energy efficiency gains would result in lower energy costs that more than offset such higher costs for most,” according to statements made in a DOE report. “The energy conservation standards for these products would result in significant conservation of energy, and are technologically feasible and economically justified.”

Lighting is the single largest end use for energy consumption in the commercial buildings sector. Fluorescent lights are low-pressure lamps with a fluorescent coating that transforms ultraviolet energy into light.

Experts say the benefits of T5 fluorescent lights are that they’re newer and more energy efficient than T12 lights. T5 lights are shorter and use 28 watts compared to 40 watts for T12 lights. As part of the new legislation, the DOE considered phasing out T8 lights. In the end, they decided it was more beneficial to continue allowing them even though they are less efficient than T5 lights.

“The best lighting is T5 tubes,” Mehler argued. “They are the best replacements for T12 lights.” Why? Mehler said businesses can improve not just their energy costs but also their air-conditioning costs with T5 lights. Older fluorescent lights produce more heat, driving up air-conditioning costs.

The DOE estimates that new standards will save about 3.83 to 9.94 quads of British thermal units of energy in 30 years. They will also reduce greenhouse carbon dioxide emission between 175 and 488 million tons and reduce air pollution.

The new rules are part of the 2009 DOE General Service Fluorescent Lamp Legislation.

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