By Hanna Tough
What type of illumination does your building use? Did you get on the eco train right away, or is your building still working overtime to produce enough energy to light common areas 24/7? The condominium market continues to be dominated by sales of halogen lamps and CFLs (compact fluorescent lamps) rather than by LEDs (light emitting diodes), which are more efficient. Go and check your lighting system, if you are not already familiar with all lighting components of your building, get familiarized. Don’t forget to check outside, too. LEDs are great options for updating the security lighting of a condominium.
LED efficacy has improved considerably in recent years. Swapping traditional, incandescent light bulbs with energy-efficient LED bulbs will use less power and reduce your condo costs while helping to reduce your carbon footprint. Don’t forget about that longer lifespan, too. Although you’ll have to buy a new incandescent bulb after as few as 2,000 hours, LED lighting will last anywhere from 15 to 25 times longer. It’s true that you could buy nine of those $6 incandescent bulbs for the price of an LED bulb, but the LED bulb will last well beyond the lifespan of those nine traditional bulbs. Air conditioning requirements may also be lowered because of LED’s low heat working condition.
LED bulbs have many financial positives for your building. For one thing, they last much longer—from 30,000 to more than 50,000 hours longer—so you won’t need to replace them as often. The savings will really add up when you begin to compare your electricity bills. LED bulbs use up to 75 percent less energy than traditional bulbs. When you have decided to replace or upgrade critical building components, such as the lighting system, there is an ideal opportunity to upgrade connected systems. Suite metering will enable every resident in your building to monitor, track and pay for their own electricity usage. Moreover, making tenants aware of residential energy savings programs, like the Residential No-Charge Energy Savings Program in Alberta, will enable the condo community to work together towards energy- and money-saving goals.
Energy efficiency awareness and legislation are driving an increased number of lighting retrofits and field conversions to more energy efficient sources of lighting. To get the greatest value out of an LED lighting retrofit, ask about a manufacturer’s product testing, quality control and sustainability practices. This is the time to ask about different light fixtures and light bulb options. Check for dimmer compatibility. It’s important to be sure the LED, driver and dimmer are compatible. You can ask the manufacturer for a dimmer/controls compatibility list.
Schedule a lighting audit. This will include collecting an inventory of existing lighting systems and determining the most energy efficient solutions, which will enable you to assess your potential annual energy savings. Efficiency Alberta has programs and rebate offers to support energy savings initiatives and remodelling.
Your best bet for security and outdoor lighting is to install automated light fixtures with timers, or fixtures that come with sensors. This makes for efficient lighting. Plus, the white colour of light offers an aesthetically pleasing finish. The utility rooms and parking garages can have sensor lighting installed, too. There are easy-to-install LED fixtures that take a simple exterior building design and make it tasteful. If you want to determine what your projected savings will be, LED Lights Canada has an Energy Savings Calculator on their website to calculate your monthly savings and your R.O.I. Remember, however, that not all bulbs are created equal so don’t cut corners. Be sure to look for bulbs that have an EnergyStar® rating and are from a good name brand.
The immediate benefits of retrofitting your condominium with LED’s will be seen and felt throughout the building. Retrofitting with motion sensor and dimmable LED’s, you will notice the hallways and parking garages will be the first to reap the rewards, especially between the hours of 12 am to 6 am. The energy savings will take effect immediately. The goal of energy efficiency projects, should be to decrease, or at least maintain, the cost of living in a building. A suite metering retrofit partnered with an LED retrofit will reduce overall maintenance fees and can contribute to LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design® ) points for your building. According to the Canada Green Building Council, green buildings create a healthier indoor environment for occupants through better indoor air quality, less harmful products and more natural daylight. The key to realizing the benefits of energy retrofits is to sustain fees at their current level. At the least, boards should wait until the savings generated by a retrofit have paid for the cost of the retrofit before lowering fees. Again, a suite metering program will collect and report data for you. This saves money, cuts time spent on billing and utilities management, and ensures your condo building is reducing its energy, oftentimes up to 30%.
Increasing energy expenses means that many building operators and condo boards face pressure to increase maintenance fees. Retrofits can help lower your costs and make your condo more attractive for owners and potential buyers. Resident demand for smart-home monitoring and energy-efficient living spaces will only continue to increase. Although energy saving is not classified as a need, it is a desired practice among many condominium dwellers. It is a good idea to send out a questionnaire to residents, asking where improvements can be made. This action gives them a voice in the decisions that affect the appearance and energy-savings initiatives of their condominium community. Take the necessary steps towards a well-thought-out plan before beginning any retrofits and your decisions are sure to be a success.
Hannah Tough is a Marketing Coordinator for Priority Submetering Solutions.