Lighting Upgrade: Energy and Financial Savings

Maintenance Solutions

Who doesn't like improving sustainability? The process of going green offers institutional and commercial facilities an opportunity to minimize the environmental impact of their operations. Employees, along with top executives, buy into the process, and their combined efforts and resources help the organization achieve its sustainability goals.

But when sustainability truly delivers, organizations realize additional benefits. In the best-case scenarios, enhancing sustainability also saves the organization money. While not every organization achieves this important benefit, Dr. P. Phillips Hospital in Orlando, Fla., has been able to.

Says Andrew Highsmith, facility manager with the hospital's engineering department, "People get excited when you say, 'This is what we're able to do in four days, and here's the impact it'll have on our electric bill. We're able to save $24,000 from this one project. Image what we could do if we did X, Y, and Z.'"

Beginning The Process

The hospital's lighting upgrade — part of a larger effort by the hospital and its parent organization, Orlando Health — started in May 2011 and is continuing in phases. The project began with an energy audit walk-through of the 550,000-square-foot, 237-bed facility.

"We conducted an internal energy audit with the help of one of our local lighting vendors, and we identified several opportunities to save energy from a lighting perspective," Highsmith says. "We decided that we could benefit from retrofitting a majority of our existing fixtures with new ballasts and bulbs, instead of replacing the light fixtures.

"By doing so, were able to achieve the same light level as the original 40-watt fixtures but with 25 watts of energy. So we're saving 15 watts per fixture. But multiply that by 4,673 fixtures that we retrofitted. This phase of the project is calculated to save us $141,000 per year."

The first phase also involved addressing what Highsmith called "the sweet spots in the scope."

"We didn't want to create this monstrous project, then have it stretch on and on and on," he says. "So phase one focused on the things we can get done relatively quickly, that have easy access, that don't present a lot of challenges but still present a great payback."

Consider the example of hallway lighting.

"That something we can do safely during business hours without interruption to patient care," he says. "We also did a lot of off-stage areas in phase one. When you walk into our chiller room, there's a handful of fixtures that stay on constantly for safety lighting. But there are also motion sensors, so as you walk throughout the plant, things turn on for you so you have the appropriate task lighting. It's the same thing in our generator room. There's minimal lighting for safety, but everything else is on motion sensors."

Maintenance considerations related to the hospital's parking structure prompted the organization to expand lighting upgrade.

"I started noticing problems with the metal halide fixtures in our parking garage, and it seemed like the problem would travel," Highsmith says. "Fixtures were burning out frequently. As soon as we would notice one of the fixtures was burned out, we'd have it serviced. Later that same week, we'd have another issue somewhere else in the parking garage.

"The original metal halide fixtures in the parking garage had required consistent attention just to keep the lights on. Retrofitting the parking garage with new fixtures is saving approximately $22,000 to $24,000 per year on energy costs alone. This does not include the labor and material savings from less intensive maintenance."

The department already has felt the impact of the parking-garage upgrade.

"It's been a huge relief for my maintenance staff because some of the challenges with maintaining those metal halide fixtures was access," he says. "It is difficult to service a light fixture when the parking garage is full of cars. There are several safety concerns as liability for dropping stuff on vehicles. It is also tough to block parking spaces when you're a high-volume facility. We would either have to do it on weekends or do it at night. From an expense perspective, I was spending way too much on labor and materials just keeping the lights on in the parking garage."

Highsmith says he has been pleased with the performance of the updated lighting-system components.

"The new T5 fixtures that we used have been absolutely fantastic," he says. "They're really easy to maintain, from changing the bulb to something as simple as removing the lens cover.

Though a contractor handled much of the actual installation work for the upgrade, Highsmith's department played an important role in ensuring the process went smoothly and safely.

"We sort of took a hands-off approach to the work that was being done, but because we are a hospital, and because we are open 24/7, closing the parking garage was absolutely something that we could not do," Highsmith says. "I don't want to oversimplify the role that we had in this project. But the coordination to keep cars flowing, to keep people safe, to keep them out of harm's way and to keep the contractor that was working on our parking garage safe was an undertaking in itself."

"Although we weren't there doing the actual wiring and installation of the fixtures, the biggest role we played was keeping everybody safe."

To bring even greater energy savings to the facility's lighting system, the department has installed occupancy sensors in key areas throughout the hospital.

"The sensors that we use are actually an internal project we have going on, especially single-use rooms, such as single-stall bathrooms, storage closets and offices," Highsmith says. "Most of those types of rooms have motion sensors installed in them. We haven't quite made it through the entire hospital, but I will say more than 50 percent of rooms that have that opportunity either are on a timer or a motion sensor."

More Opportunities?

What's next for the hospital's lighting systems? The answer will depend, in part, on whether the department can identify tasks that offer an appealing return on investment (ROI).

"Part two of the lighting retrofit is going back and identifying, for lack of a better term, those one-off type fixtures — things that aren't necessarily common, such as decorative art pieces that are illuminated — and trying to identify the appropriate fixture retrofit and the exact opportunity that's there," Highsmith says.

In phase one, "We used fixtures with sensors in off-stage areas, but by and large, phase one for the majority of the hospital was the low-hanging fruit. These were the light fixtures that were easy to access and that had several hours of operation. Now in phase two, we are coming back and saying, 'What did we pass up in phase one that still has a decent opportunity for ROI and that makes sense for us to do?'"

The hospital's efforts to bring greater sustainability to — and wring greater savings from — its lighting system might not end with phase two.

"There may be a phase three. We may get done with phase two and say, 'What else did we miss?' We talked about landscape lighting and exterior signage lighting but we really didn't come up with any definitive solution or determine there was enough of an ROI on what's available versus what we have now."

By Dan Hounsell

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