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Energy walk-through Part 4: Fluorescent fixture fix-ups

We've already looked at cutting usage by making it easy to switch off, separating warm from cold, and keeping up with maintenance. Now, we're looking at lighting.

Almost all workplaces are lit with overhead fluorescent tube lighting. But lighting that is aging doesn't give you the efficiency or lighting quality you can get with an upgrade. So this month we're focusing on fluorescents.

Watch for next month's walk-through story for other lighting topics.

Step 6: Upgrade tubes and ballasts

If your overhead lighting is five or more years old, you may stand to gain from a retrofit. The key change is from standard (older) T12 tubes, which are about an inch and a half in diameter, to high efficiency T8s, (also called "super T8s" or high performance T8s).

You can learn how to read the code on your fluorescent tubes if you're not sure what type you're using – or you can call a lighting contractor for advice.

While you may get some efficiency from switching just the tubes themselves, the real key is to upgrade your ballasts.

Ballasts are the component inside the fixture that provides electricity to the tubes. The main change has been from older magnetic ballasts to electronic models. These operate at a higher frequency, which is more efficient for producing light, saving electricity and money. Electronic ballasts also eliminate the frustrating flicker and hum that magnetic ballasts can produce.

Product Incentive Program rebates are available for both tubes and ballasts, helping cut payback times and boost the cost-effectiveness of a retrofit.

Step 7: Tune your lighting to your tasks

Reducing the amount of light delivered from overhead fixtures is another efficiency key in retrofitting older lighting.

Often, these lights were originally designed to illuminate desks where workers were doing paper-based tasks. As work has shifted to backlit computer screens, offices are sometimes overlit.

An experienced lighting contractor can provide guidance, but some options and issues include:

  • Moving from fixtures with four tubes to those with just two or three may be possible;
  • Reducing the wattage per tube is also a way to achieve a comfortable level of lighting and save money;
  • Because older tubes lose their illumination power as they age, replacing tubes; one-for-one with newer, more efficient models may cause overlighting.

About colour rendering

Newer fluorescent lighting usually offers better colour rendering than older equipment. This can mean that tasks requiring colour-matching, or spaces that display retail goods, will benefit from newer lighting.

In some cases, employees report relief from headaches and eyestrain, and comment that retrofitted spaces seem warmer and brighter – while losing the glare often associated with overhead fluorescents.

Learn the four easy steps to receiving BC Hydro financial support for your lighting retrofit project. You can also email us or call for more information: 604 522 4713 (Lower Mainland) or toll free 1 866 522 4713.

Just starting your walk-through to find energy savings? Check out: