Saying goodbye to T12 fluorescents

Good time to retrofit as majority of lamps to be phased out
Monday, April 2, 2012
By Sharon MacArthur

Since the first Canadian energy efficiency regulation that phased out a handful of inefficient general service fluorescent lamps (GSFL) was introduced in 1995, there has been steady progress in the availability of more efficient lighting solutions into the market. In this sense, the options today for replacing older, less efficient lighting, like T12 lamps, are numerous. This progress has, in turn, made it possible for government to institute higher efficiency standards.

What will be phased out
Natural Resources Canada’s current proposal to amend its regulation on GSFL lamps will harmonize with the U.S. Department of Energy’s 2009 amendment, which increases efficacy levels on specified T5, T8, T12 and U-shaped fluorescent lamps in two-foot, four-foot and eight-foot lengths. Essentially, the majority of four-foot and eight-foot T12 lamps will be phased out entirely. Once passed, the amendment will apply to affected fluorescent lamps that are manufactured on or after July 14, 2012, after which date any lamps imported or manufactured in Canada, or shipped inter-provincially for sale or lease, must comply with the minimum efficiency standard.

Now is the time to undertake a lighting upgrade. Businesses need to start thinking about taking advantage of any financial incentives provided by provincial energy rebate programs before they go away. For those provinces that apply, the rebate provided by local utilities to convert to an energy-efficient lighting solution can make the initial cost of replacing a lighting system much more affordable. In some cases, the savings in energy costs, coupled with the available rebates, can completely cover the associated costs of the lighting retrofit itself.

Lighting upgrade considerations
It may appear that the easiest way to move forward with a lighting upgrade would be to replace individual components as they fail as this would avoid the upfront costs of equipment and installation labour in addition to the potential disruption of a renovation. However, replacing an existing system all at once with a planned overall upgrade presents major advantages, not least of which is avoiding the lost savings that compound the longer an owner waits to do an upgrade. Converting all fixtures at once in a space provides lighting uniformity, which can have a positive impact on the mood and productivity of occupants of the space, and can avoid confusion in maintaining different lamp and ballast types. Retrofitting a T12 fixture with a T8 system provides significant energy savings, and also provides better light quality and longer lifetimes that translate into maintenance, replacement and disposal cost-savings.

When considering a truly sustainable lighting solution, the user should look for three key things: energy savings, long life and low toxicity – like that found with ALTO lamp technology. ALTO is a patented technology from Philips, which means that their fluorescent lamps contain the lowest mercury content in the industry, a feature which can be beneficial to those facilities seeking Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) certification or with particular environmental goals.

LED lighting
In October 2010, the U.S. Department of Energy’s CALiPER (Commercially Available LED Product Evaluation and Reporting) program concluded many of the test lamps failed, or performed inconsistently, and that the output of an LED lamp is significantly lower than that of a T8, despite many of the manufacturer claims of equivalency.

Further, the efficiency of an LED versus a fluorescent is no higher, although the cost of the LED could be 15 to 20 times higher, which simply does not make financial sense. And because the technology is still so new, it is also important to ensure that LED products meet local electrical codes and comply with national safety standards, so that users can protect themselves from any potential issues after installation. Nevertheless, the speed at which LED lighting is growing and improving in terms of being a suitable direct replacement for traditional technology is phenomenal, so it is only a matter of time before these solutions exceed expectations.

Sharon MacArthur is channel marketing manager with Philips Light Sources and Electronics Canada in Markham, Ont.

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