Switch on to Energy Efficiency
…the introduction of the Climate Change Levy in 2001 has meant that the government has subjected all non–domestic users of electricity to an additional energy charge…
Energy efficiency is still at the top of the public agenda with recent surges in energy prices, the constant debate around climate change and the impending Kyoto protocol deadlines. But what does any of this mean for the electrical contractor or installer? Well, these three issues are the driving force behind a move to more energy efficient products via legislation changes and ever–evolving product ranges.
Here Kevin Norman, Category Manager for Newey & Eyre, looks at the development of wiring accessories in energy control and some of the options available for installers and contractors to help reduce wasted energy and carbon emissions:
Domestically the demand for electrical appliances is on the increase with Britain using more electrical devices than ever before, including DVD players, games consoles, plasma TVs, computers and laptops. In fact, according to the Office of National Statistics, the third most popular activity carried out by people in Britain after sleeping and working, is watching TV/videos/DVDs or listening to music.
In commercial premises millions of pounds across the UK are still being wasted as lights are left on and their heating outputs are not being matched to their specific requirements. In addition to increasing energy bills the introduction of the Climate Change Levy in 2001 has meant that the government has subjected all non–domestic users of electricity to an additional energy charge, which has increased by about eight% since its introduction.
According to the International Energy Agency (IEA)…
…a global switch to efficient lighting systems would shave nearly 10% off the world’s electricity bill. The IEA estimates that 20% of global electricity generation is used for lighting and to put this into context, the carbon dioxide produced by generating all of this electricity is three times greater than emissions from aviation.
Energy prices have increased by more than 50% over the last five years alone and there appears to be no sign of a slow down in this area. The introduction of Part L of the Building Regulations in 2006, the introduction of the Energy Performance certificates last year and the ever closing date of the 2010 deadline to slash carbon dioxide emissions, are all weighing heavily on the choices of wiring accessories that electrical contractors and installers will make for both commercial and domestic applications.
With a recognition of energy efficient light bulbs, the industry has seen a noticeable increase in sales but over the last 12 months controls and accessories are also seeing an increase in popularity, as specifiers and home owners see the continued savings offered by dimmer switches, timers and sensors. Manufacturers have responded with increased investment in extending these ranges.Start of page
Regulations are really beginning to drive purchasing behaviour. Previously contractors and installers considered cost as the major factor in product selection but due to legislation changes, reducing emissions and eventual energy bills for the end user are now both big considerations — forcing electrical contractors and installers to think differently at the specification stages.
Energy efficient products particularly wiring accessories and the range of controls are key to achieving energy targets, which is why the market is currently seeing one of the biggest periods of product evolution in its history, with modifications being made to virtually all ranges.
Currently manufacturers are investing large sums of money into developing any wiring accessories which give the user greater control. The biggest energy savings are to be made in lighting and heating which is why a much greater emphasis is being placed on the controls in these two areas.Start of page
Providing an off delay after the last observed movement can save an average of 80% on energy wasted.
Sensors have been around for over two decades and traditionally they were used for security or ‘welcome home’ lighting. PIRs for example are well known for burglar alarm sensors and activating external lighting but in 2008 their use has diversified. Particularly in large commercial or communal buildings, these sensors provide the key to controlling heating and lighting — the two biggest areas of wasted energy.
Within commercial buildings, toilets continue to be the biggest culprit for wasted energy with lighting and ventilation only needed when they are occupied. This need is being met by ceiling mounted PIR sensors, which detect presence by passive infrared, effectively enhanced for the smallest of movements and holding lights off in bright ambient conditions. Providing an off delay after the last observed movement can save an average of 80% on energy wasted. If the same product is used in meeting or staff rooms up to 65% can be shaved off the energy bill.
A more advanced PIR can also offer programmable presence detection for lighting control in offices and open plan workstations.
Long range detectors provide effective energy saving control for large areas such as those in warehouses, sports halls or conference centres and offer incredible energy savings of up to 80%. These products consist of a control unit and low voltage microwave detectors, which can be combined to create one self–contained unit. The detectors can even see movement through glass and are fixed in a robust unit, secure against accidental damage.
Microwave sensors are another option open to installers and used most often in applications such as larger classrooms, storage aisles and conference rooms. These devices are directional presence detectors with built in photocell use, utilising microwave technology and featuring a movement detector. For example, if used in a storage facility, an employee walking along the ends of the aisles will not activate any lighting — only once they have entered a specific aisle will those lights be activated and then deactivated as they leave.
Ultrasonic sensors are perfect for corridors as they are fully automatic, directional presence detectors with photocell and save energy by switching off lights in unoccupied areas and by holding lights off in occupied areas that already have adequate natural light. The sensor works by using ultrasonic radar to detect for movement, which involves transmitting an ultrasound signal and examining the reflected signal for frequency variations.
The number of accessories for these particular products are also growing at an exponential rate with digital programmers being the most popular as they offer such a detailed degree of control.Start of page
Time delay switches have been in operation for many years, used in less frequented areas or those where entry and egress is at different points. As with other accessories however, these have been identified as having great energy saving potential and have been revamped. Gone are the pneumatic timers which slowly released before cutting the power to the light, now they are electronic and fully programmable to whatever time setting is required.
The new electronic push button timers are being styled in a variety of colours to suit not only commercial applications but residential ones too. Lighting in apartment buildings lends itself well to this type of device, as the push button lighting will automatically cut the communal area lighting after a set period, instead of hallways being lit 24 hours a day. This type of device can also be implemented for a variety of uses including heating, ventilation or air conditioning as intelligent switches like these can be programmed for as little as two minutes or as much as two hours.
The other benefit from timers such as these is that they can be used in both new build and retrofit and are simple devices which remove the need for an expensive central control panel but still cut energy usage and therefore carbon emissions.Start of page
Dimmers, Pendants and Heating controls
…the installation of low energy pendants and batten holders which can result in a 50% longer lamp life compared to conventional gear, not withstanding the 80% less power that is required.
Dimmer switches are not a new invention as they have been used in residential applications for many years, previously to offer mood lighting or as an option in children’s bedrooms but now with energy efficiency being such an important topic, installers are finding these are an easy way of meeting the need to reduce power consumption in commercial applications.
Manufacturers have realised how many more applications these devices suit and are creating more stylish designs with this trend expected to grow. White is no longer the only finish available but a range of bright vivid blues and reds are being accompanied by brass, nickel and chrome.
When considering energy efficient lighting over the past two years the message has been hammered home that despite the higher initial outlay energy saving lamps save on average £10 a year per bulb, compared to a conventional one. This saving can be increased further with the installation of low energy pendants and batten holders which can result in a 50% longer lamp life compared to conventional gear, not withstanding the 80% less power that is required.
Heating is another major area where control is becoming more important. In both domestic and commercial applications the use of heating controls such as programmable thermostats can drastically reduce wasted energy and as part of new build are installed as standard. However, retrofit is becoming an increasingly bigger market as people try and reduce their energy bills.Start of page
Contractor and Installer actions
Contractors and installers must help to strike a balance between energy efficiency and society’s demand for more electrical appliances. With green issues at the forefront of people’s minds the need for contractors and installers to specify wiring products carefully is now greater than ever. Where a certain product has always been supplied it is now time to start considering the emerging possibilities that will ultimately change our homes and workplaces over the coming years.
With energy efficient solutions often having a more costly outlay, payback periods are increasingly important but not all are as long as you may think. Automatic lighting controls, which are at the top–end of the market, may take up to five years to recoup the cost but with room sensor controls the payback period is less than a year and these controls offer up to 90% savings in certain applications such as bathrooms¹.
As well as considering payback periods energy efficient products also allow the client to save money on their energy bills therefore contractors should feel more secure about specifying more expensive higher margin products. Easy installation can mean less time on site and provide opportunities for retrofitting, as well as some products qualifying for Enhanced Capital Allowances².
Wasted energy is costing businesses millions according to the Carbon Trust and domestic energy prices have just seen yet another double figure increase — with these facts constantly in the news the investment in developing more energy efficient products is sure to continue. Wiring accessories offer such a degree of energy control that they are bound to remain a pivotal part of the process of reducing carbon emissions and installers and contractors need to look more widely at the ever changing products available. This effectively means an industry change – not thinking about the cheapest options available but considering the energy savings available, the payback periods and advising clients on how spending a little more in the initial outlay can be worth its weight in gold.Start of page
- according to research by the Chartered Institute of Building Services Engineers.
- A deterrent to opting for an energy efficient lighting solution can be the initial investment that is required. However, financial support is available to organisations investing in low carbon technologies under the climate change levy package. This allows for a 100% first year Enhanced Capital Allowance (ECA) scheme, and a £50m fund for energy efficiency and renewables, which means monies spent on converting lighting to energy efficient products can be claimed back. A list of approved products can be found at www.eca.gov.uk.