While warehouse energy efficiency looms large in managements’ considerations, particularly with lighting, it seems lighting suppliers are viewed with suspicion when it comes to their claims on energy savings. That, at any rate, was among the findings of the Carbon Trust’s survey which says that while 96% of the businesses surveyed said energy efficiency was an important consideration when buying or upgrading equipment only 51% were confident about manufacturers’ energy efficiency claims. Moreover, businesses often struggle to discern the most appropriate solutions for their business and therefore lack the confidence to tap the great opportunities. There is, however, another problem that either stymies take up of enhanced lighting or results in a wrong choice because too much emphasis was placed on the initial cost instead of the life cycle costs – a common problem within the forklift industry. A third factor that could muddy the investment waters is outdated impressions of lighting type comparisons, which could lead to poor choice. This is where it is important to deal only with suppliers whose range covers all the lighting types or at least get a comparison from more than one supplier so that all types can be compared.
Fortunately, there are satisfactory solutions to all these problems. To return to the Carbon Trust survey, some 58% of respondents said that they would have benefited from a trusted database of accredited suppliers before buying equipment. The Trust, therefore, has just launched its Green Business Directory, a useful resource for businesses looking to install energy-efficient , low carbon, technologies, accessible through the Carbon Trust’s website. The suppliers in the directory have been independently assessed and accredited via the Carbon Trust Accredited Supplier scheme.
Any lighting investment decisions based purely on energy savings alone of the various lighting technologies is likely to prove wrong for two reasons: 1) there are other cost considerations, like maintenance, and 2) product longevity varies widely. A good example of this is LED lighting, where not only have there been great technical advances but prices are falling. As solid state semiconductor technology with no air, glass, mercury or fragile filaments, LEDs can now typically last 100,000 hours compared with earlier models of 20,000 hours, but they can also deliver big savings on maintenance costs as well as better light quality. High pressure sodium (HPS) lamps, for example, could burn cargo dust onto their polycarbonate lens owing to their heat generation, thus greatly impairing their performance. The consequent maintenance costs, therefore, can far outweigh any gains from energy savings, depending on light usage.
It is possible to achieve a return on investment with LED lighting in just over one year but the finance issue should not be a worry because the case for LED, or any other type of appropriate lighting, is a no brainer. While the current credit squeeze makes access to normal channels of financing more difficult, schemes like the Energy Efficiency Financing, a joint arrangement between the Carbon Trust and Siemens, makes finance more accessible. Given that loans from the Trust can be interest free, the EEF scheme not only makes financing cheap it also matches payments to real monthly energy cost savings, so that firms effectively pay no extra for their new lighting. The Government’s Enhanced Capital Allowance scheme also means businesses can offset the whole investment cost in the first year against tax, and any ‘green’ lighting could help achieve compliance with the Energy Act 2011, enforceable from 2018.
Looking to the future, it seems LED lighting promises even more technical improvement that leave other lighting types in the shade. In the next two or three years LEDs will become far more powerful and use 30-40% less energy than today. There should also be big advances in colour rendering, moving from a CRI of 70 today to the 100 experienced in natural daylight. If these advances could be retrofitted to existing warehouse LEDs at acceptable cost then they would enhance the case for choosing LEDs now.