Sure, contractors and lighting professionals are well-versed in analyzing the financial impact and cost benefits of the lighting upgrades they conduct for customers. Citing payback periods and returns on investment — and even some of the more sophisticated measures, such as internal rates of return and net present value — the industry routinely designs entire lighting upgrade proposals around the attractive financial opportunities that upgrades can deliver, not to mention the significant boost they can add to a company's bottom line. But what about the all-important environmental benefits of a lighting upgrade? Imagine how compelling it would be for proposals to also demonstrate, in very quantifiable terms, the green contribution that an end-user's lighting upgrade is making to the environment.

The adverse effects of our nation's current levels of electricity use on the environment are staggering. Recent statistics from the DOE's Energy Information Administration reveal that some 2.5 billion tons of pollutants, including sulfur dioxide (SO2), nitrogen oxides (NOx), and carbon dioxide (CO2), are emitted into the atmosphere every year as a byproduct of electricity generation by utility companies. Over time, emission of these pollutants has waged profound negative effects on the environment, contributing to the depletion of the ozone layer, increased levels of acid rain, and the heightened prevalence of cardiac and respiratory ailments among the population.

Lighting upgrades, however, involving products such as energy-efficient lamps, ballasts, and lighting controls, make great strides toward offsetting these adverse effects on the environment and reducing our ecological footprint. By using the following formulas derived from a 2009 energy-savings calculator developed by the EPA and DOE, contractors can build this critical element into the lighting upgrade proposals they develop for their customers — identifying the “green” aspect of the project or the CO2 reduction and air pollution reduction equivalence (in terms of acres of trees planted and cars removed from U.S. roads) that an end-user's lighting upgrade is driving. Provision of this kind of environmental data will help contractors to deliver greater informational value to their customers as well as raise awareness of this important but often overlooked lighting upgrade benefit.

The calculation tool

Though originally calculated based on the environmental benefits associated with conversion of one conventional, less-efficient bulb to an Energy Star-rated compact fluorescent lamp (CFL), the following formulas (see Air Pollution Reduction Delivered by a Lighting Upgrade) have been broadened so that they can now apply to any size lighting upgrade project involving any lighting technology. Let's look at the following lighting upgrade scenarios as examples to demonstrate the use of these formulas:

Example 1: Retail Store

Old technology: 40W halogen PARs

New technology: 11W LED PARs

Watts saved per fixture: 29

Number of fixtures: 50

Benefit in terms of pounds of CO2 emission avoided over the life of the new lamps*:

15.4 lb × 29W saved/fixture × 50 fixtures = 22,330 lb of CO2

Benefit in terms of equivalent number of cars removed from U.S. roads annually:

.0013/W saved × 29W saved/fixture × 50 fixtures = 1.9 cars removed annually

Benefit in terms of equivalent number of acres of trees planted:

.0015/W saved × 29W saved/fixture × 50 fixtures = 2.2 acres of trees planted

* Life estimated at 8,000 hr to 10,000 hr, so environmental benefits may be even greater if lamp life span is longer

Example 2: Commercial Building

Old technology: 40W T12 lamps with magnetic ballasts

New technology: Energy-saving 25W T8 lamps with electronic ballasts

Watts saved per fixture: 15 (simple calculation without additional savings from ballast)

Number of fixtures: 10,000

Benefit in terms of pounds of CO2 emission avoided over the life of the new lamps*:

15.4 lb × 15W saved/fixture × 10,000 fixtures = 2.31 million lb of CO2

Benefit in terms of equivalent number of cars removed from U.S. roads annually:

.0013/W saved × 15W saved/fixture × 10,000 fixtures = 195 cars removed annually

Benefit in terms of equivalent number of acres of trees planted:

.0015/W saved × 15W saved/fixture × 10,000 fixtures = 225 acres of trees planted

* Life estimated at 8,000 hr to 10,000 hr, so environmental benefits may be even greater if lamp life span is longer

As the examples show, a lighting upgrade of any size can have a beneficial effect on the environment, and lighting proposals can now be enhanced to demonstrate the green contribution associated with an end-user's lighting upgrade.

Deliver green value

On top of their attractive financial benefits, energy-efficient lighting upgrades within the country's 5 million commercial, industrial, and institutional buildings do a great deal more than reduce energy costs, improve productivity, and enhance system quality. They also significantly benefit the environment and help conserve precious natural resources. So next time, don't hesitate to include an assessment of the green element in your analysis of a lighting upgrade project using the simple guidelines above. It will not only enhance the quality of your proposals, but will also help your customers understand how their actions are helping to drive a more energy-efficient future for generations to come.

Susan Bloom, a freelancer and consultant, is an 18-year veteran of the lighting and electrical products industry based in central New Jersey. She can be reached at susan.bloom.chester@gmail.com.


Sidebar: Air Pollution Reduction Delivered by a Lighting Upgrade* (in terms of)

  • Pounds of CO2 emission avoided over the life of the new lamp:** 15.4 lb/W saved
  • Equivalent number of cars removed from U.S. roads annually: 0.0013/W saved
  • Equivalent number of acres of trees planted: 0.0015/W saved

* Extrapolated from 2009 EPA/DOE energy-savings calculator based on the benefits of conversion to a CFL

** Based on estimated 8,000-hr to 10,000-hr lamp life