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SEPCO's blog on all things renewable and green

Eco-Friendly Building with Solar Powered Parking Lot Lights

Posted by SEPCO

8/3/15 10:00 AM

Hilo Hawaii Solar Powered Parking Lot LightsLooking to build a new place of business or take over an existing building that has no lighting available? Well there is something you can do that will keep costs low, provide a sustainable option, and the installation will preserve the already installed structures. What more could you ask for.

Solar powered parking lot lights can be installed even on an already existing parking lot since all the wiring and electric needed is located at the top of the pole. There is no need to rip up the existing parking area to bring in outside electric, just set the pole, put the solar power assembly at the top with the solar light fixture below, and wait for dark. The light will automatically come on at dusk and run the scheduled operation schedule the end user requires. 

Since no trenching of existing parking lot infrastructure is required, the solar will save on costs of installation as well as provide a zero cost to the electric bill of the facility. This makes solar the go-to option for many existing parking lots that have older cables that are starting to fail. The solar will also provide LEED points for companies looking for that green solution. 

Decorative Solar Parking Lot LightDon’t want standard parking lot fixtures? That’s fine. With solar powered LED light fixtures there are many options available today. Decorative style solar light fixtures can be used to provide architectural fixtures that work well with the surrounding area. By utilizing similar, or even the exact same LED boards in some case, the decorative fixtures can provide the same lighting levels as the standard commercial style fixtures. This provides many more options for meeting architectural and aesthetic requirements of the area. 

These fixtures can also provide directional lighting for less light pollution, better visibility, more even lighting levels, and many are even dark sky certified, meaning the light does not trespass upward into the sky. Non dark sky certified lights provide a lot of wasted light and energy, costing more in the long run and harm the environment as well. 

What about building perimeters you ask? Solar lights can do that as well. There are wall mounted fixtures that can have the solar mounted on the wall or roof of the building. One solar power system can even provide power to multiple fixtures or even the lighted sign on the building. There are many options with perimeter lighting systems including style of solar light fixtures ranging from standard wall packs to larger flood lights. These lights can operate the same as the parking lot areas or on a separate schedule since they are independent from the rest of the light systems installed.

Finally, if you don’t want to pay a power company to power your lights, solar is a great option. Since solar power is renewable and doesn’t cost anything, there are no additional costs to companies who utilize solar for their parking lots. Ask for a ROI analysis from your provider to find out how much you can actually save. You may be amazed at the results.

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Editor's Note: This post was originally published in May 2012 and has been completely revamped and updated for accuracy and comprehensiveness. 

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Topics: Solar Lighting, General Lighting, Parking Lot Lighting

Options for Commercial Solar Outdoor Lighting Systems

Posted by SEPCO

7/13/15 10:00 AM

Old-vs-New.jpg

About 15 years ago or so, there were very few options for commercial solar outdoor lighting systems, but as technologies advance, more and more options are available for a custom system for your application. Solar light fixtures have advanced through the use of LEDs and aimed optics to allow for a range of commercial and decorative style lighting systems. Controls have also advanced to allow for adaptive lighting, motion operation, split timing and so much more. Solar has also come down in price while increased in efficiency for the size of the panels.

Solar Light Fixtures:

Old style Cobrahead, flood and shoebox style fixtures were about all that was used years ago when it came to your selection of light fixtures. The need for reflectors, refractors, and so much other equipment was required to get the light to shine down on the ground. Uplight started becoming a large problem with the light fixtures casting light in all directions.

With new solar light fixtures, we are able to direct the light where we need it. Uplight has been almost eliminated and the style line has increased to almost infinite possibilities. Using the same light board in one fixture as another allows for a range of fixtures to produce the same lighting pattern and levels as there industrial counterparts. This is great news for anyone looking for an option to match the architectural needs of an area.

Control Options:

Controllers have advanced in so many ways. Instead of just dusk to dawn or dusk for a number of hours, we are now able to do split timing, adaptive controls and so much more. Split timing allows for the lights to operate after dusk and before dawn for areas where all night lighting is not required. Dimming the LEDs has also become an option to lower the requirements of the solar and the added ability to increase to full where motion is detected has allowed for this to be used in more applications.

Please note that many manufacturers will allow for adaptive lighting in all systems and you should always be aware of exactly the programming provided for your system before purchase. This should be especially paid attention to when strict dusk to dawn is a requirement of your project. Request an exact operation schedule that includes a light plan of the light at full and at dimming. This way you ensure you will never be left in the dark.

Solar Power Assemblies:

Solar has increased in the power output for size. What used to take up a large area at the top of the pole has now been able to become much smaller in size, allowing for more light and power than before.  This is great for aesthetics since no more do you need a huge power array for a single light; well in most cases anyways.

Costs on solar power have also decreased drastically making the systems more affordable than before. The combination of increased power per size and decreased cost allow for the pricier LED fixtures to become mainstream and allowing for a complete system that was once only a dream. Powder coating of the metal work ties in the system that much more.

In the end, commerical solar lighting systems are moving right along by advancing along with the technology available. This is allowing for more and more options for the end user to customize a system to their exact need. The advances that have taken place over the last 10 years have been astonishing and I am excited to see what the next 10 years holds.

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Topics: Solar Lighting, General Lighting, LED Lighting, Solar Lighting Design

Wattage vs Lumens: Know the Difference for Better Lighting

Posted by SEPCO

7/10/14 9:30 AM

Wattage-vs-LumensWith the push for LED lighting, there is a lot to take into consideration now for lighting levels. One of the biggest arguments is a light Wattage versus the Lumens and determining brightness. The old way of looking at how bright a light will be is to look at the wattage; the higher the wattage the lamp is, the brighter it is. Now we need to focus on the Lumens of the lamp to determine the brightness of the lamp.

What is Wattage of a Light?

The Wattage of the light is the amount of energy it takes to produce a certain amount of light. The higher the wattage, the brighter the light, but also the more power it uses. The efficiency of this system was introduced using incandescent lamps.

For instance:

  • 40 Watt lamp produces only 380-460 lumens and uses 40 Watts of energy per hour.
  • 100 Watt lamp produces 1700 – 1800 lumens and uses 100 Watts of energy per hour.
  • Direct sunlight is around 100k lumens and uses no amount of energy per hour.

This was an inefficient way of lighting and there have been many advances, such as the introduction of fluorescent and compact fluorescent lighting as well as metal halide, low pressure sodium and high pressure sodium. Fluorescent and compact fluorescent produce better lighting with lower wattage. Metal halide, LPS and HPS produce better lighting, but typically using much higher wattage.

What is a Lumen of Light?

A lumen is the amount of light a certain lamp gives off. If replacing a standard 150 Watt light bulb which gives off around 2600 Lumens, using a 35 Watt LED is about the equivalent. This lowers the needed power of the light by over a quarter of the required power to produce the same light. A 70 Watt LED fixture can produce 5000 Lumens or more and replace most highway and parking lot lighting fixtures to a more efficient and cost effecting light. This is becoming more efficient every day.

Why this is important to solar lighting

Solar lighting needs to take into consideration both the Lumens and the Wattage of a lamp. The wattage provides the needed power from the solar power and battery system to power the solar light fixture for the required amount of time and the Lumens determines how much light is given off by the lamp. The more efficient the fixture or lamp is, the more efficient the solar and the lower the cost of the complete system. Solar lights are also typically lower to the ground and then can produce more lighting with a lower Watt lamp and using a higher Lumen efficiency. Want to know more about solar and LED lighting, check out: Why Solar Power and LED Lighting Makes a Perfect Combination

In the end, taking into consideration the lighting levels and Lumens over the Wattage of the lamp will provide a more energy efficient lighting system. Higher Lumen and lower Wattage lamps, especially with LEDs, will provide the best lighting with the lowest energy costs.
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Topics: Solar Lighting, General Lighting, LED Lighting, Solar Lighting Design

The Worst Advice We've Ever Heard about Lighting

Posted by SEPCO

5/20/14 9:30 AM

There are a lot of different ideas in the lighting industry about what good advice is and what is bad. Here is a quick overview of some of the worst lighting advice we’ve ever heard and why.

Light levels don’t matter

LightingMisconceptions.jpgLight levels are important to any lighting project. If you can’t see what you need to, then the light is useless. Light levels need to be taken into consideration. If it is a sign people need to be able to read it. If it in a parking lot safety and security is the primary concern. Light levels vary from project to project and must be task specific. You don’t want you back yard lit up like the middle of the afternoon, but you also don’t want a parking lot so dimly lit that if you drop your keys at night you can’t find them.

Color doesn’t matter

Have you ever looked at those yellow lights that you see along the highway? Compared to crisper white light, they are strenuous on your eyes. You are used to seeing things in the daylight, and sunlight is about 5900-7500 Kelvin. Granted at night you don’t need the sun shining down on you to see, but you want to see as close to natural light as possible for your eyes to recognize things. With the amber colored low pressure sodium lamps you can hardly tell the color of a car, but with whiter light produced by LEDs, you can easily recognize colors, shapes and details much easier. Granted, in environmental conditions, like coastal areas, low pressure sodium or amber light is necessary to reduce the impact on wildlife.

The higher the wattage, the better the light

Every application needs different lighting levels, but a higher wattage light does not always produce better light. LEDs provide amazing light at much lower wattages than any other type of lamp. You also don’t want a huge bright spot light on a small sign or a huge high powered flood light for a roadway that potentially blinds travelers. Instead, using the right wattage light to provide the task specific lighting will save money as there will be no wasted energy. It will also be easier on your eyes.

You need full intensity light all night long

Security purposes require full intensity lighting to happen all night; however, a lot of applications allow for a dimming option. Between certain hours of the night, wasting the energy on full intensity lighting when no one is there is just that, a waste. Instead, if the area still requires lighting, dimming the fixtures down, which is now possible with LEDs, can save money while still providing some light. There can even be motion activators in the area to bring the lights back to full intensity when there are people in the area. Having the lights suddenly spike back to full intensity would also alert anyone nearby that there is someone in the area triggering the lights.

So there you have it. What advice have you ever questioned that you have gotten about lighting?
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Topics: General Lighting, LED Lighting, Solar Lighting Design

What is CRI and How is it Affecting You?

Posted by SEPCO

5/8/14 9:30 AM

CRI_Differences

CRI stands for Color Rendition Index and is the quantitative measurement used to determine the color of a lamp’s light. The higher the CRI, the more true to sunlight the light is and the better sight you will have when trying to see details. Different CRI can be used in different settings for different reasons. Here is a few of those:

Indoor Lighting

For most indoor home lighting should provide a softer, warmer light typically around 3200 to 4500 Kelvin. This provides good lighting levels while also not being so bright to wash out the surrounding area. If reading or an indoor office setting, brighter lights, on the spectrum of 5000 Kelvin to 6500 Kelvin is typically used to mimic sunlight in an office setting, especially those with no available sunlight from windows or sky lights.

Outdoor Lighting

For outdoor lighting, staying closer to sunlight, from 4500 Kelvin up to 6500 Kelvin, for nighttime lighting provides best sight. Bright white lighting at night outside can provide the ability to see your keys if you drop them to more details of objects in the distance. This is important for safety and security of areas around homes and businesses.

There are instances, such as coastal and wildlife friendly areas that would require a much lower CRI due to the long wavelengths of the light. The longer wavelength still allows humans to see, but animals typically do not notice these lights.

Different Lighting Colors for Different Tasks

A study on the Effects of LED Color Temperature on Office Workers shows that people prefer a warmer light indoors when dealing with relaxing activities; however, a higher CRI when dealing with task specific activities such as reading or office work. Participants in these studies have indicated that they are less fatigued in brighter whiter lighted areas then with warmer light, but also felt more eye fatigue.

Overall, the lighting CRI in the different areas can affect your productivity and visibility. Choosing the appropriate light color can impact how you see as well as your energy levels. What is the CRI of the light that you like best?

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Topics: General Lighting, LED Lighting

What You Need To Know About Light Distribution Patterns

Posted by SEPCO

4/1/14 9:30 AM

Light-Distribution-PatternsThere are many different distribution patterns available with different lighting fixtures. Each distribution pattern provides a different lighting footprint on the ground to provide a light pattern for specific area light needs. The larger the distribution pattern, the larger area of light that is produced. Here is a quick overview of different lighting distributions.

Type II Distribution

Type II distributions provides a wide, round pattern  and is more suited for small streets and wide pathways. The fixture is placed in the center of where the light is required and the light is distributed in an oval type shape around the entire fixture area. The width of the light pattern on the ground is about 1.5 times wider than the mounting height of the fixture.

 

Type III Distribution

Type III distributions provides a wide, round pattern like that of Type II distribution; however the amount of light it provides is much larger and meant for roadways, parking lots and larger areas. The width of the light pattern on the ground is about 2.75 times wider than the mounting height of the fixture.

Type IV Distribution

Type IV distributions are a round pattern that is pushed out away from the fixture with little light falling behind the fixture. This is ideal for perimeters, security and walls or buildings. The width of the light pattern on the ground is still quite large, about 2.75 times wider than the mounting height of the fixture.

Type V Distribution

Type V distributions provide the largest, most even pattern of light. The light is pushed in all directions from the light fixture and is used for large parking areas or anywhere a large even pattern of light is required.

There you have it. When you decide what are you need lit, make sure you are asking for the correct distribution pattern for your application.
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Topics: Solar Lighting, General Lighting, LED Lighting, Solar Lighting Design

Uses for Discharge Lamps

Posted by SEPCO

2/20/14 9:30 AM

lampWhat are some of the main uses for discharge lamps? This type of lamp involves an internal electrical discharge being created between two electrodes in a gas filled chamber; the level of intensity generated by a discharge lamp can vary, and can range from low level wattage bulbs through to extreme intensities that can be used for filling large areas with light. There are consequently many different uses for discharge lamps. It’s worth looking at these uses and the kinds of discharge lamps available, in more detail. 

Discharge lamps can be highly effective at maintaining luminosity for an extended period of time. Their applications extend across a range of domestic and commercial areas, and are affected by the type of gas being used. For example, mercury discharge lamps can provide particularly high levels of brightness for outdoor use, as can sodium lights, which can produce the orange glow seen on street lamps. Fluorescent lights can also be used to create low pressure and constant levels of luminosity. 

Some of the other common uses for discharge lamps include neon signs, whereby electrodes are used with tubing to create different letters and graphics; the process of creating a neon light is fairly complex, and involves glassblowing and setting up different colors. Neon or mercury vapor with some argon elements are the common components for these tubes, which require high voltage sources to be able to run efficiently. 

In the case of high intensity discharge lamps, outdoor arenas can be lighted using lamps with extremely high voltages; lumen bulbs can also be used for smaller outdoor areas and warehouses, as well as on roadways to create long lasting, high intensity illumination. Indoor gardening can also be aided by the use of low intensity discharge lamps, as can underwater diving and bicycle headlamps, with each use employing different levels of intensity. 

When setting up discharge lamps, it’s necessary to fit a control gear, which acts as a transformer for the amount of charge passing through a bulb or tube. There are several different types of control gears available, which can include inductive control gears and electronic control gears, with the latter capable of limiting the amount of current passing through a lamp. Control gears can similarly be used to ignite lamps, and represent an important way of maintaining health and safety levels for different devices. 

Whatever the usage of a discharge lamp, it’s crucial to be able to understand the different amounts of current and voltage that’s being used; high intensity discharge lamps are particularly susceptible to overheating, and should be carefully monitored using iron ballasts and control gears. Lamps that contain sodium and mercury can also present a toxic risk, and should be carefully disposed of if they break. To this end, it’s important to make sure that you read up on the different types of discharge lamps available from suppliers before committing to a particular power level.

Author Bio:Tom Darnell blogs about effective lighting solutions for your home and his experiences as an electrician. He recommends using BLTDirect to pick up the latest discharge lamps. 

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Topics: General Lighting, Guest Post

Dark Sky Friendly Lighting is Necessary Now More Than Ever

Posted by SEPCO

1/14/14 9:30 AM

Ever look at a map from a satellite in orbit? Notice all the lights that you can see. What about looking up at night to find the stars in the sky? How much do you not actually see due to light pollution? These are some serious questions that are starting to be asked by more people. Light pollution is becoming a problem and dark sky friendly lighting is the key to solving this issue.

Sky_at_Night

What makes a dark sky friendly light?

A dark sky friendly light provides a distinct light pattern that is shielded from casting light above top of the fixture. This provides lighting only towards the ground where the lighting is required. It also uses the needed light levels and not over lighting an area which will reflect the light back up into the atmosphere. Finally, the lights should be turned off when not needed.

Non-dark sky light fixtures cast light in all directions, including upwards. This wastes energy, causes a twilight effect that confuses wildlife and disturbs breeding patterns. It also produces a glare for people driving on roads that can be distracting and tiresome for eyes.

 

Why are dark sky lights important?

Dark sky lighting is important as light pollution disrupts ecosystems and threatens astronomy. On top of that, the wasted light costs a lot in wasted energy, about $2.2 billion per year, in the US alone. Dark sky friendly fixtures push the lighting down where it is actually needed and not up into the atmosphere. This provides less glare and light pollution allowing wildlife to resume their natural rhythm as well as allowing astronomers, both large and small, to enjoy the night sky and be able to see the stars above.

 

How to easily make the change?

IDA-communityMaking the switch to dark sky friendly lighting is simple by changing the fixture to an IDA approved dark sky friendly fixture. Looking for the IDA seal provided by the International Dark-Sky Association on fixture specifications or talking to your lighting representative for their recommendation is the first step. Lighting levels are typically better than non-dark sky fixtures as lighting is cast only in a downward pattern towards the ground where the lighting is needed.

Talk to your lighting representative if you have fixture that push light in all directions and are not dark sky approved. You can also make sure to use dark sky fixtures on any new lighting projects. By switching the lighting to a full cutoff, dark sky approved fixtures will allow us to reclaim our nights and enjoy all the beauty they hold.

Img Src: The Telegraph

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Topics: General Lighting, Conservation, Dark Sky Friendly Lighting

Use Solar Outdoor Lighting for Energy Efficiency

Posted by SEPCO

11/29/12 9:30 AM

Commercial Solar Outdoor LightingLighting up any space, be it residential or commercial, can be an expensive endeavor. Between the cost of trenching, wiring and installation can make the lighting expensive to implement. And then after that you have the electrical costs every month to pay. Depending on the type and intensity of the light this can eat up a budget quickly.

Using solar outdoor lighting systems to provide the lighting can greatly reduce costs, help improve the environment and keep the electrical costs back in the bank where it belongs. Outdoor solar lights do not require any additional trenching or wiring since each unit provides its own power to the fixture. Installation is simple since all you have to do is set the pole and go. The light works on its own.

Small outdoor solar lights for homeowners are simple to install. Most come mounted on a stake that gets installed just about anywhere the light is required. There are even roof mounted solar flood lights that are motion activated and are used for security of the home and property. These lights can be found just about anywhere and provide the perfect solution for most homeowner applications.

Solar Outdoor LightingLarge solar lights for outdoors such as parking lot lighting, street lighting, security lighting, etc. require much more powerful lights that only a commercial solar light manufacturer can provide. These lights need to provide more foot-candles for people to be able to see properly. Electrical engineers can provide the requirements depending on the installation and the commercial solar lighting manufacturer can provide a lighting layout showing the requirements are able to be met.

Large scale solar light projects have a higher upfront cost; however, they provide a quick return on investment, especially if providing lighting to an area with no existing electrical infrastructure. Most commercial solar lights have a single power assembly for each light, typically installed on the top of the pole, and provides power to the light fixture all night. Other run profiles can be set up during the initial specification process. Other configurations include a large power system providing power to multiple fixtures. This is the only time additional wiring is required.

The energy benefits to each type of solar outdoor lighting is great since there is not additional costs after installation and they do not require the electrical grid to operate. With the number of power outages that happen all over, this will increase security. Best of all, they provide environmental benefits such as they do not use any fossil fuels or non-renewable energy resource. They get all the power they require from the sun, something that will be around for quite some time and is so far free for us to use.

Check out a great comparison of standard electrical lights versus solar lighting. You may be surprised to see the difference.

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Topics: Solar Lighting, General Lighting

Lighting a Commercial Space Needs to Be Energy Efficient

Posted by SEPCO

11/6/12 9:30 AM

Commercial LightingCommercial lighting is used in offices, shops and other organizations. It needs to be functional, aesthetically pleasing and environmentally friendly, but also inexpensive to install and run. There are many different options that can match these lighting needs that can be found both on and off line.

Commercial lighting is manufactured by a variety of specialists who work with other experts such as engineers and architects to provide the optimum lighting levels with functionality. Such lighting is supplied and installed on a large scale and has different standards and requirements from the types of lighting we use in our homes.

Commercial light fittings need to be functional and energy efficient. The lighting needs to look streamlined and have hard wearing properties. Weather resistant lighting needs to be used in exterior applications to provide years of functionality. The different types of lighting range from fluorescent, LED, uplighting, track lighting, etc. and floodlights and security lighting the outside of building. Parking lot lighting is also required for safety of people coming and going from the buildings.

Depending on the type and needs of the building, commercial lighting specialists can provide different lighting methods and provide lighting layouts to the customer. Retail lighting needs to provide the function of making a shoppers experience enjoyable without being intrusive or glaring. The light needs to show products in the best light but is not harsh to the eyes. Office lighting needs to make a busy environment conducive to work in. Most offices use long fluorescent tube lighting as it can provide maximum illumination, but is considerably cheaper to run than other lighting products. Fluorescent lighting also produces very little heat which makes a working environment more comfortable and lowers the cooling costs of the company.

Buildings can have many rooms including kitchens and bathrooms. Lighting specialists can provide classic, contemporary and traditional lighting solutions to fit into the architectural design of the building. Wherever the organization is located, it is possible to find commercial lighting specialists to provide the best, most environmentally friendly and economical lighting solutions. They work with architects, engineers, designers and electrical contractors who install the lights to meet the lighting needs of their clients and customers. 

The best place to start your research for a good commercial lighting company is online. There are thousands of lighting companies out there, so do your diligence and research what each company can provide you. 

Author Bio: Emily Hall runs a successful business of commercial lighting. She has a huge client base that includes famous industrialists to hotels and restaurant owners.

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Topics: General Lighting, Guest Post

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