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SEPCO's blog on all things renewable and green

3 Types of Solar Street Light Retrofit Systems

Posted by SEPCO

7/22/14 9:30 AM

So you are purchasing a new property and the street lighting is standard electric. But maybe you are looking to be a green company, or want to reduce costs, or maybe even both. There are a couple ways you can complete a solar street light retrofit and complete both goals.

Grid Intertie Systems

Solar_Street_Light_Retrofit_Grid_Intertie

The first type of solar street light retrofit system you can install would be a grid intertied system. Installing a solar panel on the existing poles to feed the grid during the day and then utilizing the grid power at night will help offset some costs and provide a green alternative. Depending on how much power you want to generate during the day determines the size of the solar panel to install. Work with a local electrical contractor to decide what you will need and the local power company to put on a special device that tracks your power generation. Also, make sure to switch to energy efficient LED fixtures to maximize your savings.

 

Off Grid Systems

Solar_Street_Light_Retrofit_Off_Grid

Second type of solar street light retrofit would be to take the systems off grid completely by installing and off grid solar powered street light. These systems charge a battery assembly during the day to provide the power to the light at night. The solar panel assembly works as a photocell to turn the light fixture on and off and typically provides five nights autonomy. This setup is more expensive to purchase, but provides free energy for the life of the systems, typically 30 years or more, with only the batteries to replace every five to seven years.

Battery Backup Systems

Solar_Street_Light_Retrofit_Battery_Backup

Battery backup systems are the best of both worlds. With a battery backup system, you generate the power for the batteries, typically smaller battery assemblies than complete off grid systems, and feed excess power to the grid. The batteries can either run the lights for a set amount of time at night followed by grid power for the remainder of the night, or only be utilized if there is a power outage in the area; a great idea for areas without reliable grid energy. This setup can also work with a larger battery backup and a trickle charger to provide multiple day storage like off grid systems but only be activated in times of grid outages.

There you have it. There are pros and cons to each type of system which we will cover next time. What type of solar street light retrofit do you prefer?

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Topics: Solar Lighting, LED Lighting, Street 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

6 Steps for Businesses Who Are Ready to Light Their Parking Lots

Posted by SEPCO

5/29/14 9:30 AM

Parking_Lot

Want to provide more safety and security to customers and employees? Provide good lighting to prevent theft and vandalism. Here are six steps to completing a lighting project for a business parking lot.

Step 1 – Identify the area that is requiring lighting

What is the total size of your parking lot? How many cars can it fit? Does the parking lot wrap around your building or is it just to the front? Identifying the entire area that needs to be lit is the first step in the design process whether the parking lot already exists or is still in development and design phases.

Step 2 – Determine how long the lights need to operate

Is your business open all night or just until 10pm? When do the employees go home? When does it open in the morning? Does the parking lot require all night lighting or can they shut off a couple hours after your business closes and then on again before it opens? The less the lights have to operate, the lower the power usage will be. Even cutting back 3-4 hours a night can provide a drastic change to the energy requirements.

Step 3 – Research the lighting requirements of your area

Different cities have different lighting requirements, especially for businesses. Contact your local municipality to find out what their lighting requirements for your business are. Higher lighting levels can be required in more urban areas where lower lighting levels can sometimes be used in rural areas. Knowing standard IES requirements are also a great place to start when looking into lighting levels.

Step 4 – Speak to your lighting designer

Now that you have determined the area you need illuminated, the time the lights need to operate and the lighting requirements, it is time to talk to your lighting designer. They will help you determine the best fixture, height of fixture mounting, placement, etc. to complete the project successfully. They should also provide you a lighting layout to show you how your design will look once installed.

Step 5 – Figure where the poles would need to be installed

Once you receive your layout from the lighting designer make sure it fits well within the parking lot. Double check and see if poles are going to be installed in medians, on the edge of the roadway, in-between spaces, etc. This is also a good time to determine if you want to use an anchor base or direct burial pole, if the pole needs a foundation, and many other factors that can vary before final installation.

Step 6 – Decide if you want to use solar powered parking lot lights

The final step is to decide if you want solar powered parking lot lights or standard grid tied electrical lights. If your parking lot already exists or is still in development and planning phases, and there is no electric existing where the lights need to be installed, opt for a solar powered solution. This will cost less than bringing in the power lines, especially when trenching the lines or tearing up existing concrete, while also providing you lower costs overall as there will be no electric bill ever for the lighting.

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Topics: Solar Lighting, LED Lighting, Parking Lot Lighting, Solar Lighting Design

Eagle Scout Honors Veterans Lighting Freedom Rock at Night with Solar

Posted by SEPCO

5/22/14 9:30 AM

Freedom_Rock_1

Recently SEPCO took part in supplying Eagle Scout David S. with solar lighting for a project he did for his local Eagle Scout troop in Greenfield Iowa. Out on Hwy 25 stands an old graffiti rock that artist Ray “Bubba” Sorensen began to paint yearly since 1999 on Memorial Day each year.  Sorensen paints the rock with his own money along with donations and sales of Freedom Rock merchandise.  The purpose of this rock is to pay respect and thank U.S. veterans and their families for their service and sacrifice to our country.  Over the years word of the rock spread and it has become a popular site for tourist and most notably veterans to visit each year. Looking through previous years images of the rock it is amazing that one person is responsible for such a beautiful sight.

Freedom_Rock_2

Last year David contacted SEPCO with his idea to relight the rock using solar lighting versus the single mercury vapor light that was failing. The old light did not do the rock much justice and was dim and needed to be replaced. The rock is visited both day and night primarily by motorcyclist traveling the road. Lighting at night of the rock is very important so the failing light needed replaced.  After meeting with the local co-op that manages the fixture David was given the go ahead to start his project, the co-op even volunteering to install the new equipment once it arrives.

Freedom-Rock-3

David’s project was recently finished and shortly after the install storms rolled in putting the lighting to the test from the first day. The light is working great and has been a great new addition to the Freedom Rock, SEPCO is proud to be a part of this project.   This has brought more attention to solar lighting in the area prompting others to inquire about what we can do for them.  We are glad we can help light the earth one solar light at a time. 

Freedom_Rock_at_Night

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Topics: Solar Lighting, LED Lighting, Landscape Lighting

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

Now You Can Have Great Light with LEDs

Posted by SEPCO

3/6/14 9:30 AM

SunshineNatural sunlight will always be the best light possible; however, LED lights can come very close to the natural sunlight. When LEDs started, the bluish light was very harsh on the eyes, but the technology has come a long way and there are many benefits to using LED lights today.

Most LEDs are running at about 5000 Kelvin for color temperature while the sun runs at about 6500 Kelvin. There are still the standard warm light and soft white colors available if you are not looking for too bright of a light; however, for nighttime outdoor use, as close to daylight will allow you to see the best.

LEDs also provide a much longer light as the LEDs last years, 15 years or more. On top of that, they use a fraction of the power than standard lamp options; granted incandescent lamps are being phased out at this point. The long life and lower power usage provides huge savings over the life of the lamp.

When using solar, LEDs will stay the go to option as they run directly from DC power and do not require any additional equipment to convert the energy produced by the solar panel to operate the fixture. This lowers the usage of the lamp as there is no loss in power for converters or inverters. In the end, this lower the size of the solar power system required to run the light and again saves money.

Replacing all lights with LEDs immediately may not be feasible as LEDs are more expensive for initial purchase, but as lights go out, either inside or outside, household or commercial, changing over to LEDs over time may be easier on the budget. And as the savings to your power usage adds up, you will easily be able to put the newly freed up funds into changing over more and more to LED. Then just sit back and let the light shine on.
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Topics: LED Lighting

6 Ways LED Technology is Changing the Signage Industry

Posted by SEPCO

12/5/13 9:30 AM

LED-Lighting-With-CE-RoHSSigns have long been a popular way of marketing, posting warnings or communicating information. Traditional printed or lit signs offer limited flexibility and visibility. Fluorescent signs offer improved visibility but are prone to damage and less energy efficient. These are six ways that LED technology is changing the signage industry.

1. Going Green with LED Signage

With the emphasis on sustainable and eco-friendly products, LED signage offers increased green benefits over nearly any other form of signage. From reprogramming existing signs to recycling old signage, disposing of old signage is easier and more affordable than traditional signage as well.

2. Interactive and Moving Signage

LED technologies make it possible to do more than simply convey a message. From flashing text and high-contrast colors to full images and animations, LED signs allow businesses to increase engagement and promote their message, product or service with greater results. In many cases, LED signage is also brighter than other forms of signage for increased visibility and easier reading from a distance.

3. Less Upkeep and Maintenance Costs

Due to reduced energy costs and increased bulb lifetime, LED signage is more affordable to implement and maintain that other forms of signage. The U.S. Department of Energy reports that the average LED can have a useful life of 25,000 hours of longer. They also produce light using a fraction of the electricity of traditional bulbs. The Department of Energy predicts that their plan to switch to LED lighting could save $250-billion in energy costs and replacement costs.

4. Larger Signage is Possible Due to Reduced Weight

Due to their compact size and lightweight design, LEDs allow for increased flexibility in sign placement and larger overall dimensions without risking damage to signage or structures. They also offer a greater variety of options for focusing light. This allows larger signage without worry of light pollution or interference with the visibility of other signage nearby. Many LEDs are designed for long-lasting outdoor use, making LEDs an excellent option for signage.

5. Improved Safety through LED Signage

Unlike incandescent, fluorescent or neon signage, LED signage releases very little heat. This allows for safer long-term usage. LED signage also uses a fraction of the electricity, with some requiring as little as 10-watts, to reduce the risk of electrical hazards or stress to wiring systems. This also makes it possible to utilize solar panels or other alternative solutions to easily light LED signage without the need to modify existing wiring.

6. Signage is Adaptable and Easy to Change without Costly Redesigns

Most LED signage uses a matrix of red, blue and green LEDs to create a wide spectrum of colors. This means that if you need to change the content of your signage, it is often as simple as reprogramming the board that powers the display. Instead of replacing bulbs or entire signs, reconfiguring an existing LED sign is as simple as connecting to the controller and implementing changes.

LED signage is changing the way that businesses think about advertising and signage placement. From reduced energy costs and longer service life to improved visibility and the ability to animate signage, there are plenty of reasons to consider upgrading your existing signage to LED-based solutions.

About the Author: Willie Pena is a freelance writer, video producer, visual artist, and music producer. He prefers the Oxford comma. In addition to writing for firms such as Icon Identity Solutions, IBM, Colgate, Transunion, Webroot and a multitude of private clients and websites, he also shoots, directs, and edits the hit celebrity web series “Teens Wanna Know”. Catch his rare blog posts on williepena.com, and connect with him on Google+, LinkedIn.

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Topics: LED Lighting, Sign Lighting

LED Lighting: A Natural Choice For Your Next Renovation

Posted by SEPCO

11/12/13 9:30 AM

When renovating a property, or part of your home, lighting is often an aspect which is left until the end. Planning ahead can give you the opportunity to update and even integrate your lighting, providing light where it is needed, and potentially reducing your bills in the process.

LED_Lighting_A_Natural_Choice_For_Your_Next_Renovation

What Is LED Lighting?

While you may have heard about LED lighting, you would be forgiven for not knowing much more about it than the name. People of a certain age will be immediately reminded of the little red lights used in electronics classes in school and may be possibly wondering how that is going to light your kitchen or bathroom successfully, but the technology has come on in leaps and bounds.

LED (again as you may remember) stands for light emitting diode, wherein the electrical current which passes through produces light by energizing the chips in the diode. Unlike conventional filament lights, more energy is produced in the form of light than heat thus making LED lights far more efficient. This LED lighting resource will take you through some of the reasons why this form of lighting is certainly worth consideration as part of your next renovation.

Lighting As A Design Feature

Whereas lighting was once a purely functional part of the design of buildings, it now takes on a far more aesthetic role, making an impact on the mood of a room, and affecting greatly how a space may be viewed or even used. Whilst lighting becomes more important in the design, it can also help to almost elevate certain buildings into the realms of artworks. Lighting can help to bring out other architectural or design features in a room, drawing the eyes to certain places. The versatility of LED lights can help to achieve this.

LED Lights Have An Extended Life Span

According to the manufacturers' guidelines surrounding LED lights, they can last for an incredibly long time. When used in the manner specified by the manufacturer, a light can last for up to 50,000 hours (which equates to over five and a half years of continuous use), which makes them ideal for use within the home. Whilst the initial installation of fixtures may cost more than conventional lighting, the extended life of the lights will balance this initial outlay.

Vastly More Energy Efficient

It almost seems like a weekly occurrence that one of the energy companies announces a price hike. As all of us look to conserve energy, whether for ecological or economic reasons, LED lighting can have a profound effect on the energy used to light your home. A vast amount of light is produced in return for a relatively small amount of energy used with an LED light, which is in stark contrast to filament lights which use only around 10% of the energy they need to supply light, with the other 90% actually producing heat.

Lighting In Specific Areas

Lighting produced by LED lights is very controllable and directional. This makes it vastly different to light produced by traditional bulbs, which is seen as omnidirectional. Light from an LED bulb can be focused and placed on a specific spot providing accent to a space. Contacting an LED lighting manufacturer can help you answer any questions not covered in this LED lighting resource. Whether changing your lighting for aesthetic or energy saving reasons, the versatility and efficiency of LED lighting makes it possibly the only serious choice when renovating your home or commercial building.

About the Author: James Holden is the digital content manager of Visible Lighting and has many years’ experience in the LED Lighting industry. To find out more information on James Holden, you can follow him on Google Plus.

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Topics: LED Lighting

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