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Friday, July 12, 2013
LEDs and Utility Rebates: Save the Environment AND Cash Money!
George Burman, an electrical
engineer and LEED Administrator for the UU church, began with a discussion of the
science behind LED technology. I promise to refrain from getting too technical
for those of you who, like me, tried very hard to understand concepts and do
well in Physics, but just fail to completely absorb it. *insert ashamed face
Save the Environment
Unlike incandescent bulbs that
produce light through heat generation, an LED has no filament. LEDs produce
light by applying lots of energy to a semiconductor, which is then stimulated
by the movement of electrons going from high to low energy levels. This process
creates photons, or LIGHT! Voilà! That wasn’t so confusing, was it? The only
process that took LED manufacturers some time to develop was “white” LED light.
The semiconductors are “doped” with an element, each determining a different monochromatic
color. They found that combining red, blue and green LEDs produces “white” light,
which explains the bluish or yellowish (red LED + green LED) tinges we see in most white LEDs.
Now for the goods: LEDs have high
efficacy (lumens/watt), long life (up to 22 years), small size, and come in
millions of colors. They don’t emit infrared radiation and ̶ here’s
the huge plus ̶ they don’t emit UV radiation either! So, inks
and dyes in paintings, photographs, etc. fade at a much slower rate under LED
light AND bugs are not attracted to it!
Unfortunately, there are a few drawbacks
to incorporating LEDs into building design including the initial high cost. You
also want to consider the poor color rendering index (CRI) of LEDs before
replacing your existing lighting system. (The CRI determines how good colors in
a painting, your clothes, etc. look under a type of light.) However, I think we
can agree that the environmental pros of LED lighting outweigh the few cons, if
we find integrating them to be in our budget of course!
Jason Guenther, a Customer
Relationship Manager at PG&E, concluded the evening with pinpointing
effective solutions to managing one’s energy use. To do this, we first need to
understand how we use energy daily. Everything from how long we use a hair
dryer in the morning to leaving a toaster plugged in overnight contributes to
excessive and unnecessary energy use. PG&E’s Customer Relationship
Managers, like Jason, can perform audits or bill analysis. Once PG&E has
adequately supplied you with information to understand how you use energy in
your home or business, you can develop a facility energy management plan and
implement PG&E’s recommendations, which fall under three categories:
Permanent Energy Reduction, Savings by Design and Demand Response.
The first step for permanent
energy reduction is to get an Energy
Assessment. They are available onsite, by phone or you could even set up a
DIY assessment on My Energy (who doesn’t like a good DIY project?). Next, improve the efficiency of how something
is used. For example, an office building’s AC system should be monitored. Not
only are we generally more productive at a comfortable 77 degrees (see this Cornell
study), but we shouldn’t waste energy turning a temporarily unused building
into an igloo every night. Another solution is to purchase and install energy
efficient products; you will receive rebates
for doing so! You can also get money back for purchasing and installing energy
efficient products through a customized
retrofit (money back is determined case-by-case).
For those in commercial building
construction and new building design, check out Savings By Design (SBD)
Resources. This program offers incentives for new construction that exceed the
latest version of Title 24. Note: DO NOT start construction before PG&E has
approved your application. You won’t see those incentives if PG&E hasn’t
approved you PRIOR to construction!
Finally, if you have a business,
PG&E has Demand
Response programs. These offer incentives for reducing a facility’s energy
use during times of peak demand (hot day, statewide emergency or power plant
failure). Turn things off that don’t NEED to be on during peak demand and
receive an incentive? That seems like an easy choice… I do it. So should you!