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News | Oct. 24, 2008

Elmendorf saves thousands on new lighting

By Senior Airman Laura Turner 3rd Wing Public Affairs

As we look around at the snow and ice, it is hard to believe this is truly the month of October. The colder weather makes this the perfect time for Energy Awareness Month. You may wonder what changes Elmendorf is making during the current economic crisis to preserve energy and save money.

Major projects for Elmendorf involve the replacement of lighting in many of our buildings. Lighting systems are responsible for about 35 percent of the electricity costs in a typical commercial building and 10 percent in industrial settings. On a base this size with hangars, maintenance buildings, and aged lighting systems, it's not hard to imagine how important these projects are. Not only will they save the Air Force money, they will make for a more comfortable working environment.

"When it comes right down to it, people don't like working in uncomfortable conditions. For example, in rooms that are too hot or too cold or poorly lit," said Francis Sheridan, Resource Efficiency Manager for Elmendorf. "People want to be comfortable in their work environment. How do you put a price on that?"

Elmendorf has already kicked off on this lighting project by replacing a large number of T12 fluorescent tubes and magnetic ballasts with newer, more efficient T8 lamps and electronic ballasts. Up to 35 percent can be saved on energy cost by using the T8 lighting system. It offers longer equipment life, thereby reducing both maintenance and disposal costs. T8 lamps can last up to seven years in a typical office application when matched with the correct ballast.

There are also a few comfort benefits the T8's offer.
"They operate on a quieter level and eliminate that hum often associated with the old T12 lighting systems," said Mr. Sheridan.

Electronic ballasts drive fluorescent lamps at 20 kilohertz (kHz), a frequency well beyond the visible range of flicker to the human eye. This significantly reduces eye strain in the work place. These ballasts also generate less heat, which reduces cooling loads, and they consume fewer watts than magnetic ballasts.

One more benefit of the T8 lamp is the improved Color Rendering Index, which is a measure of how well artificial light reflects color. This helps us to understand the importance of changing the lighting in our hangars and maintenance buildings on Elmendorf.

"Maintainers and mechanics often work with small wires of a different color variety. The new lighting systems will make their job easier by allowing them to better differentiate among the various colors," Mr. Sheridan said.

Both high-bay and office lighting have already been replaced in Hangars 1, 2, and 3, AGE 8326, the Heavy Equipment Shop, Snow Barn, and Hangar 8. Work begins soon on Furniture Storage 4241 and the Susitna Club. These projects are estimated to save the Air Force $254,913 annually. Building 6211 is currently about halfway through its lighting retrofit, and lighting proposals have been submitted to the Department of Defense for warehouses 4251, 5250, and 5257. Lighting retrofit proposals for another eleven large facilities have been submitted to PACAF for Fiscal Year 2009 funding.

Keep in mind as Energy Awareness Month ends the things that you can do to help both yourselves and others in the fight to preserve energy. People can help by turning off lights in vacant rooms. Think about using light switch motion sensors at home, and for incandescent lamps that are used frequently, compact fluorescent lamps will save money.

Remind your friends and co-workers that they can help as well. Remember this common question so often heard in the military: How am I contributing to 'the fight?'

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