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15th August 2016
In the Dark and Out of Pocket
As power prices continue to rise, lighting upgrades are becoming an increasingly attractive way in which Strata buildings can save on their electricity bills.

These upgrades need to be undertaken with care however, or you could find yourself paying $10,000 a year in maintenance costs; as we recently uncovered thanks to one unscrupulous electrician.
The abundance of lit common areas within most strata buildings can provide excellent opportunities for lighting energy savings. This is especially true for car parks and fire stairs. These areas typically have fluorescent lighting running 24/7, which is a waste given how infrequently they are occupied.
Often this problem is solved in car parks with the installation of a motion sensor facing the garage and elevator doors. As soon as movement is detected the lights turn on and stay on for say 10 minutes. This is typically known as a sensor bank solution.
While this approach will result in significant energy savings, if someone is taking their time with the shopping or changing a tyre, after 10 minutes they are left in the dark, and have to find there way back to the sensor for another 10 minutes of light. And what happens if someone is injured due to the lights going off? Like this NSW council, you might find yourself in court, and in breach of your duty of care.

Adding sensors to lights that are not designed to be run with sensors can create other issues. Frequent turning on and off of florescent lighting can actually increase power use and shorten tube lifespan. Wattblock recently engaged a Meriton block in St. Ives on energy saving. The block had high maintenance costs of approximately $10,000 per year, driven by the need to replace basement car park tubes caused by this exact issue.
Replacement LED tubes may seem an obvious fix, and can typically save around 50% on energy costs when compared to fluorescent solutions. In many buildings however, the fittings are as old as the building and have a limited life span. There are also a range of compliance issue that also must me met.

For the majority of properties, it is better to look at a more complete solution: purpose built LED fittings. Many fittings now come with built in sensors and dimmable LEDs. These provide a certain level of light to meet compliance requirements and for safety when the space is not in use, and instantly brighten to the full lighting level as soon movement is detected near by.
Furthermore, sensors that come built in to individual light fittings mean that lighting can remain on even if someone is taking their time in the carpark, and can provide an extra level of security by drawing attention when someone is there that shouldn’t be. This type of solution can reduce energy consumption by up to 90% and significantly decrease maintenance costs, while satisfying safety and compliance requirements.
There are a wide range of lighting products and solutions available, varying significantly in effectiveness and quality. The cheaper option may seem more attractive, but can end up costing a great deal more.

For further reading see enLighten's Knowledge Centre.

Scott Witheridge
Contributor, Strata Energy News
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