Over half a million dirhams! This was the figure quoted to me a few months ago as the amount a client paid to replace 1,200 four-foot-long fluorescent tubes with all-new LED fixtures (with a five-year warranty) in a bid to reduce energy and maintenance costs in his car park. I do not know yet what the savings are going to be. However, I can tell you this much – it was not the wisest of decisions, as it is an unnecessarily large sum to pay, and the savings are unlikely to meet expectations.
Read on to find out why and what an informed manager would choose as the correct solution.
The building is only three years old, and the lighting assets were in good condition, with many years of useful life left in them, so why rip them out and incur such great expense? Building owners, operators and facilities managers want to save energy, but the challenge they face is to find an LED replacement for fluorescent tubes that will cope with the very high temperatures and long operating hours required for use in a car park environment without failing prematurely, as happens with fluorescent tubes and associated parts, which need constant replacement.
Not only is this constant replacement cycle a drain on finances, it is labour-intensive, disruptive and harmful to the environment, especially so as fluorescent tubes contain mercury and must be disposed of carefully. In addition, starters, and to a lesser degree, ballasts all frequently need replacing, which means more money, more time, more waste and more disruption. For many, a complete replacement fitting appears to be the only answer.
The building in question is in Abu Dhabi, where the commercial rate for electricity is only 20 fils per kWh, and with 1,200 tubes operating 24 hours a day, the annual electricity bill, including ballast wastage, for the original assets was AED 83,255.04. Let’s assume a generous saving of 65% for the replacement lighting, so the client is now recovering AED 54,115.77 per annum, a tidy sum for sure. If you then allow an extra AED 13,200 for reduced maintenance costs – for tube, starter and ballast replacement, excluding labour – that brings his total savings to AED 67,315.77 per annum.
But what is his ROI? It’s a very unattractive 7.87-year period! It’s 2.87 years beyond the warranty period! Now, imagine if there was a better, lower- cost, longer-lasting alternative. Well, there is, and it’s available now!
An innovative company in Europe has designed an amazing piece of technology that allows LED lights to operate without a driver. This removes a critical failure element from the LED scene, as it uses integrated solid-state circuitry to manage the voltage step down. But, it doesn’t stop there – the circuit also facilitates dimming, protects against over-voltage and, most importantly, protects against overheating.
Light Emitting Diodes are susceptible to heat and will burn out if they become too hot. This is one reason why more informed engineers and purchasing managers try to avoid standard LED fixtures for ambient temperature installations. With summer temperatures in the Middle East often reaching 50 degrees C, or close to it, most standard LEDs will fail, especially the retrofit types, like tubes and globes. With the new tubes from Europe, the problems are avoided.
Let’s revisit the scenario relating to the building in Abu Dhabi. Now, instead of ripping out the fixtures, we simply replace the tubes with LEDs employing driverless technology. All that needs to be done to the existing fitting is a simple internal rewire to bypass the ballast and starter, with power being supplied to only one G13 bi-pin connection.
The cost of replacing 1,200 fluorescent tubes has now decreased from AED 530,000 to AED 63,468, a whopping 82% reduction in replacement cost. With the resultant utility savings of AED 43,309.44 – estimated conservatively at 50% – plus the same AED 13,200 for replacement parts on fluorescent tubes, the annual savings is now AED 56,509.44, which offers a very aggressive ROI of 1.12 years, which is far, far better than 7.87 years.
Now consider the minimum lifespan of these modern tubes at seven years, which by the way, is the manufacturer’s warranty period, and you are suddenly presented with the only sensible option to replacing all those millions of fluorescent tubes, whether internally or externally situated.
Over the duration of the seven-year warranty period, 1,200 four-foot-long tubes will return AED 349,366.08 for an investment of AED 63,468 at current Abu Dhabi utility rates. Bright and intelligent building owners and operators will readily see this not as a cost but as an investment. After all, if your bank manager said, “Give me 63,468, and in seven years, I will return to you 349,366.08”, you would be queuing up to knock his door down, yes? And in Dubai, where utilities are higher, the return on an investment of 63,468 would be a massive 720,744.53.
These are astonishing figures, but of course, you only get what you pay for, so people shouldn’t run away with the idea that the advanced technology can be purchased for the same price as many other products in the market. All member countries of the GCC region are striving to reduce energy consumption, with Dubai endeavouring to shave off 30% by 2030. Utilising the new technology will go a long way in helping to achieve this, but only if those responsible for specifying and purchasing LED lighting replacements make a realistic appraisal as to the options available. It is all too easy to simply look at the purchase price, because it achieves a short-term advantage, but the clever, more educated approach would consider the cost of ownership over an extended period, not just the purchase price and, as a result, the owner, the operator, the country and the world will all be winners.
So, have you seen the light?
David Pryce is Sales & Marketing Director, Tellus Environmental Specialists. He may be contacted at email@example.com.
CPI Industry accepts no liability for the views or opinions expressed in this column, or for the consequences of any actions taken on the basis of the information provided here.