In the early 1980’s I worked for an Electrical Contractor, the economy was down in the Dump and everyone was trying to cut cost any way they could.
We were hired by a company that did energy surveys and worked with the client to get rebates from various funds. We removed many nice fixtures and replaced them with cheap fluorescent fixtures that were recommended by this energy saving consultant. The client was getting what was promised to them, a lower monthly bill, what they were giving up would become evident. The exterior of a restaurant went from having a nice warm glow to a bluish fluorescent glow, the interior went from an atmosphere that had dim subtle lighting that was inviting to stay a while and enjoy, became a commercial environment with the ballast Hum and lighting that makes all our make-up look, made Up. An environment that you can’t wait to leave, and may not return.
After a while and after many complaints the Business owners migrated to dimmable fixtures and Dimmers and they realized that by using dimmers on as many lights that they can they have the option to set the scene and enhance the Moods of their customers and save money at the same time.
We are back in the early 1980’s; we are once again listening to Energy saving consultants that enter all the data into a form and out comes the design. The design say’s to remove all incandescent lamps and replace them with CFL’s and replace the dimmer with a switch. The design states that the incandescent uses 150 watts of power and a CFL only uses 27 watts of power, no brainier right?
The design does not tell the client that the 150 watt incandescent uses 75 watts if dimmed half way and that, dimming lights creates relaxing and comfortable moods and customers may return just because of the relaxing and comfortable moods.
I was recently offered a lighting retrofit project that had all those similar items from back in the 80’s except now there is a different line item that needs to be done. The scope called for all T12 ballast and lamps to be replaced with T8 Ballast and lamps (This is good) and it also called for all T12 ballast and lamps to be recycled due to the hazardous metals inside them (This is Bad).
To recycle a ballast you purchase a 5 gallon bucket that is sent to you empty and you fill it with as many ballast as you can, did I mention that the price of the Pre-paid 5 gallon Ballast recycling bucket is $105 American dollars, so, you will be playing Tetris with those ballast. So for those of you that believe, that, this is a reasonable cost, the ballast is a magnetic transformer that is composed of several thousand yards of fine copper wire coated with a fine layer of insulating varnish to keep it from shorting out, then all this is enclosed in a sheet metal enclosure. So when recycled you end up with metal from the case and copper from the windings, and you know that copper is a valued commodity that is why people are stealing copper wire from anywhere they find it.
To recycle a T12 fluorescent lamp you purchase a prepaid box that holds about 60 T12 lamps for the small cost of $107 dollars, now what is in this T12 lamp that demands so much to recycle?
Well there is glass, there is aluminum, there is mercury, and coiled tungsten, all these ingredients are resold by the recycler. Now most recyclers are funded by State or Federal grants that derive their money from the Tax payer, so let me paint this circle of life, you purchase a fluorescent lamp and you get charged a recycle fee, you use the lamp, the lamp’s life ends, you pay to recycle (again) and when you do your taxes a bit goes to a grant to recycle that lamp.
This time around this facility only needs to recycle the T12 lamps and ballast, but next time that it gets re-lamped they will need to recycle the T8 lamps and all the CFL’s that replaced the incandescent lamps this time around.
The point that I would like to make is that it is smart to Dim, dimming saves energy, save lamp life, saves relationships, and most of all saves the environment, although you can dim some fluorescent fixtures the effect is not the same and the cost is high. Use Halogen lamps controlled by a dimmer like Lutron’s Maestro or go to a Radio RA2 system, or better yet pamper yourself with a Lutron HomeWorks System.