As a relative newbie to the green tech beat (and therefore the energy beat in generally), I am still surprised by how many of the terms that the insiders use harken back to farming. People talk about “feedstock” for generators. There are nuclear “silos,” of course. And there’s daylight “harvesting,” which is the subject of this blog.
My office at home is a perfect example of manual daylight harvesting, if there is such a thing. We have lots of trees on our properties that filter the light. So throughout the course of the day, I turn the lights off, open the blinds and move my computer monitor around in order to catch the best natural light while still having enough for my 40-something eyes to read. My pattern changes with the season.
For the time being at least, I’m fated to do this myself. But commercial facilities managers have better automatic options every day thanks to the world of green tech. One great example comes in the form of new fluorescent lighting ballasts (which are essentially voltage regulators) from Axis Technologies Group.
The link I’ve provided gives you more details, but in very simple terms, the Axis ballasts contain photo cells that sense different lighting levels and can dim fluorescent lights accordingly throughout the day. One of their products can handle up to seven different dimming positions, according to Axis CEO Kip Hirschbach. “It will go down to about 20 percent output, but it doesn’t actually shut the light off, which can be annoying to occupants,” Hirschbach says. Yes, indeed, it can.
The Axis ballasts work with virtually any four-foot fluorescent light fixture. Aside from new installations, the Lincoln, Neb., company is encouraging retrofits because some utility companies actually provide rebates and incentives for customers who have embraced daylight harvesting. One recent installation is Terminal B at the Dallas Fort Worth Airport. Axis has also scored with many schools and government buildings.
How much more can you expect to pay? Hirschbach figures the premium is from $25 to $30 compared with standard electronic ballasts. But when you figure that many commercial facilities have their lights on for more than 10 hours per day on average, the payback period can be less than a year (depending on the region of the country and the energy rates in the region).