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MCL Nov/Dec 2013 - An HOA's Look at Lighting Energy Efficiency
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An HOA's Look at Lighting Energy Efficiency

by Lynn Boergerhoff, Woodstock Townhome Association

Woodstock Homeowners Association has worked with the Center for Energy and Environment (CEE) to develop a plan to replace aging exterior garage lights with energy-efficient LED lights. We expect to save money through utility rebates that reduce the installation costs by about one third and through expected energy savings of more than 80%. Here’s how our process played out over 6 months, from our first contact with CEE to our first Board meeting discussion.

Woodstock HOA is a townhome-style condominium association in Bloomington, Minnesota. Woodstock has 67 buildings with either three or four family units in each building for a total of 227 units built in nine "Sections” from the mid-1970s to the mid-1990s. Each Section maintains garage lights mounted over its building’s garages. Please refer to the Woodstock Common Area Lighting map below.

The Center for Energy and Environment (CEE) has, since 1989, provided a range of practical and cost-effective programs to help Minnesota homeowners, businesses, nonprofits and governments reduce energy waste and save money. CEE services include audit and diagnostics to evaluate current conditions, preparation of energy and cost saving projections and administering energy savings initiatives. CEE and Xcel Energy partner to administer certain rebate programs.

Our goals were to maintain the right amount of lighting for safety and security, reduce lighting utility and maintenance costs, and maintain attractive lighting acceptable to homeowners. In addition to CEE, we found a number of helpful resources listed at the end of this article. Like many things is life, more light is not necessarily better light. In general, well-designed exterior lighting promotes safety, saves energy and money, is not intrusive to neighbors, reflects an association’s character and reduces risk to residents and wildlife. Safety is a special concern in driving and parking areas and in certain walking areas.

The process began with an email to CEE requesting a lighting energy audit. We were soon contacted by Charlie Ketchum, a lighting specialist, who worked with us throughout this project. Ketchum visited our Association to meet with representatives of our Board. He explained that he would conduct a detailed audit of our common area lighting then recommend options to replace our lights with LED lighting that would reduce energy use and cost and would be eligible for one or more energy rebate programs.

First, he established our energy use history by reviewing the previous year’s utility bills. This review included energy consumption and costs of operating our common area lighting for both the garage-mounted lights and pole lights throughout our association. Ketchum next opened and inspected about 80% of our 52 garage-mounted lights and several of the pole lights to identify the type of bulbs installed. Two of the 52 garage-mounted lights had been replaced with LED light fixtures and were excluded from the lighting analysis. Our common area lighting is controlled by photo light sensors that turn lights on at dusk and off at daylight. (Pictured at right — an original garage-mounted light fixture.)

Although bulbs of varying wattage were discovered in the existing fixtures that Ketchum inspected — ranging from 100W to 250W - the overwhelming majority were 150W Metal Halide. The fixtures themselves were identical, but bulb replacement over the years led to this inconsistency in the type of bulb being used. Because we wanted to determine an adequate replacement fixture for every unit, we focused on identifying an LED replacement equivalent to the 150W HID bulb. (HID or High Intensity Discharge, includes metal halide, mercury vapor, low/high pressure sodium.) This 150W bulb was used to estimate the average energy use and operating costs, to select a replacement LED fixture, and to calculate the expected energy and cost savings and the estimated payback time. Finally, the meter associated with each garage light was identified so energy use could be monitored.

With this baseline information, we were ready to talk about specific rebate programs and start developing a lighting replacement plan. We learned from Mr. Ketchum that our common area lighting fell into two categories, each eligible for a different energy rebate program. Our pole lights were eligible for rebates through Xcel Energy and its Custom Efficiency Program. Our garage lights were eligible for rebating both through Xcel and through the Center for Energy and Environment, but CEE offered a greater incentive.

Ketchum prepared a sample lighting analysis using an appropriate LED replacement light fixture, a RAB Slim18 wall pack light, designed for applications such as our garage-mounted lights. In addition, he provided samples of the Slim18W LED light (pictured at right) and Slim 26W LED fixtures that we placed above both the three-car and four-car garages to see the lighting characteristics under normal use conditions.

The LED fixture was very different in appearance and functional lighting from our original light fixtures. The original fixtures are octagonal in shape, approximately 12” in diameter and 20” tall mounted on short brackets extending out from the building. The LED fixture measured 6” x 9” and extended just 5” from the building. While the original fixtures shed light in all directions, the LED fixtures focused light radiating only downward from the lower ledge of the fixture. The original fixtures displayed different shades of white depending on the bulb type and age while the LED fixtures appeared to be a bright white.

The lighting analysis revealed that each of our current garage light fixture bulbs uses an estimated 758 watts of energy each year costing approximately $74.94 for a total annual cost of $3,747 for all 50 lights. In comparison, each 18-watt LED fixture uses 92 watts of energy each year costing $9.10 for a total annual cost of $455 for all 50 lights. The new LED lights are expected to save $3,292 in energy costs each year compared to the current fixtures, an 88% energy and cost saving.

Ketchum estimated the cost of installing a RAB Slim18 wall pack light fixture to be about $218 per light after a $96 rebate for each light, a 31% saving from the original $315 installed price. The estimated total cost to install 50 lights is $10,914. He estimates that we will recover this installation cost through reduced energy costs in 3.3 years. In addition, the LED lights include a 5-year warranty to avoid maintenance and replacement costs during the warranty period. The LED lights are expected to have a useful life of 100,000 hours.

CEE and Ketchum have provided excellent technical assistance to our Association. You may want to look at your exterior lighting situation for ways to improve efficiency, especially if your association is older. You may also benefit from new lighting technologies and CEE expertise.

Lighting efficiency resources we reviewed include:

The Center for Energy and the Environment at www.mncee.org, 612-335-3487.

Xcel Energy at www.xcelenergy.com, 1-800-481-4700.

MN Pollution Control Agency, RETAP Program at www.pca.state.mn.us, 651-757-2276.

Appliances, Lighting, Electronics: An Energy Guide from the MN Department of Commerce, Division on Energy Resources at www.energy.mn.gov.

RAB Lighting at www.rabweb.com, 888-722-1000 (technical help line). Guidelines for Good Exterior Lighting Plans from The Dark Sky Society at www.darkskysociety.org.

Exterior Lighting for Energy Savings, Security, and Safety from the US Department of Energy at www.ntis.gov/ordering.htm.

Published by Community Associations Institute — Minnesota Chapter, copyright 2013. All articles and paid advertising represent the opinions of authors and advertisers and not necessarily the opinion of either Minnesota Community Living or CAI–Minnesota Chapter. The information contained within should not be construed as a recommendation for any course of action regarding financial, legal, accounting, or other professional services by the CAI–Minnesota Chapter, or by Minnesota Community Living, or its authors. Articles, letters to the editor, and advertising may be sent to Chapter Staff Editor Joanne Penn at joannep@cai-mn.com, or at CAI–Minnesota Chapter, 1000 Westgate Dr., Suite 252, St. Paul, MN 55114.

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