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Energy and cost savings with compact fluorescents.

Property managers looking for ways to lower their building's energy and maintenance expenses can start by re-evaluating their choice of light fixtures. In particular, managers who rely primarily on incandescent lights should think about replacing them with compact fluorescent lamps.

The advantages of using compact fluorescent lights are many. For starters, compact lights use one-fifth to one-third as much electricity as incandescent lights. Thus, using compact fluorescents can reduce energy costs and save money on maintenance as well.

Compact fluorescents are more expensive than incandescents; depending on the market, they can cost up to four times as much. However, compact fluorescents generally will last 10 times longer than fluorescent lamps, saving a substantial amount of money over the life of the light. In addition, their compact size allows these lights to be used in smaller, less obtrusive fixtures than those required by conventional fluorescent lamps.

Rising popularity

Compact fluorescent tubes, available in twin and quad sizes, are simly smaller versions of straight fluorescent tubes that have been folded in half to provide more concetrated light. They have been used in Europe and energy-conscious countries around the world for more than two decades. And, during the energy crunches of the 1980s, Americans also discovered the advantages of using compact fluorescents.

In the past, fluorescent lights required managers to replace their old fixtures with even larger and bulkier ones. However, the new compact fluorescent lamps are slender and compact--about one-third to one-half the size of conventional fluorescents. Thus, they can be used in very small ceiling, wall-mounted, recessed, track and outdoor fixtures.

Recessed fixtures utilizing compact twin or quad lamps now are available from every major recessed lighting manufacturer.

Energy savings

Aside from the streamlined size, compact fluorescents also offer substantial, quantifiable energy-and maintenance-cost savings. Figure 1 illustrates the energy-savings potential of compact fluorescents.

For example, compare a 13-watt compact fluorescent lamp to a 75-watt incandescent. A 13-watt lamp used eight hours per day at 10 cents per KWH costs $3.77 to operate (29 cents per watt per year x 13 watts). a 75-watt incandescent lamp used the same number of hours costs $21.75 to operate (29 cents per watt per year x 75 watts). Thus, if the lamp burns eight hours a day, a manager can save $13.70 per year in energy costs alone by using compact fluorescents. In addition, the 13-watt fluorescent bulb offers more light than the 75-watt incandescent.

To determine their own savings potential, managers can plot their cost per KWH beside the hours used per day to determine the cost per year per watt. Figure 2 can help managers to determine the total energy that would be saved by converting to compact fluorescent lamps.

Maintenance savings

By switching to compact fluorescents, managers also may reduce maintenance costs by up to 90 percent.

Compare the average life of a compact fluorescent lamp--10,000 hours--to the 1,000 hour lifespan of an average incandescent lamp. For each maintenance call required to change a compact fluorescent lamp, managers will have to make 10 service calls to change incandescent lamps. If each change takes 10 minutes, the fluorescent lamp will save more than an hour and a half of maintenance time over an incandescent lamp.

Using compact fluorescents also will enable managers to cut their-conditioning bills. Because fluorescent lamps are 75 percent cooler than incandescent lamps, the rooms they light will require less cooling, further reducing energy costs.


Indoors, compact fluorescents can be installed in any area that a ceiling, wall-mounted, or recessed incandescent fixture can be used. They are extremely cost-effective in public areas, such as lobbies and hallways, that must be lighted 24 hours a day. When compact fluorescents are used in these fixtures, conversion costs can be recovered in just a few months in the form of reduced energy costs.

In particular, wall-mounted fixtures, especially those that emit light both upward and downward to provide even illumination, can be very effective in keeping public areas well-lit.

Fitting closet lights, which can burn unnoticed for several hours at a time, with more cost-effective compact fluorescent also can save money.

Fluorescent fixtures have been popular for use in kitchens for over 40 years. However, following the passage in some states of regulations limiting the wattage that may be used to light living areas, low-watt fluorescent lighting is gaining new popularity in living rooms and dens, as well. In the kitchen, compact fluorescents are used in ceiling fixtures, as well as in undercabinet fixtures to light countertops and in recessed fixtures to light a bar or sink.

In bathrooms, wher conventional fluorescent fixtures still are used extensively to light mirrors, compact fluorescent lamps lately are being added to ceiling fixtures to light the entire room, or in a smaller area to light a shower or sauna.

Outdoor applications

For outdoor use, compact fluorescents can be used to light an entry with path lights, bollards, post lanterns, or flood lights that utilize compact fluorescent tubes. Managers should more, however, that fixtures for outdoor use must be selected based on the starting temperature of the available lamp. Certain lamps are not recommended for outdoor use in areas where the temperature remains below freezing for long periods of time (Figure 4).

Five- and seven-watt lamps (PL-5 and PL-7) are excellent for lighting pathways. For the most even lighting with these lamps, managers should arrange fixtures at regular intervals on both sides of the pathway.

As with indoor applications, post lanterns and bollards equipped with compact twin or quad lamps burn longer on less energy than those employing mercury vapor or high-pressure sodium lamps. In addition, the light emitted by these fluorescent lamps is closer to the color of incandescents, making it more appealing to the eye.

In addition, outdoor floodlights equipped with compact fluorescent lamps are more energy efficient than either halogen or incandescent lamps. The compact twin tube produces approximately three times more light per watt, and lasts about five times longer, than a halogen bulb.

A smart choice

Of course, fluorescent lighting, particularly the compact type, is not the answer to every lighting requirement. In many cases, incandescent, halogen, mercury vapor, high-pressure sodium, or metal halide lamps are the better choice. Thus, managers should consult with a lighting expert and compare the advantages offered by each lamp before making a decision to use compact fluorescents.

Fred Fricke is vice president of marketing for Sea Gull Lighting Products, Inc., in Riverside, New Jersey. His 37 years in the lighting industry have included all aspects of the marketing process, including the design and development of decorative lighting fixtures. He also is past president of the American Lighting Association.
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Title Annotation:Operating Techniques & Products Bulletin 412
Author:Fricke, Fred
Publication:Journal of Property Management
Date:Jan 1, 1992
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