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Reducing operating expenses with new lighting technologies

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In addition to lower monthly energy bills, many aquatic facilities are also taking advantage of rebates offered by utility companies should it convert from incandescent to light-emitting diode (LED) lights.

By Mike Fowler

Commercial aquatic facilities are continuously performing internal ‘audits’ on operational costs to find ways to save money for additional aquatic programming. In doing so, many are discovering one of the fastest, easiest ways to reduce energy consumption is to replace old incandescent pool lighting with today’s improved light-emitting diode (LED) lighting.

LEDs are small semiconductor devices used to convert electrical energy directly into light. By combining these digital light sources with microprocessor intelligence, aquatic facility operators can control numerous aspects of illumination. The results are a crisp, bright yet dense saturation of light.

In addition to precise control, another benefit to using LED lighting is its lifespan, which is generally 10 to 15 times longer than traditional incandescent bulbs. Further, they also create light without reaching the high-heat extremes created by traditional lights bulbs. With less heat, they require less energy to operate and less energy is wasted.

LED circuits are extremely energy efficient; 80 per cent of the electrical energy an LED circuit produces is converted into light energy. The remaining 20 per cent is lost as heat energy. Comparatively, incandescent bulbs operate at 20 per cent efficiency, meaning 80 per cent of the energy is lost as heat. Even though incandescent light may seem cheaper initially, LED pool lights offer increased user benefits and reduce energy costs.

An example of this are today’s new white LED lights, which use between 45 to 70 watts and are available in 300-, 400-, and 500-watt incandescent light equivalents. LED technology requires approximately 86 per cent less energy than comparable incandescent lights and because each light lasts much longer, the bulbs are changed less frequently, which offers aquatic facilities additional savings over the years.

Aquatic facilities can not only reduce their energy consumption, but also increase their savings by reducing the amount of time involved for routine maintenance (i.e. changing bulbs). Further, LED lights illuminate the pool area more effectively than traditional incandescent lights—making pool water clearer and easier to see in/through, while also brightening the overall indoor space at night.

Lower energy costs

It is important to understand ‘watts’ is the amount of power a bulb uses to provide a certain amount of light output or lumens. Traditional incandescent light bulbs used in indoor swimming pool facilities are traditionally 300-, 400-, and 500-watt bulbs, which are required to illuminate a large area of the pool water at night.

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Standard spa lighting.

A typical Olympic-size natatorium might use 30 to 40 lights to illuminate the pool water for nighttime swimming. The total watts used to provide the required amount of illumination draws an equivalent use of power to operate. For example, a 300-watt bulb uses 300 watts of power to operate; however, a typical LED bulb, which operates using only 45 to 70 watts of power, will provide the luminescence of a traditional 300- to 500-watt bulb.

In terms of energy savings, when looking at 30 to 40 bulbs per pool using less than 86 per cent (e.g. 70-watt LED bulb versus a 500-watt traditional bulb), an aquatic facility can cut its costs drastically by simply converting to LED lighting.

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Light-emitting diode (LED) spa lighting. Both images were taken with the camera’s flash on.

The following attributes specific financial savings to LED lighting by comparing a 40-watt LED bulb to the average 300-watt equivalent incandescent bulb. For this example, assume the bulb runs an average of eight hours per day and the cost of electricity is $0.15 per kilowatt hour (kWh):

A typical example is an Olympic-size pool that uses 40 lights, 500 watts each. If these 40 lights were to be switched to 70-watt LED lights, the facility would save approximately $5,865 per year in energy costs or $58,000 during the 10-year lifespan of the LED bulb.

Some may argue the savings are erased by the initial cost of the LED bulb. For instance, the average cost of a 300-watt incandescent bulb is $25 landed, while the average cost of a 40-watt LED bulb is $220. The return on investment (ROI) from energy savings for the bulb only is slightly more than 1.5 years (at $114/year in savings).

Keep in mind, this example simply compares the cost for one bulb. When a facility uses 12 to 30 bulbs in their swimming pools, these savings are multiplied.

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