Author Archives: Kathy Velasco

2020 Trends: New Developments in Solar and LED’s

Solar power generation and LED lighting are not the newfangled technologies they once were, but both industries are still changing rapidly.  As we begin a new year and a new decade, let’s look at the trends we see coming up in 2020.

Storage Cost Will Continue to Decline

When there’s no sunlight, a solar system provides power from a bank of batteries, usually of the lithium-ion type. The cost of these batteries has been in decline over the last decade, dropping 76% since 2012, with the decline becoming more rapid in the past two years—a 35% drop.

This will affect commercial producers the most, but will make systems in homes and commercial sites more useful as they can hold more power for a given cost.

Solar Tax Incentives are Sunsetting

Unfortunately, Congress did not act to extend the Solar Investment Tax Credit, so projects that begin this year will receive a 26% credit instead of 30%. Getting your project done now is a smart move, because in 2021 the credit drops to 22%, and in 2022 it goes away.

Title 24 Will Change the Industry

Regulation changes in California often alter the practices of whole industries. After all, given the Golden State’s population (about 38 million) and economy (over $3 trillion), it’s much easier and more profitable to meet their standard and sell the same product in other locations than it is to produce multiple products.

Title 24 is a California building code section that governs energy use. The new regs include everything from requirements for occupancy sensors in bathrooms to a major expansion of what lights and outlets require controls. Most importantly, new requirements for lighting power density (LPD, expressed as watts per square foot) make it difficult to construct or renovate buildings with any lighting system other than well-controlled LED’s. The changes in demand this requirement creates will likely affect what users in the Midwest have access to in 2020 and affect it even more in the years ahead.

Federal Regulations (And Title 24) Will Likely Eliminate More Bulbs

Under the Energy Independence and Security Act (EISA), most bulbs and fixtures sold in the US in 2020 and beyond must deliver at least 45 Lumens Per Watt (LPW), a standard current incandescents and halogen bulbs are unable to meet. The standard for some fluorescent fixtures is even higher, though high-efficiency fluorescent tubes can deliver 80 or 100 LPW and won’t run afoul of this law.

The Trump administration has put these regulations on hold for now. However, since Title 24 makes the use of fluorescents difficult and EISA regulations could be allowed to take effect at any time, manufacturers and retailers have a strong incentive to leave incandescents, halogens and traditional fluorescents behind.

Industry Focus: Creating the Best Lighting for Warehouses and Manufacturing

Each industry has different lighting needs and that gives them plenty to consider on a new lighting project.  This new Industry Focus series will cover the necessary considerations for each type of business, giving you a starting point and plan of attack for your project.

Start with LED’s

We’ve found that LED’s are the superior choice for lighting in these facilities, not only because LED’s are themselves a great technology, but because they lack the downsides seen in other lighting tech. Let’s run through a quick comparison:

High Intensity Discharge (HID) lighting, aka Sodium or Halide—Need to warm up and cool down after a shutoff, while LED’s go on and off instantly. Use far more energy than equivalent LED’s. Give off poor light (see below).

Fluorescent lighting—Require much more frequent replacement than LED’s, and their life will be shortened by cold or hot temps in the facility.

Incandescents—Use more energy and are replaced even more frequently than fluorescents.

Consider Your Space

Take a look at the basic layout of the area, but be sure you consider high shelves and/or machinery. If too few fixtures are used or are poorly placed, these items can cast a deep shadow. In fact, whether your facility contains a number of high items or has a more open plan will affect your fixture pattern more than any other factor. Getting in touch with Thayer for a consultation will ensure you’re getting every inch of the space properly lit.

If your factory or warehouse has skylights, you can get away with fewer fixtures…some of the time. Plan for the number of fixtures you’ll need on a dark night, then put in the proper controls to save money by shutting fixtures off at times when natural light is streaming in. It’s also a good idea to consider how bright or dark (and matte or glossy) the colors on your walls and equipment are. This may factor into the number of fixtures and/or brightness level you need, with lighter colors needing less light, but being more likely to produce glare.

Consider Color

One drawback to HID lights is that they tend to give off a yellowish light. That’s normally not a problem, but in both the warehouse and manufacturing environments, employees closely examine their work hundreds of times a day, and eye strain is a major comfort issue. White light with a bluish tint (Cool White, with a color temperature of 4000 to 5000K) is best for good detail vision and reduced eye strain. Better vision means fewer mistakes, which means less expense.

Decide on Fixtures or Bulbs

Lastly, determine if it makes more sense to replace old fixtures or place LED bulbs in current fixtures. You’ll find a full discussion of this in our post Fixtures vs. Bulbs – Costs and Benefits.

Interested in seeing the difference LED’s can make in your facility? There are a number of examples in our Projects section, including our work with Cardinal Glass, RWSDesign and Controls, Inc., and Brynolf Manufacturing.

Brighter Facility

“Our facility is much brighter, we are saving over $23k in electric costs and our payback was just 6 months!  A real win, win!  Thayer was great to work with.”

Jeff Bonavia,

Owner, R.L. Leek

Thayer Can Help You Integrate Solar into your 2020 Vision

Solar technology continues to improve and offer greater savings to business users. In fact, a market survey by EnergySage found the average commercial property owner saved nearly 75% per month on electricity after installing solar. Planning a solar project for the coming year means you’ll save for years to come, but there are some crucial first steps to take before you begin.

Decide Firmly to Take Action

As this post is written, the Investment Tax Credit (ITC) for solar systems is in a sort of legislative limbo. The ITC (which currently credits back 30% of the cost of a solar installation) will continue, but unless Congress acts to extend it, the credit will drop. It will only be 26% in 2020, 22% in 2021, and plummet to 10% in 2022.

To maximize your return on investment, make sure you decide to have an operational solar installation sometime in 2020. If Congress fails to act, you’ll save 4% of the cost; if they do act, you’ll start saving money on electrical usage even earlier than you might have.

Choose a Partner

Though solar is a relatively simple technology compared to other forms of energy production, adding a solar installation to your business involves the creation of a custom system which will be a major material asset. On top of that, the complexities of control systems, permitting, rebates and funding sources can make a DIY approach less than prudent.

Turn to Thayer, YOUR trusted partner for all energy efficiencies, for help navigating the rules of these incentives and deciding what kind of equipment to install – we are glad to help.

Budget Wisely Based on a Solid Estimate

Once you’ve chosen a contractor for your installation, you should have reliable numbers you can plug into your budget. These will include at least the following:

  • Upfront capital required and/or financing costs
  • Rebates you can expect 
  • First year maintenance costs
  • Estimated monthly electric bills before and after installation
  • Tax credits available for future tax filings

This benefit for your budgeting process is just one more reason to involve a contractor early. Creating realistic numbers for a system install can be difficult without the help of a solar expert.

Conclusion

With a growing industry, shrinking incentives, and technology few could envision even a decade ago, now is a great time to bring solar power online at your business. Act quickly, but prudently, and you’ll see the results of your good decisions in your bottom line for years to come.

Using the Internet of Things for Better Lighting Now and Later

As we mentioned in our most recent blog post, the Internet of Things (IoT) is more than a buzzword or concept, but is beginning to affect how we use and even repair items from refrigerators to motor vehicles. The term refers to the increasing number of items that are connected to the internet, allowing them to send and receive information (and control inputs) to and from distant users.

Some of the trends we discussed for LED controls included:

  • LED control systems are increasingly easier to use and more capable, but are declining in price.
  • IoT apps allowing users to adjust lighting from their smartphone or tablet are empowering companies to reduce costs through greater efficiency.
  • AI systems will make this process even more effective, as they identify patterns even the most attentive human will miss.
  • Companies like Roche Pharma are using built-in sensors and computer analysis to discover more detail on how their spaces are used, reducing costs on everything from electricity to cleaning.

So, what’s the best way to approach this new environment?

Plan to Take Advantage

According to Navigant Research, annual sales for occupancy sensors, photo sensors and lighting network gear related to LED lighting applications accounted for $1.1 billion in 2013 and will likely reach $2.7 billion by 2020. This trend is likely to accelerate as technology improves, and so is the trend toward lower costs for controls and sensors. In a decade, a business with “dumb” lighting controls might be as rare as an office building without wi-fi, so plan on integrating IoT tech into your systems as you change and upgrade them.

Expect to Integrate Lighting Into a Single Control System

In a project called OpenAIS, Phillips Lighting worked with other companies in Europe to examine current lighting use and what likely scenarios for business users would be in the future. One common approach, they said, would be to combine all the Building Management Systems (BMS) functions into a single “ecosystem,” including lighting. “[I]n the future,” they concluded, systems in a building will be expected to share sensors and seamlessly interoperate to the benefit of the building and their stakeholders.”

One benefit? When building a new structure or making major changes to one, a single power and control system will be used, reducing construction costs. An integrated system can also provide greater comfort to the building’s users (circadian lighting cycles, for example, could help workers feel more alert) and make it easier to earn certifications such as LEED certification.

You May Use LED’s Instead of WI-Fi

Want to go a step more futuristic? Researchers at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology Zurich confirmed in 2016 that LED’s could themselves be the connecting points in the IoT. LED fixtures using modulated light signals can communicate with every item in a room, then forward those signals along a cabled network for processing. This reduces crowding on the radio spectrum and is also more secure, since an eavesdropper has to be in line of sight to detect the signals.

Be Ready to Adapt

One benefit of the IoT is that information gathering and analysis will be easier than ever, and (to a certain extent) will be automated. As you learn more about how your system works, you’ll have opportunities to find patterns and create better lighting as you go.

Don’t Wait to Begin

We’ve talked a lot about the future, but there’s already a large number of sophisticated LED controls on the market. You can begin realizing the benefits almost immediately. Check in with your lighting provider and see what upgrades you can make to save money and create a better working environment today!

Thayer Announces the Passing of Thomas W. Thayer, Company Founder

It is with great sadness that we announce that Thomas Thayer, the Founder of Thayer Lighting, passed away on September 1, 2019, after a brief illness.

In 1987, Tom Thayer was looking for a new career opportunity, when he met up with a family friend in California, who owned Parke Industries. The friend told Tom that the wave of the future would be in energy efficiency. Tom started Thayer Sales in 1987 and Thayer Lighting Inc. in 1988. Some consider him to be a pioneer in the industry, in this region, and ahead of his time.

Thayer’s current company President, Patti Thayer, met Tom in 1996. In Jan of 1997, she went to work for him as vice president of sales and marketing and married that April.  Tom eventually turned the business over to Patti, when he decided to retire from active company management. She immersed herself in training and education to learn the business and to keep pace with the rapidly changing technology.

In his personal life, Tom loved golfing, hunting, fishing and his family and friends. No words can adequately express our gratitude for the opportunity to work with and learn from Tom. We plan to honor his memory with our continued dedication to the work he so loved.

What’s New in LED Control Systems?

Whether it’s a simple light switch or a software system directing a lightshow in a state-of-the art theater, every LED has a control system. And while the most important decision in LED lighting is the decision to adopt them and free yourself from the waste of incandescent and fluorescent bulbs, better control can mean a better return on your investment.

How is control shaping up as we approach the third decade of the 21st Century? Let’s take a look.

The Current State Of Control
One reason we should discuss where things are now is so we can orient ourselves. But another reason is that (with a few exceptions, like some of the AI we’ll discuss) nearly all of the technology that will revolutionize LED lighting control is already in use. We can expect it to decline in price and increase in capability and ease of use, but much of it is already here. Some of it has been in your local lighting store for years.

The controls in current use (dimmers, timers, and motion, occupancy and photo sensors) do the important job of providing the right light at the right time and saving energy when it’s not. But they’re either simple mechanisms or are relatively “dumb” even if they include software. That’s about to change.

The Internet of Lighting
The Internet of Things (IoT) is, well, a thing. This term refers to the increasingly common process of connecting everyday objects to the Internet. We’re not only seeing more and more devices connected, we’re seeing them do more. For example, newer refrigerators will not only alert you if there’s a problem with the appliance (the refrigerator version of a “check engine” light) but can forward you a shopping list you’ve curated during the week or let you use internal cameras to check what’s currently inside.

What does this mean for lighting? Bulbs and fixtures that are controlled with a smartphone app are already on the market, allowing the user to turn lighting on and off, adjust brightness, and even color. Users can also put set-it-and-forget it timers in place, avoiding the expense and hassle of physical timers.

Meanwhile, more and more companies in industrial settings are using IoT technology with their industrial machines, using smartphones or tablets to control aspects of entire shops or factories, and collecting data for further analysis so they can work more efficiently. Lighting can also benefit from these technologies. Imagine being able to set every light subsystem in a facility for maximum efficiency from your smartphone, predict when a specific fixture will require replacement, or being able to analyze data on lighting use and cut costs even further.

A Helping Hand…Or Subroutine
As lighting control software improves, it will do even more to help you achieve the greatest possible efficiency. Artificial intelligence research is leading to greater capability to recognize and analyze patterns, and such software could spot areas where lighting use is inefficient and improve them. But some companies are already banking on sophisticated lighting controls to improve efficiency in other areas of their business.

One such company is Roche Pharma. The Swiss firm is trialing a new lighting control and data collection system at their facility in Grenzach-Wyhlen, Germany. On a single floor of the building, a system using DALI (Digital Addressable Lighting Interface) technology keeps track of how people use lighting and the physical space itself in each room. This data is then fed into Interact Office software developed by Phillips Signify for analysis. In an interview with LED’s Magazine, Tobias Bächtold, Roche’s digital real estate manager, said, “Based on these data, the real estate and facility management get insight into the usage of the provided area. This can result in the optimization of the provided spaces (area, equipment, quality, collaboration etc.) or operational processes such as cleaning.”

A system that not only saves power, but is so smart it even tells you when the cleaning crew should come in? That sounds like something out of hyper-optimistic 1950’s science fiction, but it’s quickly becoming the reality of our day.

 

Fixtures vs.Bulbs – Costs and Benefits

There are a number of reasons to consider new LED fixtures for your business. It may be that you still haven’t moved over from traditional incandescents and/or fluorescents. But more likely, you’re making changes in the work environment—a remodel, expansion, taking on a new property, simply changing who works where in the building, etc.—and you have an opportunity to make major changes to the lighting setup. But should you replace the fixtures, or simply use LED bulbs in your current lights?

With the right choice, you can enjoy savings for years. Let’s take a look at the options, pros and cons.

LED Bulbs
In this scenario, you leave your current fixtures in place, then simply use off-the-shelf LED bulbs.

Pros
This option usually has a much lower upfront cost. It’s also a simple change you can make right this minute, and you won’t have to hire a contractor or deal with any demolition. The bulb approach is also more versatile, allowing you to change the color, lumen output, and other qualities of your lights whenever you wish.

Cons
With long-lasting LED’s you won’t have to change bulbs often, but you will have to change them. That means expense for bulbs and labor. That can mean a larger long-run expense.

Pursue This Option If…

  • You have concerns about initial cost.
  • You need to move to LED’s quickly.
  • You have a small or even a relatively small number of lights. Changing bulbs in a garage bay every few years is a small labor investment; a warehouse or office building is another matter.

LED Fixtures
In this scenario, you replace all fixtures with LED fixtures that have integral LED arrays instead of bulbs.

Pros
It will be at least 20 years before you have to perform any maintenance—in other words, no bulb changing, which means lower costs over the life of the fixture and no safety issues. These fixtures are also available in a wide range of styles, so if you’re updating the decor of your space as well as the technology, you’ll find just the right lighting fit.

Cons
As we mentioned, this option has a higher upfront cost and usually requires professional electricians and some careful planning. You will also have to replace the entire fixture in 20+ years. Lastly, the color, brightness and other qualities are fixed unless you undertake the expense to replace them all.

Pursue This Option If…

  • You’re building or remodeling, making it less troublesome to replace fixtures..
  • You’re sure the lighting needs for each space will be stable.
  • You prefer lower long-run costs to lower upfront costs.
  • You have a large number of lights.

Still undecided? Here’s the tie-breaker!
Though all fixtures are long-lasting, the bottom line is that the ones you have will need replacement eventually. Replacing them one at a time can be problematic—try finding an exact match for a 40 year old fixture! Replacing all at once means you’re dealing with the high upfront expense you were trying to avoid.

 

 

Great Clips is Looking Sharp!

“Everyone — stylists and customers — have commented on how much better the lighting is. The new LED fixtures have clean lines and everything is much brighter in all of the shops. And the company will save 50-70% in energy costs!” – Loren Slade, Owner/Franchisee of Great Clips