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Tuesday | 03 June, 2008 | 3:04 am

Efficient lighting cuts costs

By Liz Sommerville

The cost of energy is an increasing problem for manufacturing facilities throughout the U.S., as rates increase 20 percent to 50 percent. However, installing efficient lighting can reduce operating costs and cut energy bills by 50 percent to 65 percent.

As part of its Milwaukee-area consolidation, Ryerson Inc., Chicago, upgraded the lighting system in its service center facility. The company was using inefficient metal halide lights that required costly maintenance and provided dim work areas. "There were aisles that literally didn't have any light," notes Jeff Pipiras, operations manager at Ryerson.

Ryerson was also concerned about rising energy prices and wanted to find a way to both save energy and cut costs. Planning to only upgrade the rack lighting, the company called upon Energy Management Systems Inc., Indianapolis, to conduct a full energy audit. The audit revealed several ways Ryerson could work to conserve energy, including upgrading lighting throughout the entire facility. "After meeting with EMS and hearing their proposal, we saw what savings and rebates we could qualify for based on our square footage," says Pipiras. "It was almost a no-brainer to do the whole warehouse as opposed to just the lighting in the racks."

A bright solution
According to Alan Baker, lighting specialist for EMS, the 1,000-watt metal halide lighting fixtures used throughout Ryerson's facility only lasted about a year and a half and were outputting 30 percent of the light as when they were new. EMS proposed fluorescent fixtures that use almost 60 percent less power, give off more light and last three times as long as the old metal halides.

To help reduce energy costs, EMS installed motion sensors on most fixtures to control lights throughout the plant. Now, if no one is in a particular area for more than 15 minutes, the lights automatically dim to cut wasted energy. When someone re-enters the area, the lights blink on instantly. "With the old metal halides, if you turned them off it took 15 minutes for them to warm back up," says Dave Riggle, owner of EMS. "But these new fluorescent fixtures are instant on and off. So the minute someone walks under them, boom, the lights come on, just as quick as flipping a switch."

Big savings
After the installation, Ryerson immediately began saving money on monthly energy bills. Within a year it saved more than $65,000 in energy costs and tax deductions while simultaneously reducing greenhouse gas emissions by more than 50 tons or the equivalent of conserving 16,737 gallons of gas each year. "By reducing their lighting based on their running time in kilowatt hours, they saved almost 1.5 million pounds of CO2 a year that they weren't pumping into the air anymore, and 10,000 pounds worth of sulfur dioxide and nitrogen oxide," says Baker. "When we break that down, it's like taking 125 cars off the road each year, or planting 138 acres of new trees to soak up all that carbon dioxide. So it had quite a bit of impact."

What began as a way to reduce operating costs and save money on energy bills turned into much more for Ryerson. The employees are enjoying the improved lighting and quieter atmosphere as opposed to the constant humming from the old metal halides. "Ryerson employees are happier with optimally lit work areas," says Baker.

"We're all pleased with the outcome of this because we added a lot more lights than we previously had and we saved a lot of money," says Pipiras. "It's improved lighting for our employees, energy and production cost savings and it was a complete turn-key operation. It worked out well for us and it continues to work out well with the savings on our energy bills each month."MM

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