Posted on July 23rd, 2012 by Ivy Cada
Katrin Mehler of Luxadd discusses her company’s snap in retrofit solution for retrofitting a T12 or T8 to T5.
|Ben Lack||Tell me a little bit about the business and the technology that you manufacture.|
|Katrin Mehler||LUXADD is a US electrical manufacturer that offers the only snap-in retrofit solution for T12 or T8 linear fluorescent tubes to the newest linear fluorescent technology – which is T5. LUXADD is a proven and patented technology. The ballast we manufacture, and this is world-wide unique, works in two different directions. It a) lights up the T5 tube and b) places the old T12 ballast into a hibernate mode – basically converting the old ballast into cable. So the old T12 magnetic ballast really has no influence on the new T5 tube at all.|
|Ben Lack||How it does your technology do that?|
|Katrin Mehler||There are three types of linear fluorescent ballasts: The old energy hog, the T12 magnetic ballast, the more efficient T8 electronic ballast and the most efficient T5 electronic ballast. We offer two upgrade solutions: The new “hardware” solution – the LUXADD T12 to T5 Retrofit Kit and the software upgrade, the LUXADD T8 to T5 retrofit Kit. Both solutions are truly plug-and-play, so no labor, no downtime, no permits and no open ceilings.The old T12 magnetic ballast runs very hot on low frequency, 60 Hz. This is a huge energy waste converting electrical energy into heat instead of light. The LUXADD technology changes the system frequency from that low 60 Hz frequency, to as high as 30,000 Hz frequency and allows the system to run completely cool. At the same time our technology reduces the system’s input wattage. So instead of the T12 fixture drawing 48 Watt (ANSI Standard) the retrofitted fixture now draws about 27 Watt. The lamp power reduction metric is going down from 40 Watt to 28 Watt. And again, the good news is that you don’t have to deal with the waste of the ballast. You don’t have to touch any cable. You don’t have to even open the fixture. It’s really like installing a new hardware.The LUXADD T8 to T5 Retrofit Kit can be compared to a software upgrade. It uses any T8 electronic ballast and converts it into our T5 electronic ballast system. It’s much simpler technology and therefore less expensive but still offers about 20 – 30% energy savings instantly and even more when combined with occupancy sensors. And again LUXADD offers the only labor free solution for this great energy saving possibility.|
|Ben Lack||For businesses that have T12s in their businesses and they really don’t know what they’re looking at, what are the most common applications for T12 and where does your technology best fit in the business?|
|Katrin Mehler||First let’s find out what lamps you really have. Check the diameter of the linear fluorescent tube. If you look at the end are using a T12 and see a 1.5 inch diameter, the 12 stands for 12/8ths of an inch, you most likely look at an old inefficient T12. It’s the biggest one – and it is literally 80 year old technology. If you have a T8, that stands for 8/8ths of an inch. T8 is 30 year old fluorescent lighting technology – and it is an improvement over the larger T12.Now what you want today is the T5 which is 5/8ths of an inch. That’s the best and newest technology, about 10 years old. T5’s fluorescent light tubes are the leader in every aspect: Color Rendering Index of 85, Lamp Life up to 42,000 hours, Efficacy (lm/W) of 104 and lumen maintenance of 97%. T5 have the least mercury 1-3%, use the least energy and, being smaller require less manufacturing material. Obviously it is thinner and therefore, it has less glass leaves us with less waste at the end of the day.Let’s assume you are using the old T12 magnetic ballast in your building, factory, airport, wherever. You know that you want to retrofit because the T12s are the most inefficient 80 year old technology out there. There are a number of things that you can do. First, you can rip out the whole fixture and put in a new T5 fixture. From an engineering point of view that’s the best solution because you have everything new. However, it’s definitely not the best solution from a return on investment point of view because. You are also not looking only at the price of the retrofit but also at the risk of additional costs involved when opening the ceiling. Secondly, you can retrofit from a T12 to a T8. Going from T12 to T8, an electrician needs to open the fixture, change the ballast and then put the T8 tube in its place. This cannot be done with a T5 because the T5 is shorter in length. The shorter size of the T5 is based on its low mercury content and it cannot be manufactured in the same length as the T12. That’s why you will always need a physical adaptation when upgrading from T12 magnetic to T5 electronic.|
|Ben Lack||From a financial conversation what are we talking?|
|Katrin Mehler||A new T5 fixture is about $360. If you do the conventional retrofit and go half-way from T12 to T8 you must buy new T8 ballasts which are between $15 and $60 depending on which kind. There is also a lot of cheap Chinese crap out there, which some electricians unfortunately prefer to sell their labor and keep a high margin. This conventional retrofit happened in millions of T12 fixtures over the past ten years. By doing that at least you get rid of the magnetic ballasts because T8 is already an electronic ballast. We have a very instructive video on our website: www.luxadd.comthat shows how this works.But, the newer T5 technology has distinct economic and environmental advantages over T8. T8 has 15mg of mercury versus a T5 which has 1-3 mg of mercury. The energy savings between the T8 and the T5 is about 25%. For a conventional T8 retrofit (including labor), I’ve seen figures between $140 and $360 per 4-lamp fixture in total. That’s expensive, per fixture.The LUXADD T12 to T5 retrofit costs about $80 in material for a four to two delamping scenario.|
|Ben Lack||The Long Island Power Authority must have been your technology is of value because they are actively promoting it to their existing customers. Talk to me a little bit about how a company of their stature helps the growth of the business and what that relationships looks like between the two of you.|
|Katrin Mehler||LIPA is great because they are very progressive and they’re probably one of the first ones that also put the solar feed-in-tariff ?. When they looked at the product they looked at it from the right perspective. Our product is great for people that cannot afford to retrofit. And, because we’re so much less expensive than any other solution out there and give such high savings, our return investment is less than a year. With our product anybody can retrofit. It’s was a solution that was missing on the market. We’re exactly in that niche. When they saw it we explained to them, from an engineering standpoint, we are not a new fixture. We’re retrofitting and we’re updating the fixture and they said on the spot, “You know this is what we want. We want the no-labor solution, because most of the savings are in the labor.”|
|Ben Lack||What can we expect from the company in the next 6-12 months?|
|Katrin Mehler||The driving force right now is the demand for T12 to T5 retrofits. There are about 500 million still in US buildings. And T12 tubes are taken off the shelves by the government phase out. The next step will be the T8 to T5 retrofit and this number is growing by the day because there’s a lot of conventional retrofitting out there. The numbers we have are 1.2 billion T8 applications.LUXADD’s savings average @ 65% electrical energy – this includes the delamping, but not even the savings on air-conditioning. So if we can sell 450,000 delamping kits per year retrofitting 900,000 T12 tubes into 450,000 T5 tubes we could reduce the energy consumption from about $20,000,000 to $7,000,000.Can we do this? Absolutely! We’ve been contacted by the government to get on the GSA schedule. The International Green Energy Council is working with us on a solution for the State of New Jersey. LIPA and other utilities will be working with us, i.e. by doing pilots in their Long Island schools. We’re working with FIU (Florida International University) on a classroom data pilot and with their engineering department. There are applications that scream for LUXADD, i.e. in elevators, you want to avoid any downtime. We just got the UL listing in March of this year. So we believe that we will be growing exponentially in the next 3-5 years.If you look at Europe, they have been retrofitting from T8 to T5 about 10 years ago. If you look at all the advantages, T5 is the way to go. I also think that being a US company, being made in US, believing in made in America and having a product that is tailor made for the US by American engineers is the new way to go. Do not get me wrong, I like Chinese Food, but I do not like to give the whole future of our children into their hands. So I hope you will see a lot of our retrofit kits saving huge amounts of energy dollars in United States in the near future.|
|Ben Lack||My final question is why are you personally doing what you’re doing?|
|Katrin Mehler||I have an engineering and business background. My father was a construction engineer focused on and specialized in energy efficiency. I was born in the United States but I grew up in Hamburg, Germany. We had a heat pump company in the early 80′s. He’s been saving energy all his life; we have a solar system on our roof at home. We have insulation to save energy. One of my partners came to me with this idea which was based upon the idea of a German retrofit kit. It was used 10 years ago when the South of Germany and Switzerland were retrofitting to T5. We looked at it and I gave it to my father and said “Well Dad, what do you think?” He answered: “I think this is the best invention ever for the United States. They really have to do something. I think you should really get involved in this.” And this is how it happened and I love it. If you look at the product itself it’s really not sexy. And I’ve worked in the past for very sexy companies and products like Daimler Chrysler with cars, VIVA which was a German MTV like music channel. When I saw this T5 retrofit kit, I realized it’s not a sexy product – however the savings and the environmental advantages are. The instant energy savings and fast return on investment are the driver in our company and in our market place. If you look at solar, which is a great technology, it’s just not affordable from a US perspective which is focused only on ROI. The return on investment is long and an acceptable ROI can only be reached with government subsidies. Our products, even without government subsidy, have a return on investment of less than a year in most regions and that’s what I think the United States people companies and businesses are looking for right now: to save energy fast.We just teamed up with a financing partner that has a great concept. It’s called Shared Savings Financing, meaning customers can retrofit with zero upfront costs. The payback to the capital company is through the savings. And the client or the customer will start saving from day one, 20% to 30% off the energy through the electricity used in connection with their lighting. The customer will pay back that loan to the financing company over the period of 2.5 to 3 years. After that time it will be sold to the customer for 1$. No risk for the customer at all.Our capital partner is called T3a Energy Capital. They have been doing LED retrofits for a while but here’s the LED problem – it doesn’t work as a linear commercial solution. The reason being: LED is extremely heat sensitive and when you put those light emitting diodes into a tube and close it at the end you create an oven. This oven causes a decay of the LED diodes of 20-30% per year. So linear LEDs really don’t last as long as they should. Additionally, the lumen output is about 1,000 lumens less compared to the T5 and the CRI is very bad, LED give a bluish light. If you sit in your office you don’t want to sit under a bluish light.
Specialty manufacturing companies use orange tone fluorescent light tubes to eliminate the blue light almost completely for clearer vision. LED adds blue light particles to the light and you get the feeling like in “Twilight Zone”. It is maybe acceptable for a parking garage, but it’s not providing a work environment in hospitals, schools or offices because those settings require warmer and simply more light.Bad lighting also reduces the productivity of the employee. But don’t get me wrong. LED has its applications and is great i.e. for exit signs punctual applications or refrigeration lighting. But again in our commercial niche, our linear fluorescent T5 retrofit kit is probably the best solution you can find.
More information at: www.luxadd.com