Here’s why LED lights might be the next bright idea on climate change

THE GOOD NEWS:

LED light has proven to be very effective at reducing carbon emissions.

When it comes to reducing carbon emissions, one of the biggest hurdles is the simplest: habit. Strangely enough, one of the brightest ideas on skirting that challenge is … a lightbulb.

The LED lightbulb, to be precise.

According to new data analyzed by the firm IHS Markit, we now have evidence that the growing use of LED bulbs is having a distinct, positive effect on emissions — despite its minimal impact on changing the way people carry on their everyday lives.

The efficiency of LEDs is essentially what makes them environmentally friendly,” explains Jamie Fox, the firm’s principal lighting analyst. “LED conversion is unlike other measures, which require people to reduce consumption or make lifestyle changes. While other activities affect climate change more than lighting does, it is still a very strong contribution from a single industry sector.”

Just how strong? Last year alone, LEDs took more than half a billion tons off the table. That could amount to a one and a half percent reduction in the world’s carbon footprint, the equivalent of mothballing more than 160 coal-burning power plants.

Those gains come courtesy of LED lights’ ridiculous efficiency. While they’re not yet always as easy to replace or dispose of as traditional bulbs, they throw off the same degree of light, while chewing up 40% less energy than fluorescent bulbs. Relative to incandescent bulbs? They deliver twice the savings.

Of course, LEDs aren’t magic. Their virtues can tempt us to think more in terms of relative savings than absolute use. Some teams have been exploring the possibility that growing LED use could counter carbon gains by increasing the use of lighting in total. German researchers recently published a paper observing that, with over 2% more artificial outdoor light each year around the world, this so-called “rebound effect” could become a powerful factor over time.

Right now, however, LED lights offer two things for the carbon-conscious: proof of quick energy savings and hope that technology can add swifter gains while bigger, more difficult changes in consumption develop smoothly over time. Even if we can’t solve problems with the flip of a switch, sometimes that’s all it takes to get started.

New tool allows agents to check property EPCs ahead of MEES change

An ‘instant EPC ratings check’ has been created on the website of Mortgages for Business allowing agents to check the ratings of properties under their management.

New regulations known as MEES – the Minimum Energy Efficiency Standards – mean that in just over four weeks, on April 1, residential landlords and agents acting on their behalf will not be able to grant a tenancy to either new or existing tenants if the property’s EPC rating is F or G.

From April 1 2020, if there is a tenant already in situ, it will become illegal for residential landlords to continue letting the property out if the EPC has a rating of F or G.

Mortgages for Business says the new tool will provide a starting point for compliance.

To check a property’s EPC rating, agents and landlords need only to enter the property’s postcode into the tool.

“Simply put – no EPC, no buy to let mortgage. For this reason, it is important to us that our landlord clients understand how the new EPC rules will affect them” says Steve Olejnik, the chief operating officer of Mortgages for Business.

Mortgages for Business is holding a free 30-minute webinar at 1pm today, looking at the new rules and how they might affect borrowing. This webinar will also cover the new guidance for mandatory HMO licensing and minimum room sizes.

Fluctuating LED office lights offer workers caffeine-like energy boost

Philips has installed a system of LED lights in an office in Prague that are designed to support workers’ circadian rhythms throughout the day.

The lights, installed in the refurbished Czech Republic headquarters of energy company Innogy, could provide the same energy hit as drinking a cup of coffee, claim the designers.

“We’ve taken our knowledge of how light physiologically benefits people from successful projects in hospitals and schools and applied it to the offices space,” said Jiří Tourek, country manager at Philips Lighting.

“We know that exposure to a certain comfortable bright light setting for one-hour can provide a mild energy stimulus similar to a cup of coffee and supports wakefulness.”

Along with light intensity, which is measured in lux, energy levels can also be affected by the colour temperature, which is measured in kelvins.

According to Philips, exposing the human body to light settings of 5,000 kelvins at 780 lux for between one and four hours has been shown to increase alertness.

Based on this research, brightness and colour warmth levels have been programmed to change at set points throughout the day to increase office workers’ energy at key times.

“At the beginning of the day the office lights mimic natural daylight, providing a useful energy boost,” said Tomáš Michna, senior manager for facilities and services at Innogy.

“The light levels decrease until after lunch when we give another boost to help staff over the post-lunch energy dip.”

Workers can override the light settings depending on their needs, and the system can also be set to perform a specific task by using wall-mounted touchpad controls. These can also be used to raise or lower the window blinds.

The new lights are part of a complete renovation of the company’s 10,000-square-metre headquarters in the Limuzská district of Prague.

A new open-plan office design and the adaptable lights were part of an overall plan to “enhance the comfort, wellbeing and productivity” of the 550 employees who work across the three buildings.

The office redesign replaced fluorescent tube lighting with 2,000 LED lights, blinds and control systems, as well as adding a new restaurant serving healthy food and “creativity spaces” for workers.

Also installed were 150 sensors that can detect human presence and automatically turn the lights off should a room become empty.

Combined with the use of energy-efficient LEDs, the designers estimate this new system will use 50 percent less electricity for lighting than the previous fluorescent lights.