LED Incentive Programs

LED retrofit programs can be expensive, but the savings substantial. An incentive program can help cover the initial cost.

Image result for led lighting
LED Retrofit Lighting Tube

The benefits of making the switch to LED lighting from fluorescent are many.  Obviously, LED’s offer much higher efficiency than their fluorescent counterparts.  The ability to give off comparable levels of light (measured in lumins) at much lower wattage means substantial savings in utility costs.  Also, LED’s last much longer than typical mercury-containing lamps, meaning far less maintenance for facility management.  Plus LED lighting offers a number of unique features that add to their value.  They can provide a broader spectrum of visible light which enhances the work environment and can positively impact fatigue and concentration.  Many LED systems offer dimmable controls and other flexible options to further customize the lighting provided. 

But an LED retrofit can be an expensive undertaking.  Mathematically, LED lighting pays for itself quickly.  Between the lower operating cost and the longer practical lifespan of the lamps, a facility can quickly reap the benefits of the change.  Many organizations have made the change knowing that they would make up the investment in lower utility cost, but for some organizations the initial investment can be prohibitive.  They recognize that the benefits are many, but for a variety of reasons cannot commit to the up-front expense of a retrofit project.

Fortunately, there are a growing number of incentive programs for facilities that are considering a switch to high-efficiency LED.  Any reputable electrical contractor should be able to work with a facility to find the most appropriate incentives for a retrofit project.  From utility companies to lighting manufacturers, there are grants, low-interest loans, rate discounts and funding opportunities.  Whether the help comes from your electrical supplier or local government, it is an effective way to defray start-up costs on a major project.

Contact your energy provider and local government for more information on conservation programs in your area.  Your electrical contractor or lighting supplier can provide the details on manufacturer incentive programs.

And don’t forget to properly dispose of any mercury-containing lamps you are uninstalling.  TerraCycle Regulated Waste offers the best options available for the proper recycling of mercury-containing lamps of all sizes and quantities. 

Illegal disposal of fluorescent lamps can be a costly mistake

Fluorescent lamps
Fluorescent lamps illegally dumped

In 1976, the federal government passed the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA).  The act has been amended several times, giving the EPA definitions and guidelines that provide them the ability to take action against facilities and businesses that fail to meet regulations for the health and safety of people and the environment.  An important subsection of the RCRA regulations addresses the handling of waste, and more specifically, regulated waste.

According to EPA records, over the last two years hundreds of companies and facilities have been fined for failing to comply with the EPA’s rules on the handling of universal waste.  Fines typically range from $3,000 to $9,000, but some have been recorded as high as tens of thousands for substantial violators. A check of the inspection records for several states and regions indicates that cited violators were not limited to large universal waste producers or any specific industry.  From small, public schools to major corporations, any facility that utilizes fluorescent lighting can find themselves in trouble if their universal waste is not properly managed.

According to the Cornell Law School, the EPA has the authority to inspect and levy fines for failure to properly handle hazardous waste under Code of Federal Regulations (40 CFR Part 273, Subpart A – General).  Fluorescent lamps, batteries, pesticides and mercury-containing equipment are specifically defined as “Universal Waste” by the EPA, and are subject to heightened scrutiny because of the potential danger to the environment when not properly disposed of or recycled.

For example according to the EPA’s Enforcement and Compliance History Online (ECHO) website, two universities in the Upstate region of South Carolina were recently fined in excess of $12,000 combined for RCRA violations.  A retail chain store in Kentucky was fined $3,750 by their state DEP when the federal EPA recorded the violation.  Additionally, the management team at that Kentucky store was required to attend an Enforcement Conference with the EPA.  But perhaps the most notable financial penalty for improper disposal of hazardous and universal waste in the last year is the $27.84 Million Home Depot agreed to pay to California.

Fortunately, fines and citations are easily preventable, if you work with a registered, reputable hazardous waste handler.  A certified universal waste recycler can provide facility management with a clear record of their waste’s proper handling and will provide a Certificate of Recycling Compliance for future reference.  Having an understanding of your recycler’s downstream procedures can be the difference between an uneventful inspection and a disciplinary action.

The most recent federal budget slashes the EPA funding by 23%, causing a large reduction in staff.  This might mean more pressure on inspectors to find actionable violations.  With less direct budgetary funding, it could also mean the EPA will be looking to increase the financial impact of fines and violations to help defray the cost of other important programs.  It becomes all the more important for a business or facility to have the necessary documentation of compliance.

EasyPak
TerraCycle EasyPak fluorescent lamp recycling box

 

Depending on the amount of universal waste a facility is producing, there are good options for EPA-compliance.  A smaller facility that isn’t producing much hazardous waste, say 100 kilograms (220 lbs.) or less a month, is considered a very small quantity generator (VSQG).  Setting up a box and store program for their fluorescent lamps, like an EasyPakTM box, will most likely be enough to remain compliant.

A mid-sized or larger facility could fall into either the small quantity generator (SQG) or large quantity generator (LQG) category.  Depending on a number of factors, such as the number of waste lamps generated each month and available storage space, a facility might consider a drum-top bulb crusher like the BulbEater3L® for their compliance needs (check local regulations for approval).  For very large quantities of waste lamps, a facility can set up a bulk pick-up to clear their property of potentially hazardous lamps.

The key is to get ahead of the violations before the EPA comes to inspect a facility.  No manager wants to have to spend money on a fine, plus find themselves under greater scrutiny when a situation is easily preventable.  The solutions cost a fraction of the fines the EPA can levy and prevent the embarrassment of citation.