Ballasts, LEDs and Smart Lighting for Non-residential Buildings

One component of every nonresidential building may be an indicator of how complex creating a smart building really is: Ballasts.  Jesse Foote, Senior Research Analyst at Navigant Research explains, “You need a different kind of ballast for different lamp types (fluorescent, metal halide, high pressure sodium, etc), and for different tube sizes (T5, T8, CFL, etc), and for different wattages, and different numbers of lamps, and start types (instant start v programmed start), and ballast factors.  And, of course, there are multiple companies that manufacture ballasts.”

The result is that deployed today in nonresidential buildings around the world are hundreds, maybe even thousands of different kinds of ballasts.  Ballasts have been the go-to solution for regulating energy in commercial lighting for decades.  But with the entrance of LED lighting, which in some cases boasts 50% energy savings, runs up to 5 times longer and produces a higher quality light, ballast moderated lighting installations are on the decline.

Ballast Unit Shipments by Region, World Markets: 2015-2024

Navigant_Ballasts_image003.png

(Source: Navigant Research)

While shipments are decreasing it doesn’t necessarily mean that building owners, operators and facility managers are rapidly replacing ballasts, because doing so is costly, labor intensive and facilities management does not typically get a sweet allocation of a building budget. These costs present a problem companies are vying to solve.

Alternatives have entered the market that make switching to LED less costly and less invasive.  One example, Lunera, developed LED lightbulbs that makes it possible to switch from CFL, from metal halide and from high-pressure sodium bulbs without replacing the ballasts or fixtures.  Thier retrofit solution brings the benefit of LED without the drawback of ballast replacement.

A second example is Enlighted, who’s investor Q Motiwala from Draper Nexus will speak on an upcoming MIT Enterprise Forum panel on Smart Buildings.  Enlighted has come up with a creative business model to address the FM budget issue.  The Enlighted Global Energy Optimization™ (GEO™) financing option offers Enlighted customers the opportunity to get the benefit of intelligent LED systems without a major capital outlay.

Enlighted CEO Joe Costello recently explained in an interview by Stacey Higginbotham on Episode 30 of the Internet of Things Podcast, “You don’t cough up a single penny. We come into the company.  We say…we’re going to design it, going to install it, going to finance it.  You don’t have to put up a cent.  It doesn’t impinge on your balance sheet one iota and you start getting the energy savings right away.”

This is a disruptive financing model with disruptive technology in a complex industry ripe for disruption.  It is no wonder the Draper Nexus investment in Enlighted is part of a $150M fund dedicated to smart building related technologies.  Silicon Valley investors looking for real value from the Internet of Things are finding it in smart building solutions.  For more information on smart buildings, check out the upcoming MIT Enterprise Forum panel on Smart Buildings to be held Feb 16, 2016 at SRI.

 

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