Building renovations often have the goal of improving appearance, but they also provide an excellent chance to improve technical aspects. For example, renovations provide an opportunity to reduce water and energy consumption. In addition to lowering utility bills, this reduces the environmental footprint of a building.
The choice of lighting fixtures and windows affects both appearance and energy efficiency. Ideally, the product selection should achieve the intended appearance, while helping save energy.
- Lighting is among the largest electrical loads in buildings, surpassed only by air conditioning in most cases. However, LED products can reduce lighting expenses by 30-90%, depending on the lamp type previously used.
- Windows are also important: they allow plenty of heat into the building during summer, while giving off heat during winter. High-performance windows save energy all year long by reducing heat transfer.
If a renovation project includes plumbing fixtures, there is also an excellent to conserve water. A simple solution is purchasing new fixtures with the WaterSense label from the US EPA. These fixtures offer water savings of 20% or more.
Decorative Advantages of LED Lighting
LED lighting is regarded as an energy efficiency measure, but it can also be used decoratively in many ways. Consider the following features of LEDs:
- They are very small, which provides great flexibility when lamp designers create new products. Decorative LED fixtures can be found in a wide variety of shapes and sizes.
- LED lamps can be manufactured with the appearance of older bulbs, for projects where the interior designer is looking for an antique appearance. There are LED lamps that mimic the appearance of incandescent bulbs, and even kerosene lamps.
LED lighting is also very compatible with automatic controls, which are commonly used to create “light scenes” in building interiors. Many LED bulbs are dimmable, and they can tolerate frequent switching. On the other hand, HID and fluorescent lamps deteriorate faster when they are switched frequently.
There are also LED lamps with an adjustable light color, which can be used to deliver various lighting effects. For example, if these lamps are used in a kitchen, they can assume full brightness and a clear white tone for food preparation. Once the meal is ready, they can reduce their intensity and switch to a warmer light color, simulating the ambience of a classy restaurant.
Along with these decorative possibilities, LEDs bring energy efficiency. When replacing incandescent or fluorescent lamps, energy savings above 80% are typical. An upgrade from HID lamps yields savings of around 60%, while an upgrade from fluorescent lamps saves over 30%.
Advantages of High-Performance Windows
Since windows are thin and transparent, they allow more heat movement than opaque walls. Single-pane windows increase the workload for both air conditioners and space heaters, since they are not an effective barrier against heat transfer.
If you are planning a renovation that includes a window replacement, energy consultants recommend windows with double- or triple-pane glass and low-emissivity coating. These windows reduce heat transfer in both directions by over 60%, saving on HVAC. Heat is kept outside more effectively during summer, and held inside during winter.
Just like LED fixtures, high-performance windows are available in various designs and sizes. Therefore, they can be used without disrupting the appearance of a building. With the right product selection, a building renovation can also be an energy efficiency project. In fact, a renovation is a great chance to also replace equipment like air conditioners and water heaters, since there is no need to disrupt the building twice.
Author bio – Michael Tobias, PE, LEED AP, CEM.
Michael Tobias is the founder and principal of Chicago Engineers, an Inc 5000 Fastest Growing Company in America.
He leads a team of 30+ mechanical, electrical, plumbing, and fire protection engineers from the company headquarters in New York City; and has led over 1,000 projects in Chicago, New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Connecticut, Florida, Maryland and California, as well as Singapore and Malaysia.