Electricity powers countless devices that make the built environment comfortable, safe, productive, useful, and entertaining. Electricity generation is also a major contributor to environmental problems: mountaintop removal for coal mining, air pollution and greenhouse gas emissions from fossil fuel combustion, radioactive waste from nuclear plants, and disrupted river systems from hydroelectric dams are a few examples.
In this division GreenSpec primarily lists products that make electricity use more efficient along with electrical equipment made with less toxic components, and renewable generation technologies such as wind and solar.
Lighting is a major user of electricity. It also generates heat, contributing to cooling loads that are generally met by using more electricity for air conditioning. Thus, improving the energy efficiency of lighting has benefits that go beyond the direct electricity savings by the lighting products.
Fluorescent lamps are three to four times more efficient than incandescent lamps. Both straight-tube fluorescent and compact-fluorescent lamps (CFLs) are widely available. In general, thinner-diameter fluorescent lamps offer higher efficacy (lumens per watt) than larger-diameter lamps.
The highly focusable nature of LEDs (light-emitting diodes) enables significant energy savings in certain applications. Unlike fluorescent, metal halide, sodium, and other high-intensity discharge (HID) lamps, LEDs do not contain mercury. However, they remain expensive and the technology is still rapidly evolving.
Advancements in fluorescent lighting and ballast technologies have delivered high efficacy lighting solutions for industrial and commercial applications.
Exterior lighting should use high efficacy lamps while also protecting against light pollution. CFLs and LEDs are gaining ground in this category as well.
Metering and Controls
Electricity metering and submetering systems measure and analyze power usage from whole buildings, down to individual outlets. Some of these products include wireless reporting systems and software packages to help facilities managers assess usage across individual or multiple buildings.
Lighting control devices help optimize the energy efficiency of lighting systems. Lighting control systems can be as basic as a bathroom light occupancy sensor or as complex as a whole-building, computer-controlled energy management system that handles lighting, HVAC equipment, and sometimes other functions, such as security.
Backup Power and Non-Renewable Onsite Generation
Backup power is important for commercial and industrial applications, and can mean life and death in healthcare applications. Generation and storage are the main components of a backup power system.
The storage capacity of uninterruptible power supply systems (UPSs) protects against voltage irregularities and short power interruptions, and also allows time for generators to come online during an outage. Flywheel based UPSs achieve similar performance as lead-acid batteries, without toxicity concerns and maintenance requirements.
Backup power generation is usually achieved with diesel or gas generators, which consume fossil fuel and pollute. Fuel-cells can deliver high performance with much less environmental impact.
Choose a photovoltaic (PV) system to fit your energy needs, budget, and the space you have for installing the modules.
Crystalline modules are proven, efficient, and reliable, and produce the most power per square foot, especially during peak hours.
Thin-film works well in low-light conditions and in high temperatures so over the course of a year can create more power than crystalline PV per rated capacity, but because the output is lower for the same area, you’ll need a lot more room on the rooftop to provide the same generation capacity.
Wire and Wire Insulation
The plastic insulation and jacketing on electric and data wire and cable are commonly made of polyvinyl chloride (PVC) and fluoropolymers and contain lead, plasticizers, flame retardants, and other hazards. Toxic compounds may be released in the event of fire or as the wire jacketing deteriorates over time.
Wires and cables are available with nonhalogenated insulation and jacketing and with no heavy metals. Use of metal conduit, while likely to be more expensive, can provide fire protection without the use of hazardous compounds, and also simplifies remodeling.
Plug-and-play modular wiring systems can save installation time and are designed for easy re-use and reconfiguration. This provides additional benefits in the form of resource and cost savings, easier retrofits, and preventing the build-up of abandoned cabling in walls--a common fire-hazard.
Only virgin copper is used to make wiring, because impurities can reduce the power-carrying capacity of the wire. While the high value of copper encourages recycling, recycling in many parts of the world involves burning off the insulation which releases dioxins and other toxic compounds.