Energy costs have skyrocketed in recent months, leaving food companies scurrying for a way to cut their expenses. Commercial and industrial facilities spend up to 30 per cent of their energy bill onlighting, according to a study by the US's energy department.
The development of the new system was funded by the EU through its Eureka programme and extends the control offered by dimmer switches to alllighting sources, including fluorescent lamps.
The system saves up to 30 per cent of energy costs while providing safer illumination for work locations, said Martin Kadlec, the development manager at Czech-based ElkoEP. The company is the project's lead manager.
He estimates the system will repay the investment within six years.
Fluorescent lamps are popular in plants because they are economical and long-lived. However, they have been unsuitable for many applications because they only offer limited control over the levelof light emitted.
The 2929 ICOLS, as it is currently called, gives plant managers automatic control of lighting levels. About 70 per cent of all lighting consists of fluorescent lamps used principally in offices,factories, warehouses and other public buildings.
The ICOLS system monitors light levels through out a building making any necessary adjustments automatically as natural light changes throughout the day and according to the seasons.
A single central control unit can manage up to 64 lights from all categories. It makes use of electronic ballasts for fluorescent systems, eliminating start up delays, reducing power consumptionand extending tube life.
The electronic ballast makes it possible to vary the intensity of fluorescent lamps. No starter is needed and damaging strobe effects are eliminated as lamps no longer flicker and can be adjustedto any light level. Lamp life can be extended to 16,000 hours from 12,000 hours.
The Austrian-Czech partners involved in the project plan to market the system. Individual products will be launched to potential customers at the end of 2005.