T5 Fluorescent Technology Flies High for Defense

March 31, 2005

The United States Air Force 35th Fighter Wing at Misawa Air Base, Japan decided to investigate new lighting for their aircraft shelters because current lighting levels were ineffective and created a safety concern for maintenance personnel. Reducing energy consumption on base was also a priority. Captain Elizabeth Porter, Chief of Maintenance Engineering, assisted by Resource Efficiency Manager William Bunch, accepted the responsibility to head the project. Her office is responsible for all base infrastructure and manages the energy program.

The Wing flies two squadrons of F-16 Fighting Falcons which are housed in hardened aircraft shelters (HASs). This type of structure has stiff lighting requirements because the power of the jet engines generates massive vibrations, even in a building that is made of reinforced steel and concrete. The presence of hazardous materials and explosives are also a concern.

Original lighting in the HASs consisted of 400-watt High Pressure Sodium (HPS) high-bays. This offered marginal light levels (20-foot candles) of yellowish light with poor color rendering, making it difficult to service the fighter jets. The Air Force contracted energy consultant Bart Wallace, president of Daystar Energy Systems in El Cerrito, California, to help them deploy the proper lighting system. He suggested that new T5HO fluorescent lighting technology might offer the light levels, color rendering, and energy efficiency that the military branch was seeking.

To demonstrate the lumen value and color of a T5 solution, Mr. Wallace created a concept test sample using an off-the-shelf 4-lamp open luminaire moved between gyms, warehouses, and other large volume facilities on base and in Misawa City. However, new HAS lighting would require enclosed luminaires, carrying a UL Class I, Division 2 hazardous location classification. Paramount Industries of Croswell, MI, was then chosen to develop product specifications because of their experience with custom designs, their manufacturing capabilities for heavy-duty industrial luminaires, and their quick delivery.

Paramount utilized eight 54-watt T5HO lamps and a specular reflector in their hazardous location HS2 model Techniseal® troffer to create a new 2x4-foot luminaire. With eight lamps, it delivers up to 40 percent more mean lumens than a standard 400-watt metal halide luminaire. Even with only six lamps, it can still provide equivalent light levels while yielding up to 25 percent energy reduction (according to ballast manufacturers' statements). Other advantages over metal halide include instant start-up, better lumen maintenance, and excellent color rendering. It also offers the opportunity to interface with electronic controls for additional energy savings.

The Air Force and local Japanese engineers reviewed drawings and product samples for 6 months before reaching a consensus. They opted for the six lamp version and ordered 765 of the new luminaires for the 31 shelters on base. Contractors began installing the new luminaires in March 2004 with completion scheduled for December 2004. Twenty-four units were installed in each 8,758 square foot shelter. The HAS ceilings were also cleaned and painted white. The luminaires were mounted with a 20 x 18 foot spacing layout. Because of the curved ceilings, mounting heights varied from 17 to 25 feet.

Captain Porter also ordered 255 of three lamp hazardous location HT5 model Paramyd® luminaires for task lighting at floor level to provide extra light underneath the aircraft. The Paramyd luminaire is an extremely rugged vibration-resistant luminaire with adjustable mounting brackets and a tool-free lens frame for easy servicing.

After the installation, all the involved parties were impressed. New light levels averaged 50-foot candles in the first shelter—more than double the levels of the original HPS. Because of the whiter light and better color rendering it gave the visual impression of being even brighter increasing productivity for the military technicians working in the shelters. Even with the dramatic improvement in light quality, energy consumption was reduced by 25 percent.