Tesla’s 100+ year-old invention finally gains momentum

Induction-Light-Aircraft-HangarTesla…the name alone brings forth thoughts of great looking cars maneuvering silently through our city streets and country roads, emission free, and powered through the smallest of particles… electrons. Elon Musk has built an automotive brand based on profound innovation, robust marketing, and by answering the need to a consumer niche that has long been ignored or inadequately fulfilled. He has put a fossil-fuel based industry on watch as the wave of his paradigm-shift continues to crash into and contort the 100-plus-year status quo within the auto industry. 

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But what is Tesla? Actually, it’s not a “what” it’s a “who.” And perhaps the better question to ask is, “Who was Tesla and what does he have to do with my hangar?” Nicola Tesla was a Serbian born engineer and inventor who dabbled in all things electrical. One of his patents was for the induction light. It is a rare bird when compared to today’s traditional lighting options of fluorescent and incandescent lights with their filaments. Induction lights do not possess a filament that glow or heat like in incandescent or fluorescent lights, respectively. Induction lights rely exclusively on magnetic fields to excite the gas inside its tube providing long-lasting, bright light at a much lower cost of operation.

Induction lighting may have been around for a long time but it has not caught mass commercial acceptance until the late 1990s and early 2000s. Through a long time contact, Ira Hertz, owner of lighting distributor Green Energy Solutions in Denver, CO, I was introduced to Robert Aske, Sales Director at NEPTŪN Light Inc., which is a US-Based manufacturer of commercial grade induction, compact fluorescent, and LED lighting systems.

I drove to their headquarters and manufacturing facility in Lake Forest, IL just north of Chicago in late June to meet Mr. Aske in person. A personal visit was more than justified after I learned that all their induction and LED fixtures were assembled at this U.S. location. Most lighting fixtures are assembled overseas and I wanted to see “Made In U.S.A” in action and get a hands-on demonstration of the fixtures. I was not disappointed.

Aske led me through the building for the next couple of hours. I witnessed the workstations responsible for assembling, testing, and packaging. In another end of the building, I noticed a series of old light fixtures sent in from new customers being “re-lamped” with new components. This keeps the cost down by taking advantage of an existing “chassis” during the retrofit process. After leaving the workstations, Aske brought me to the conference room where I was able to see various induction lights fired up.

The first observation was instantaneous light. There was no warm-up time. Aske reassured me that no delay existed when “re-striking” the light. Re-strike refers to the act of turning the light off and then immediately back on again. A delay of significant amounts of time can be experienced with metal halide and high-pressure sodium fixtures. The second observation was a lack of sound emanating from the fixture. And finally, I noticed the fixtures were aesthetically pleasing to view. The lamp (or bulb) is shaped like a donut with two magnets wrapped around either end. When an electrical current is passed through these magnets, the power of the existing magnetic field is significantly increased. The excited gas within the tube then emits significant light with minimal heat when compared to an incandescent lamp.

Performance

The key takeaway regarding performance of induction lighting is that although one may achieve less lumens per watt than Metal-Halide (MH) or High-Pressure Sodium (HPS) lights, induction lighting (made by NEPTŪN Light) still achieves a higher Color Rating Index (CRI) and Color Temperature. With these factors in play, the cumulative effect of these performance factors results in a far better appearance than MH or HPS fixtures at nearly ½ the power. For example, Aske pointed out that 1000-watt MH fixtures are commonly replaced with 500-watt induction fixtures.

Cost of Operation

Providing better light at half the power is quite a feat to accomplish. Not only is it technically impressive but it offers substantial cost savings to your operational budget. Higher upfront costs associated with induction fixtures do exist but several benefits can be realized that will actually save you money, not only in the long term but in the short term as well.

Financial gains are everywhere and can be enjoyed almost immediately and over the lifespan of the unit. Short term benefits come in the form of rebates and or other cash incentives that might be available from state, county, and city governments or even through your local utility provider. Long-term gains can be taken advantage of because induction light fixtures have a lifespan nearly four to five times longer than MH or HPS lighting. Because of the ultra-long lifespan of these fixtures, costs associated with procuring and installing replacement lamps normally experienced with MH and HPS fixtures do not exit. Finally, let’s not forget that if you are replacing a 1000-watt MH fixture with a 500-watt induction fixture, you cut your electrical cost by 50%.

If you are looking to construct, purchase, or remodel an existing hangar, whether it is a general aviation hangar, corporate flight facility, FBO or MRO, take the time to review your lighting needs for your operation. There exist more options out there than just the default Metal Halide, High Pressure Sodium, or even high-output fluorescent (T8) fixtures. Make sure your general contractor, architect, and consultant are aware of your needs by bringing up these key points.

  • Do I need instant restrike (on-off-on) capabilities?
    • This applies for energy efficiencies, security, and safety.
  • What functions or tasks will be performed in the proposed area?
  • Do I qualify for government/utility rebates?

Don’t accept the status quo or the cheapest lighting solution as it will actually cost you more in the long run. There should be no compromise for your Cessna 172, Falcon 2000, or Boeing 757. You may not be able to afford a Tesla automobile, yet. But at least you can work (or play) under his lighting.

Thank you to Ira Hertz of Green Energy Solutions for the introduction to Robert Aske and NEPTŪN Light Inc. It was wonderful to see such great lighting solutions being manufactured here in the United States.

About Neptun:

Neptun is a well-diversified manufacturer of Energy Conservation lighting products such as LED, Induction and Compact Fluorescent. Our products are designed for residential, commercial, outdoor and other infrastructure lighting applications. Neptun offers intelligent solutions for renewable energy generation such as Wind and Solar. www.neptunlight.com

About GES:

Green Energy Solutions, Inc. is a customer driven, energy savings consulting and design firm specializing in efficient commercial lighting, utilizing both LED and Induction technologies.  Hangar, military and warehouse solutions, c-store and supermarket cooler/freezer lighting serve our clients with state of the art solutions to save money, reduce maintenance while creating a well lit, safe and environmentally friendly workspace.  Ongoing customer support and satisfaction have made Green Energy Solutions your efficiency partner, today and in the future.

 For more information and a quote contact I. Ira Hertz at ihertz@gesolutionsinc.com or call 303.596.6091 www.gesolutionsinc.com

2 thoughts on “Tesla’s 100+ year-old invention finally gains momentum”

  1. I hope anyone considering advanced lighting will engage the services of a professional Architectural Lighting Designer to help navigate this complex and rapidly changing field to arrive at the best solution for their hanger.

    As an example, manufacturers of the magnetic induction lamps described in this article use a number of different frequencies in their power systems, including 13.6 MHz, 2.65 MHz and 250 kHz – and i have not found that any of them can provide 3rd party testing data to convince me their lamps will not degrade the local radio frequency environment. Even if the impact is minimal, which would be best for an aircraft hanger?

    Magnetic induction lamps contain mercury, but since they may last 100,000 hours that may never be an issue. On the other hand, LED light sources are mercury-free, many now are even more efficient than induction – but they are a *lot* more expensive.

    One place to start is the International Association of Lighting Designers webs site – http://www.iald.org – click on “Find a Lighting Designer”.

    There is also a lot of information at the Illumination Engineering Society – http://www.iesna.org

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