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LEDdynamics’ New Home: Above and Beyond Efficiency

LEDdynamics’ new super efficient facility on Beanville Road in Randolph, Vermont. All photos are courtesy of LEDdynamics.

George Harvey

Green Energy Times has run a number of articles on light emitting diodes (LEDs). Their cost keeps declining, and their efficiency keeps improving. Unquestionably, in our minds, they are the best investment in general lighting around.

Over the years, one company has dominated our stories on LEDs. That company is LEDdynamics, of Randolph, Vermont. Now, it is back on our pages, with a story we find rather exciting. LEDdynamics has moved to a new building, and what a building it is! It was specially designed to meet the needs of LEDdynamics, a company with an acute interest in things that are good for the environment. We talked to Bill McGrath, chief technology officer, about their new home.

The old LEDdynamics building had previously been a furniture factory. It was not really suited for the environmental controls needed for the technology used in LED lighting. In fact, sawdust from a neighboring enterprise was still getting into the building.

Better environmental control was needed, and the old building made that practically unachievable. This informed a decision for LEDdynamics to have a building designed specifically for its needs. The company built just such a plant, a bit less than two miles away.

Naturally, there was attention put to the building’s lighting. LEDs are the only source of electric lighting. Interestingly, the sun is given every opportunity to reduce the electricity load through a combination of well-placed windows and smart controllers.

The building was put up for an organization that is on the leading edge of manufacturing for a better environment, so unsurprisingly, the building has really superior insulation. The slab is insulated, so heat is not lost into the ground beneath it.

Mini-split heat pump that reclaims heat from the servers and distributes it to the loading dock area.

 

Heating is done primarily with heat pumps. There are five Daikin heat pumps on the roof, installed by Peak Mechanical of Waterbury, Vermont. The heating system is unusual in some ways, one of which is that heat can be moved from warmer areas of the building, which can overheat even in cold weather, into cooler areas.

Another unusual feature is that tubes for radiant heating were installed into the floor of the shipping area, in anticipation of a need that could develop later on. A machine called the “pizza oven” is used to for soldering, allowing components to cool down slowly to avoid stresses. When manufacture goes into multiple shifts, a point is very likely to come when it will be cost-effective to trap the waste heat and distribute it through the heating tubes.

A transformer was placed in the utility room. Its heat is pumped to the water heater.

LEDdynamics’ server room

Rooms used by the company’s IT systems also are a source of waste heat, and this can also be delivered to the shipping area as needed. Some of LEDdynamics’ computers are of significant size. They are used for engineering calculations, and these can produce a fair amount of heat.

Interestingly, McGrath told us control systems for products were provided by Raspberry Pi computers and Arduino microcontrolers. These little machines are unbelievably powerful, compared to what was around not that long ago, but they are inexpensive and add very little to the power needs of the devices they control.

Phones are powered over the internet. This a very efficient way to keep them going and reduces electricity demand.

The building was especially designed and oriented to have a solar system. It was built on a site where there were no trees that would get in the way of sunshine. McGrath told us that the plan was to have about 150 kilowatts of solar photovoltaics at the site. Since the building is 27,000 square feet and the site has seven acres, it is easy to imagine this being done.

There are four level-two charging ports for electric vehicles, and two more of level one. Employees are encouraged to use these, and a number of them already do.

McGrath said, “We have an aggressive recycling policy for shipping materials. Whatever comes in, we reuse.”

One of the exciting things we were able to learn about is LEDdynamics research. When we asked, McGrath said there were a few things he could tell us about. One of these was an experimental device that looks like a tanning bed, which provides infrared light to the user. Such a device does not tan people, but NASA had suggested that light in that part of the spectrum might have health benefits, which might be good to use in spacecraft. Now, LEDdynamics employees are allowed to test the device, and at this early stage in development, some report possible benefits.

LEDdynamics’s web site is leddynamics.com.

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