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Let There Be Light.. Energy Efficient Light!

Written by CarbonCulture Team from UK Parliament on 5th June 2014

Ever wondered about the magic of light? How you’re always flooded by it as soon as you stumble through the door after a late night out?

Welcome to the illuminating world of Passive InfraRed sensors - commonly known as ‘PIR’! The science bit says that when a person walks past a sensor, PIR detects a rapid change of infrared energy and sends a signal that switches the light on. “Oooh how very James Bond!” I hear you say, but the idea of switching light with a PIR has been around since 1981, ever since Marcel Züblin took on the challenge of transforming it into a reality. Nowadays, from automatically-activated lighting systems to burglar alarms, PIR is used widely everywhere and has been hailed as a real energy-saving initiative.

As we aim to reduce energy consumption by 34% in the next 5 years, installing PIR has become an easy and effective way of getting Parliament’s ‘sustainability-ball’ rolling. Portcullis House now has PIR lights and ventilation installed in its committee and meeting rooms. All the corridors in Norman Shaw North and Norman Shaw South are now fitted with PIR lights too; as is Millbank House and the 4th floor in 7 Millbank. Energy efficiency hasn’t stopped there as despite the constraints of its heritage setting, the Lords River Restaurant has had LEDs installed and the Old Palace Yard is due to have all its lights and taps fitted with PIR too when its refurbished over the summer. The Palace of Westminster isn’t far behind either with LED lights fitted in its lifts and smaller T5 florescent lights installed wherever possible.

There is a lot more yet to be done of course but this fervour for eco-efficiency seems to be spreading as solar panels produce hot water in Millbank House and inverter pumps improve the efficiency of hot and cold water supplies across the estate. It’s not just the efficiency of the steam boiler in the Palace that has increased but even the smaller changes are beginning to make a difference as well. Some teams took out surplus lights above their desks and swapped high powered bulbs with softer ones, small changes that not only improved their working environment but saved energy as well! The point is that every little bit genuinely helps and contributes towards Parliament’s Energy Commitment and our Continuous Improvement Programme

Some offices recycle ink cartridges whilst others plan to switch off their computers at source. The caucus is steadily growing and has begun to gain more and more ground. 

Indeed, in the future we might even have self-sufficient wireless electronic systems that display monitored energy usage on tablets and smartphones. To paraphrase Gandhi, it’s not too late at all - we just don't yet know what we are capable of.

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