Ugandan engineer designs money-saving light system

Feb 24, 2004 01:00 AM

Dan Byamukama, an electro-mechanical design engineer, has designed an energy saving light system that would save Ugandans millions of shillings.
The system code-named Refcolite uses the Active Input Ballast (AIB) technology. It consumes 50 Watts, saving about 80 % of power compared to the ordinary street/security lights that use 250-Watts mercury bulbs under Passive Input Ballast (PIB).

The Refcolite has an in-built feature that gives the user “free light,” in addition to what the user has to pay for. The frame is made out of sheet metal, specially fabricated to make the Refcolite weatherproof.
"It gives light that compares very well with that from a mercury light fitting of 250 Watts," Byamukama, proprietor of Refco Electrics in Bukoto says. Unlike conventional fluorescent lights which use a magnetic choke, the Refcolite uses two special chokes called electronic ballast. It does not need a starter to fire the tubes.

Byamukama is a graduate of electrical and Mechanical engineering from Kyambogo and Middlesex University UK, respectively. About four years ago, he compared the performance of energy saving bulbs, with that of the ordinary fluorescent tubes. He observed that energy saving bulbs, due to various factors, had a comparatively shorter life span compared to fluorescent tubes. He also observed that ordinary fluorescent lights could be made to consume less power by improving their starting system.
Byamukama says the low power factor magnetic choke can be replaced with a high power factor, high frequency electronic ballast. "It (electronic ballast) improves energy efficiency and the life span of the system and works without flickering or failure to fire due to low voltage," says Byamukama.

Although the Refcolite is designed principally for an outdoor light fixture, Byamukama says AIB technology used in the Refcolite, can also be used to convert existing indoor lights to save up to 45 % of the energy.
"This is good news for all users of conventional fluorescent lights as they could save a lot of energy leading to low bills."
Besides, consumers in low voltage area where fluorescent lights keep flickering and never starting stand to benefit as the ballast has the magic to fire the tubes at voltages even as low as 120 Volts.

His target consumers are mainly commercial users of security lights like institutions of learning, hospitals, industries and municipalities for street lighting.
Working samples of the Refcolite, can be found at the Mayor's garden at Kampala City Council among other places.

Source: New Vision
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