Acuity Brands, Atlanta, has developed a financial tool that allows users to determine the economic value of a lighting system, providing data well beyond that of most payback calculators, the company says. The Visual Economic Tool, found at www.visual-3d.com/software/economictool.aspx, is a free, web-based design tool that uses recommended industry practices to simultaneously estimate and compare the life-cycle costs of up to three lighting systems.

The tool “provides users with more data, deeper evaluations and more choices,” says Randall King, director of illuminating engineering services for Acuity. “You can choose to perform energy-only estimates or input additional information to create estimates that include maintenance, lighting controls and HVAC data. The resulting calculated costs can include economic return as well as life-cycle costs, net present value and internal rate of return. These second-level analysis methods provide an owner with a better business assessment than the typical payback methods currently employed because they account for the time value of money and total cost of ownership.”

Users can input data from any products within the Acuity Brands interior and exterior lighting product portfolio or even data from non-Acuity Brands lighting products. The tool has the flexibility to compare lighting systems using various lighting controls methods and common light sources, including LED, metal halide and fluorescent.

The tool's calculations are based on IESNA RP-31-1996 “Recommended Practice for the Economic Analysis of Lighting” standards. Data is presented using charts, and a built-in help feature reviews definitions, displays calculation formulas and links to additional resources. Comprehensive reports can be printed or saved as a PDF format, or shared with other users to review and edit data if desired. Luminaire data can be loaded in any of the other Visual design tools, saving user time while promoting data consistency.