To hear Myron Kahn talk about it, the office building equivalent of a gas guzzler is the fluorescent lighting, typically found in offices, that use nearly half the electricity consumed by the structure.
Kahn, president of Polarized International Inc., Tarzana, designs and produces polarized, translucent ceiling panels for offices. He is an inventor of light polarizing methods that convert random light waves to light waves in the vertical plane of polarization.
As a result of this change, lower power lighting, consuming less energy--up to 33% less--can produce the same amount of visual performance in the typical office, he said. Since lighting typically accounts for 40% of the energy usage in an office building, he said, the savings are considerable.
Polarized ceiling panels made of plastic convert the horizontal light vibrations--the ones that create glare--into more vertical vibrations, the kind that contribute to improved vision, Kahn explained.
Walking out of his office, he held a polarizing disk up to the blue sky.
"On a clear day like this, the blue sky is especially deep, beautiful and effective," he said. "That's because the light is naturally polarized. When clouds or smog appear, glare increases and the light becomes depolarized."
Last May, in testimony before the California Energy Commission in Sacramento, Kahn asserted that "hundreds of millions of dollars are still being wasted on inefficient lighting techniques, and the resulting higher energy costs serve only the interests of the utility, lamp and air-conditioning industries."
He added that "these industries impede the adoption of sound technical methods to reduce energy and light levels and building heat loads, despite their claim to the contrary. Our first obligation should be to the people who must occupy these buildings, the architects and engineers and the owners, who pay operating costs."
Panels manufactured by Polarized International Inc. are eligible for Southern California Edison Co.'s rebate program, according to D. W. Ferguson, supervisor of energy management programs at the utility.
Rebate on Fixtures
In a letter to Kahn, Ferguson said that Edison will rebate $10 per fixture or 30% of the installed cost--whichever is less--for a maximum of $50,000 per facility, provided that an Edison representative issues a rebate coupon to the customer before the installation and that the fluorescent lamps that are removed be permanently disabled.
"It's the old N.I.H. Syndrome in action--Not Invented Here," Kahn explained. "If a lighting fixture manufacturer doesn't produce it, it doesn't exist. Even camera manufacturers, such as Nikon, Canon and Minolta recognize that polarizing attachments are often needed on their factory-supplied lenses for photographing window displays and artwork."
Kahn said that his panels are in a number of public and private buildings, perhaps chief among them the downtown Los Angeles headquarters of the Department of Water and Power, which was retrofitted with 17,000 eight-square-foot acrylic light polarizing panels.
"In this era of personal computers and video display terminals, polarized light is even more important, because it minimizes the glare, improves productivity and reduces complaints from workers," he added.
Other installations with panels designed and manufactured--his plant is in Valencia--by Kahn's firm are in schools and colleges in several states, he said.
The California Energy Commission did not mention the uses of polarization in its advanced energy efficiency documentation, Kahn noted, even though the Lawrence Berkeley Research Laboratory reported there could be significant savings in that process.