386 ECES: Saving money, making lives better

LEDs are brighter, creating a high output factor with a low consumption driver which helps reduce costs.

Staff Sgt. Paul Holmes (left) and Senior Airman Lazaro Galvan, 386th Expeditionary Civil Engineer Squadron electricians install light-emitting diode light fixtures at an undisclosed location in Southwest Asia, March 2, 2018. LEDs are brighter, creating a high output factor with a low consumption driver which helps reduce costs. (Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Kurt Mintz)

SOUTHWEST ASIA -- Collaboration of the 386th Expeditionary Civil Engineer Squadron power production and electric shops is essential to maintain the power supply that ensures mission success.

“People don’t understand how important it is to have power because they are so accustomed to having it,” said Master Sgt. Hector Guardado, 386th ECES electric shop noncommissioned officer in charge. “If you really look at it, no (fuel) pumps will move, no planes will land and nothing will happen without power.”

The power production shop and electric shop, which provides electricians for facility support, work together to ensure the installation has a structurally stable power supply, ensuring mission success. The two organizations have a collaborative relationship requiring a proactive mindset while planning for potential issues.

“When we work together we can’t afford to be reactive,” said Master Sgt. Dominique Carvin, 386th electrical power production noncommissioned officer in charge. “We are always planning and plotting. We are trying to figure out the next thing that may fail.”

Carvin describes this process like an individual playing a strategic war video game. The power production and electrical shops are constantly trying to out-think their enemy, the potential issues. He said that the only way for things to work seamlessly in this battle, is for both shops to work together.

This collaboration becomes clear when looking at the power infrastructure of the installation and how the load demand, or the total power required by a specific facility, affects those power needs.

For example, if a unit wants to place 30 additional computers in a facility, the electricity generation capacity may not be able to support the increased demand and would require collaboration of the two shops to figure out how to provide the electrical needs.

In order to help reduce the load demand the electric shop has established a light-emitting diode program to reduce the amount of wattage and amperage being placed on the system.

“As simple as it may be when you put it all together – outside lighting and inside lighting – if you make all (lights) LED it will bring down the consumption of amperage,” Guardado said.

The reduction of amperage, the strength of an electric current, while being able to produce the same amount of light, directly affects long term power production support and fuel consumption. Fuel consumption is reduced because generators won’t have to work as hard to produce the same amount of electricity.

LEDs are brighter, creating a high output factor with a low consumption driver which helps reduce costs. While the installation of the new lights is initially going to be more expensive, the life span of the bulbs, factored in with a calculated reduction in maintenance due to the simplicity of the product, will equal vast financial savings for the Air Force, said Guardado.

Carvin said that this change will also noticeably affect a service member’s quality of life because it frees up electricity to be used elsewhere.

“To put in perspective, if this facility was tapped, as far as electrical capacity, I could not put any more on that grid,” said Guardado. “But if most of that load was lighting it could possibly knock down that load by 30 to 40 percent.”

A 30 percent reduction could potentially free up a substantial amount of money by eliminating the need for additional electrical substations, which could be required to support the power requirement of future expansions to the base.

Guardado thinks the Air Force could quickly realize the value in the LED lighting initiative. He said that not only will it save money, but people will enjoy it because we will be in a better position to implement upgrades and have an electrical grid that can handle it.