As far as commercial buildings go, office buildings have the greatest proportion of total lit floorspace than any other type of building. Considering this—and the fact that more money is spent on lighting than on almost any other building system (HVAC being the most expensive)—it’s worthwhile for facility managers to find ways to decrease those costs—and become more energy efficient to boot. (For more ideas on how to make your commercial building more energy efficient, check out this article.)
This article outlines a number of ways you can maximize your efficiency in the area of lighting. (If your office building is among the small number of those that have already converted to LED bulbs—the best and most energy-efficient light bulbs today—then congratulations! And by all means, skip ahead to number two.) Whatever actions you decide to take, you’ll be glad you did: In terms of upgrades, lighting is a low-hanging fruit that usually provides the highest return on investment.
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3 Ways To Maximize Your Energy Efficiency With Lighting
1. Switch to LED lights.
Light-emitting diode (LED) technology uses less power than traditional bulbs and gives out more lumens (brightness). LED bulbs have come a long way in just the last couple of years; where they once produced more of a “cool” white light, they now offer the same natural-looking “warm” light as incandescents. They are also more reliable than they used to be, give off less heat than traditional bulbs (which means your air conditioning system doesn’t have to work as hard to counteract them), and often have better warranties.
Lighting initiatives like LED retrofits have a high return on investment. EE Reports estimates that the cost of a $400,000 retrofit, for example, could yield a two-year payback, and save $200,000 a year in operating expenses moving forward. And while that sounds great, the cost of a complete retrofit isn’t always in the budget for every company. That’s why options are available, such as switching your building over in phases. (Tip: Start with areas where lights are on the longest, such as lobbies, stairwells, and parking garages.) The savings on your energy bill can then gradually be applied to other areas of the building.
Another option is lighting as a service. Similar to an arrangement where a school leases a copier, for example, lighting as a service companies facilitate lighting design improvements, provide you with new LED lights, install them, and service them as needed. Rather than paying hundreds of thousands of dollars to buy and install new lights yourself, you simply pay a monthly fee in this “lease” arrangement. Your lighting as a service partner can also help you take advantage of valuable utility rebates. Finding the best rebate available and meeting the utility’s paperwork requirements can be time-consuming and tedious, but they are well worth the effort, especially if your lighting as a service partner takes care of it all for you.Similar to an arrangement where a school leases a copier, for example, lighting as a service companies facilitate lighting design improvements, provide you with new LED lights, install them, and service them as needed. Click To Tweet
LED Lighting & Productivity In The Office
LED lights can actually help boost office productivity levels because they are capable of generating the entire spectrum of visible light. That means LED bulbs can be specifically designed to work in conjunction with human biology, providing bright white light in the morning and warm light later in the day. Subtle lighting changes like these work with our natural circadian rhythm, which may ultimately serve to make employees more productive. (That’s just one more reason LEDs are the best light bulbs for the office!)
2. Incorporate digital lighting controls.
A recent study suggests that, once you’ve switched to LEDs, the next step is to incorporate network lighting controls, which can increase your savings by 47%. A networked system allows you to control your building’s lights from a central location, making it easier to provide the best lighting for your office in every area (windows or no windows) at all times of day. According to Consulting-Specifying Engineer, an intelligent, networked system makes the following efficient lighting strategies possible:
- Time scheduling—turning lights on or off in an area or dimming lights, based on a predetermined schedule.
- Occupancy/vacancy control—turning lights on or off based on whether a space is occupied or not.
- Personal control—individual employees have control over the lighting in their workspaces, which can help prevent overlighting, reducing lighting energy use in some cases by 10%.
- Daylight harvesting—adjusting light levels automatically based on the amount of natural sunlight in any given area.
- Load shedding (demand response)—adjusting lighting in one or more areas as part of a demand response strategy.
Enabled by the Internet of Things (IoT), this type of lighting control system uses wireless switches, eliminating the need to wire light switches directly to fixtures. Those bulbs are then connected to a network, allowing them to be monitored and controlled from the cloud. Via the web or a mobile app, you can manage individual lights or groups of lights based on things like occupancy, external light levels, and times of day; you can also control dimming and color-changing. And smart fixtures like these can also convey information about broken and burnt-out lighting, all in real-time.
3. Lower light levels.
This one may seem obvious, but over-illuminating office building spaces is a common mistake. Most people don’t realize their environments are overlit, and some companies have tried reducing the amount of light they provide and seen good results.
When LinkedIn tried a new wireless lighting control system in its office building—which was more than 20 years old at the time—it set all the fixtures at 100% brightness. (Most of the building’s occupants were engineers or IT professionals with at least two computer monitors; working in an environment with a computer typically requires less light than writing on paper.) The light level was gradually dropped by 5-10% every few days until it reached a level that was deemed optimal. In fact, the light level was reduced as much as 46% or 48% before the first person even noticed that the lighting had changed.
The best office lighting for computer work is when the room’s surrounding light is brighter than the computer display. OSHA suggests avoiding bright light sources directly behind the display screen (like a window) and instead positioning computers so they are at a 90-degree angle with the light coming in. Supplemental task lighting can be used near computer screens to increase the brightness of the area around the computer and balance out the light sources.
Want more information on how to optimize your lighting (& how to make your building more energy efficient in general)?
Optimizing your building’s lighting system is a great way to start seeing savings, but there are also other things you can do to reduce your utility bill—and increase your sustainability factor, too.
At Iota, we help companies and building managers understand their building systems better, with the goal of implementing strategies to achieve energy efficiency and cost savings. In the case of lighting, we’ll work with you to design a custom smart LED lighting solution that delivers maximum financial impact for your building; we can also install and maintain the lights, and help you cash in on the best rebates. To learn more about our lighting as a service offering—or any of our other energy efficiency solutions—visit our website or contact us.