6 Ways a Smarter Office Saves You Money

6 Ways a Smarter Office Saves You Money

By Megan Porter

New energy standards require business owners to update the lighting systems in their workplace when they are tackling a lighting renovation. While the initial investment may seem like a nuisance, when you use less energy due to energy efficient lighting technologies, you also save on costs. Businesses that may have been slow to update their energy infrastructure will now come face to face with the operational benefits that come with smarter offices.

Many lighting control systems increase energy savings automatically so you and your employees can focus on your business while the controls take care of improving your workspace's energy efficiency. There are many other practical benefits, including the real-time data that decision makers can use to track and analyze energy use and then adapt accordingly.

Luckily for small business owners, most of the needed technology has been in the marketplace for years now with proven results. Below are six proven examples of how smart offices can save your business money.

1. Occupancy sensors
Occupancy sensors are the most common and easiest way for businesses to save on operational expenses. In fact, the first evolution of occupancy sensors has been around for over 20 years.1 The concept is simple. When employees are not using a space, the lights turn off, which saves on electrical costs as well as the cost of replacing lamps. While some office spaces will be used throughout the day, many individual offices, conference rooms, storage and warehouse space, bathrooms and more do not need constant illumination. With occupancy sensors, employees do not need to turn on lights when they enter a room and, more importantly, do not need to actively turn them off when leaving. This means that when rooms are not being used, business owners will not be unnecessarily using energy. Even small offices can benefit from proper light usage, but the larger the office the more opportunities there are to optimize their lighting needs.

2. Heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC)
While stand-alone options will save on energy and costs, lighting control systems can automate, analyze and control energy systems in real time. For example, some occupancy sensors are now equipped to detect space temperature and provide feedback to the HVAC system. This is done through infrared sensors that detect changes in a room within their line of sight and/or ultrasonic sensors that use high-frequency sound to detect motions.2 As offices further integrate with their lighting control systems, employees can use the real-time data to see if a conference room is open.

3. Automatic daylight dimming
Automatic daylight dimming, or “daylight harvesting,” controls a room’s lighting by the amount of natural light it detects. It utilizes a light sensor that can measure the amount of illumination in a given space. The light output is then adjusted based on the desired level.3 This works particularly well for any space near windows such as corridors, private offices and certain cubicles. Make sure the initial commissioning and calibration of the light sensor is done correctly. If done poorly, the lighting sensors may over illuminate or not provide enough light for a given space, annoying employees and not providing the proper savings.

4. Bi-level switching
People like to have a certain level of control and it is hard to optimize for everyone’s particular needs. By having three-lamp fluorescent fixtures, employees can turn on one, two or three of the lamps near them, depending on the task they are completing and how much light they require for it.2 Rather than universal light levels through the office, this ensures energy is being spent only when it is being used. While automation will provide the optimal lighting across your entire office, bi-level switching is one method to allow employees more or less light for their specific space and task.

5. Task tuning
With occupancy sensors installed, it becomes very clear what parts of the office are being used at certain times of the day.1 While some rooms are used less often, they may need more light for the task at hand while others need less over a prolonged period of time. Through working with a contractor, you can properly assess your lighting needs and dial down a room’s brightness to a level that is best for a room’s intended task.3 While this automatic function will be best for most of your employees, combining it with a manual option such as bi-level switching will give your employees the option to dim or brighten the lights to their preference when working at sporadic hours.

6. Automated demand response
Pacific Gas and Electric (PG&E) offers a program that provides incentives and saves on energy costs for those who can reduce their electricity consumption during weekday afternoons from May through October. By avoiding using energy during these high-demand, high-cost periods, businesses will reduce their operational costs and save money on the energy they do use.2 Participating customers will receive automated event signals from PG&E that will initiate automated demand response strategies to curtail energy use. Businesses can earn financial incentives up to $400 per kilowatt of demonstrated curtailed potential. PG&E will also install the energy management hardware at low or no cost.3

Looking for more information on how to utilize smart office technology? Check out PG&E’s eBook titled "PG&E’s Guide to Lighting Controls and Occupancy Sensors" to learn about popular sustainable systems and how we can help implement solutions at your office.


  1. Pacific Gas and Electric Company, 6 Insights California Businesses Need to Know About Occupancy Sensors
  2. Pacific Gas and Electric Company, 6 Energy Efficient Lighting Control Options for Your Business
  3. Pacific Gas and Electric Company, PG&E’s Guide to Lighting Controls and Occupancy Sensors

6 Ways a Smarter Office Saves You Money
  • SMB Blog Author
    Megan Porter
    Senior Program Marketing Manager at PG&E, is a recognized leader in solutions marketing for small and medium-sized businesses. Megan uses her proven and practical expertise to bring energy efficiency education to businesses in every industry. In this vital role, she develops and oversees highly successful initiatives that result in the adoption of more efficient long-term energy management behaviors.

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