4 ways to get your lighting costs under control

PG&E
Picture of ceiling lights

Lighting is an important resource and wasting resources is no way to do business. While critical for productivity and security, lighting comes at a cost. Upgrading to high efficiency fixtures can reduce those costs, but even the most efficient lights waste energy if they remain on when nobody is around or when free natural sunlight is available. Lighting controls are designed to help eliminate energy waste. Studies show that adding controls can help reduce lighting energy use by nearly 40 percent.


These four control strategies are commonly used by businesses to successfully curtail energy use and cut costs:


  1. Scheduling. Timers control lights according to preset intervals. For example, lights are automatically switched off during overnight hours, weekends and holidays. Options range from basic, wall-mounted timers to multi-channel time clocks with a variety of scheduling options. Timers typically cost $100 to $2,500, depending on specific features and the number of lights controlled.
  2. Occupancy. Sensors can be installed to automatically turn lights on and off as people enter and leave rooms. They work best in areas with varying foot traffic, such as restrooms and break rooms. Sensing technologies include heat (infrared) and sound (ultrasonic). They can be mounted on ceilings or walls, depending on the application and required coverage pattern.
  3. Daylight harvesting. Photo sensors measure light levels and dim lights or switch them off in response to control signals. Fixtures can be controlled separately for multi-level switching or dimming, adjusting illumination levels as natural daylight increases or decreases. The level of daylight harvesting varies based on the proximity of the sensors to the windows.
  4. Personal control. Occupants control light levels in their workspace, creating presets for specific tasks, like typing or holding meetings. Fixtures can be dimmed or switched on and off individually, giving occupants more flexibility. Studies also show that personal control of lighting improves workplace satisfaction and increases worker performance.

Layering multiple control strategies optimizes effectiveness. A review by the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy found that individual controls saved an average of 25 to 33 percent of lighting energy, while combining controls saved nearly 40 percent. Start with timers and scheduling, then include additional strategies based on your facility type, application, operating hours and business needs


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