It is estimated that around a third of all energy consumed by commercial buildings is being wasted because it is either being used inefficiently or unnecessarily or both. This level of misapplication – which is more than any other building system – can result in huge costs for businesses of which many facilities managers are under continued pressure to reduce these overheads.
With lighting taking up a massive proportion of the energy used, lighting control has been pushed to the forefront in the last decade as a big opportunity for organisations to save money. But to maximise these cost savings, it is important that the right solution is implemented for the building’s lighting as there is no ‘one size fits all’ fix.
Lighting fittings must be thoroughly evaluated before developing a strategy so that lighting systems are tailored to the specific needs of individual spaces. The space and the application where the lighting controls are used must be considered too as this can determine how a plan will be implemented.
This includes investigating what is the room’s use, does it have a low or high occupancy use, or windows or skylights that let in daylight. It is also important to look at the existing light levels in the space and what the new requirements will be. Energy codes and building codes also have to be studied.
With LEDs taking over as the preferred light fitting, care must be taken to ensure that the efficiency is matched with occupancy sensors that are able to cope with the large in-rush currents. There also has to be enough sensors to ensure coverage for the tasks being carried out, which is why we always show three detection patterns. This will extend the lighting lifespan and reduce maintenance costs resulting in additional savings.
At B.E.G. we celebrate our 40th anniversary this year, and when we look at a new project, our focus has always been to make sure we provide the correct amount of light to the given space, increase the light source’s efficiency and ensure that the lights are only turned on when they are required. The objective of any effective lighting control is to keep the unused lights off as long as possible to maximise savings and provide a return on investment.
FMs can achieve this by a number of ways such as scheduling lights to automatically turn off at certain times based on sunrise or sunset. Light levels may also be tuned and set based on the requirements of the occupant or occupants.
By using quality occupancy sensors, this means the lights will be switched off when occupants vacate that particular space in the room. Another good example of reducing energy costs is by investing in dimming lighting which provides users with one or more light levels beyond full on and full off. It is also possible to measure light levels and adjust lights automatically based on the natural sunlight from a window.
New technologies such as wireless smartphone controls mean it is even easier for FMs to manage lighting control and provide better end user control. These are less expensive to fit than a wired system and cause much less disruption to workspaces during installation.
Of course, lighting controls are not used just for energy-saving and reducing costs inside a building – they are equally effective in an outdoor environment such as for car parks or roads. Putting a system in place that switches the lights in a space that is completely unlit at certain times of the day can also be a valuable security measure if a building is ever compromised.
The best way for organisations to save the most money on lighting is by learning how to best use the system and how to fully utilise all of its benefits. It is also essential to regularly carry out surveys and maintenance on lighting systems to make sure they are still operating effectively and have not been modified in anyway.
If a building’s use changes and rooms are being used for different reasons by an increased number of occupants this can also have an effect on energy costs so a new plan may then need to be put in place.
When building operators are analysing what the total investment cost will be to implement a lighting control strategy, installation and ongoing maintenance costs need to also be considered. The lighting control manufacturer or electrical contractor will be able to provide assistance in this area so the actual return can be more accurately achieved.
While it is true the main reason why many FMs use lighting controls is to save on energy costs, there are many other benefits too. This includes improving the overall lighting quality and increasing employee comfort by adjusting light levels for certain spaces. This can improve overall productivity.
Whatever the lighting control requirements might be for the building, it is always recommended to choose a reputable and experienced company to ensure your objectives are properly met.