4 Easy Ways to Improve the Efficiency of your Business Lighting

Depending on your business type and size, lighting accounts for anywhere from 20-50% of your total electricity use. Advances in technology in the past 10 years have made lighting one of the most common and cost-effective ways for business owners to save money and energy.

Replace Incandescent Lighting

By now, just about everyone has heard the call to make the switch from Incandescent Light Bulbs to Compact Fluorescent Lights (CFL’s), but do you realize how many areas of your business might be affected by making this switch?

According to their website, changing just one incandescent bulb to an ENERGY STAR CFL saves $40 or more over the life of the bulb. Changing 5 bulbs results in over $200 in savings. Click here for a calculator from ENERGY STAR that will estimate your savings, lifespan and payback when you replace incandescent lights with ENERGY STAR certified CFL’s.

Incandescent bulbs are commonly found in:

Hanging fixtures
Lamps and task lighting
Accent and track lighting
Illuminated exit signs
Exterior lighting

Upgrade Fluorescent Lighting

The standard for lighting large spaces, fluorescent light systems are four more times efficient than CFL’s. However, older fluorescent systems are considered inefficient due to their poor light quality and tendency to flicker. Because of this, the Department of Energy announced the phase out of the traditional fluorescent T12 bulb (1.5 inches in diameter) in July 2012. Replacing the T12 bulb with a T8 (1″ in diameter) or T5 (5/8″ in diameter) bulb results in brighter, more evenly distributed lighting, greater efficiency and longer lifespans. Additionally, replacing the traditional magnetic ballasts with electronic ballasts provides flicker-free operation and a 30% reduction in energy use versus magnetic ballasts.

Incandescent exit signs typically use about 350 kWh per year, cost $28 in energy for the year, emit 574 pounds of CO2 per year and have an average life span of just under 3 months. A ENERGY STAR qualified LED exit sign on the other hand, use 44 kWh per year, cost $4 for the year, emit only 72 pounds of CO2 and have a life span of over 10 years.

Install Controls 

Controls can maximize the flexibility of your lighting systems ensuring that you use only what you need when you need it. There are four common types of controls:

Bi-level switching: Controlling a group of lights so that half the lights can be turned off if full illumination is not needed. This application is ideally suited for conference rooms and meeting spaces as well as classrooms.
Dimmers: Available for fluorescent and incandescent systems, dimmers allow you to save energy by controlling the amount of light needed. Advanced daylight dimmer controls actually adjust the light based on the amount of natural light available.
Occupancy Sensors: Commonly used in offices, restrooms and warehouses, occupancy sensors turn on and off lights based on motion sensing technology.
Daylight Sensors: Also referred to as photocells, daylight censors turn off exterior lighting when daylight is detected.

These suggestions are an easy starting point for businesses who are thinking about reducing energy consumption and saving money on lighting. There are many other ways to bring efficiency into your business lighting systems including daylighting, replacing mercury vapor lamps with metal halide or high-pressure sodium vapor lamps, and incorporating LED lighting as the technology becomes more widespread. It is also important to remember that that the fixtures housing the lamp are a critical part of achieving maximum efficiency within an overall lighting system.

To maximize both your dollars spent and saved to upgrade your business lighting, contact your local utility provider, visit the ENERGY STAR website and consult an energy auditor, who will in most cases complete a free assessment your business.

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