Energy Savings on Lighting. Start By Not Turning Them On

One of the most visible and enticing energy reduction targets that most organizations gravitate towards is lighting.  Offices, factories, cafeterias, bathrooms, parking lots, garages, walkways….take a stroll around any city, office park or corporate campus and chances are you will see things lit up like a Christmas tree most hours of every day.  With the growing focus on corporate sustainability and energy reduction, companies like CreePhillipsDigital Lumens,Solatube and many others have brought innovative low energy lighting solutions to market (LED’s, solar lighting, sensor-based lighting management solutions, etc.) to help business address this challenge.  

Before going down the path of wholesale replacement of our existing lighting infrastructure it is important to take a step back to see if you can save on lighting energy burn the old fashioned way – by using less of it.  Some of the things you may find and decide to execute on may surprise you and hopefully resonate with you.  Many of these are easy to implement, generated a rapid (or very rapid) ROI, and made a significant impact in helping lower energy consumption (kw/h) and CO2 emissions.

First things first:  Perform an common-sense audit

Chances are you’ll identify a number of relatively apparent ways to cut down on lighting energy burn without hardware replacement if you approach the project with some good-old-fashioned common sense.   Some of the steps to take include:
  • Identify areas where more light was being provided than was necessary for the work force to be comfortable and productive
  • Identify areas where lighting was being provided, but that people did not require for significant portions of the day / night
  • Identify areas where lighting was superfluous and not adding value to the employees or the enterprise
  • Develop a list of potential projects and gather as much data about lighting-related energy burn related to those projects as we could
Once you have gone through this process, you should be ready to execute on some “low-hanging fruit” projects that will provide a quick and powerful bang for the buck.  Here are examples of project to consider out of the gate.

Energy Savings on Lighting Project #1: Delamping

Many companies provide more light in many locations than our employees required or were asking for. Most office buildings are still lit by the ubiquitous 3-tube, overhead flourescent light fixture.  My friends at CA technology ran a small pilot project to see if there was any impact on employee productivity or perception of lighting quality if we removed one of the three tubes, and there wasn’t.
“Delamping” the majority of the facility is the obvious next step and a rapid reduction of close to 1/3 reduction in energy utilization, cost and CO2 emissions related to those lighting fixtures.   Be sure to continue to gather data and employee feedback and if the results continue to be favorable, deploy delamping enterprise wide.

Energy Savings on Lighting Project #2:  Garages and Parking Lots

Many businesses have employees working 24/7 and for most of them there are far fewer employees working overnight than during the day.  That doesn’t mean that the lighting situation in their substantial parking areas (parking lots and multiple story parking garage) reflected that reality.  When taking a look at the bills and the amount of unnecessary energy being used, that is a long-hanging fruit project.
Implementation is a snap.  Create specially designated parking areas for all 2nd and 3rd shift employees, thereby eliminating the need to have the vast majority of parking area lit during non-peak hours.  Procure some bollards and chains to allow internal facility staff to close the unutilized parking areas at night.   The results for one client have been significant.  They are projecting a reduction from 358,978 kwh to 166,969 kwh used per year at the first location and a savings of nearly $14,000 in year one.  The response from employees has been very favorable and they are in the process of deploying this solution at other locations around the globe.

Energy Savings on Lighting Project #3:  Fitness Center Hours

The fitness center in many corporate office buildings suffers from the same issue as the parking areas.  These fitness facilities are often open, lit and powered up 24/7/365, yet only a tiny fraction of overall usage takes place in the overnight hours and about 97% of usage takes place during the week.
Numbers don’t lie and after examining all the data they could get their hands on it was decided to close the fitness center from 11PM to 5AM on weekdays and 10PM to 5AM on weekends.  This allowed them to still serve 99.2% of all employees that used the facility and realize immediate and significant energy reductions.  The project will save over 170,000 kwh by closing these facilities down during times they were almost never used.  It’s not even necessary to tell you about the ROI, it happened the day the new hours were implemented.  
Nobody likes cool sustainability technology more than I do.  I love to learn about new, cutting edge solutions that are making a difference.  But when it comes to lighting, the first thing I would recommend is walk around your business for a few hours with your facilities team during daylight and then again when it’s dark out.  You’ll be surprised how many ways you’ll identify that will make a difference.

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