Lighting Retrofits: Look Closely at Controls

  January 21, 2011

This is Chris Matt, Managing Editor – Print & E-Media with Maintenance Solutions magazine. Today's tip is the energy-savings potential of lighting controls.

Most managers considering lighting retrofits consider only the lighting equipment when, in fact, some of the greatest potential for energy savings comes from controls. At the most basic level, occupancy sensors can save 15-30 percent of a space's lighting energy use if the space has intermittent use throughout the day.

Occupancy sensors can be simple replacements for wall switches, and wireless versions are available that eliminate the need for an electrician to rewire the space. In rooms with daylight, photocells that automatically dim the lights in conjunction with daylight can save an additional 30-50 percent of energy use. By making the leap from devices to systems, managers can tie lighting controls to room schedules, give users individual control of the fixtures in their immediate area, shed load to avoid peak-demand charges from the utility, and set a high-end trim if light levels are higher than needed.

To analyze the opportunities a retrofit presents to an organization, managers will need to plan in advance. A lighting designer can guide managers through the many available options and prioritize the highest-yield returns. A salesperson associated with a manufacturer or distributor primarily is interested in selling their products, so managers need to be aware they will slant their sales pitches to achieve that goal. By comparison, an independent lighting designer who is knowledgeable about current technologies is more likely to look at all potential options.

The designer will learn about the organization and its operations to understand the level of feasible change. They do not have a financial interest in the final equipment selected, so they can make recommendations with the organization's best interest in mind.


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