Take Control of Lighting Upgrades

06/28/2013 | By Janelle Penny

How an in-house audit can uncover big savings

Lighting may be an energy-conscious FM’s low-hanging fruit, but picking the right fruit is another challenge altogether. That’s where a lighting audit comes in.

By strategically cataloging every lamp, fixture, sensor, and control in your facility, you can deal with the biggest energy hogs first and use the savings to finance other efficiency projects.

Ready to get started? These lighting consultants will walk you through the process.

When and Why: Lighting vs. Energy
Why focus on lighting instead of conducting an overall energy audit? For one thing, lighting projects typically have shorter payback periods, notes Brian Bridges, president of Lighting Audit Services.

“A comprehensive audit is usually best if there are other systems in the building that need an upgrade,” Bridges explains. “Sometimes it’s a budget issue – ‘We have X amount to do a capital project right now and lighting is the quickest way to do it.’ If you can roll a lighting upgrade in with mechanical, solar, and envelope, that’s fantastic, but that’s often not the case.”

Depending on your facility’s needs and your organization’s priorities, you may decide to take a second look at your lighting at regular intervals, especially if utilities offer incentives for efficiency improvements, explains Gary Markowitz, founder and president of Kilojolts Consulting Group. One of his clients, a national defense contractor, adheres to a schedule that ensures the company’s lighting stays efficient and up-to-date.

“They look at it in three- and five-year increments. Every five years, they may do a major capital improvement to the illumination system because the technology changes significantly,” Markowitz explains. “This customer does a general relamping on the same three- to five-year interval, and they’ll often take the maintenance cost of that into consideration when evaluating the ROI of any new upgrades.”

How to Get Started
First, consider your goals for the lighting audit – what do you want the end result to be? If you’re going to use the data to apply for rebates or a green building certification, you’re better off bringing in a third-party professional who can conduct an in-depth audit and make sure all necessary documentation is squared away. Some contracts may specifically call for an independent audit.

However, if you’re trying to find places to cut energy use or back up a funding request for an efficiency upgrade, your in-house facilities team may be well-suited for the job.

“Don’t go to the project stage based on your own lighting audit,” recommends Brian Bridges, president of Lighting Audit Services, noting that a CEM on staff or an advanced engineering team may have the appropriate auditing experience. “However, if you’re trying to create a strategy or a budgetary report for your in-house team, there are a number of ways to prepare for that.”

Consider enlisting your local utility’s energy specialists in your auditing efforts, Markowitz recommends. The utility may offer to pay part of the cost of a third-party energy audit or have someone on staff who can explain your options once you’ve presented an inventory of your lighting.

“Always call the utility or state energy office first,” Markowitz says. “When you have general notes – things like ‘I have these T12 fixtures, but I know T8s and T5s are more efficient’ or ‘I like the idea of LEDs but I don’t know what to do’ – they’ll usually have someone available with the expertise to explain your options and make recommendations.”

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