Maximize Energy Savings with Lighting Controls

09/01/2017 | By Janelle Penny

Solid strategies to slash your energy spend

Reducing your lighting-related energy spend doesn’t have to require a big upfront investment or a long wait for a return. Lighting controls are increasingly easy to integrate, and installing and commissioning them correctly can yield an energy savings of 30-50% over spaces with no controls installed, explains Terry Arbouw, Director of Business Development and Product Innovation at Hubbell Control Solutions.

Paired with a lighting retrofit, that number can climb even higher. One recent client of Arbouw’s involved a simultaneous retrofit of both lighting and controls at Karl Chevrolet in Ankeny, IA. Retrofitting the expansive car lot slashed energy use at the facility by 74%, saving $143,000 a year on energy and another $12,000 on maintenance. Brent Protzman, Manager for Energy Information and Analytics at Lutron Electronics, describes a similar project that helped a Portland, OR, engineering office deliver energy consumption that was 70% more efficient than Oregon’s already strict energy code.

Ready to deliver similar savings for your facility? Start by investigating controls.

Focus on Effective, Non-Invasive Retrofits

You don’t have to launch a wide-scale remodeling project to take advantage of lighting controls. Wall switch occupancy sensors are one of the most cost-effective additions.

“Certain codes and standards, like IECC and ASHRAE 90.1, serve as resources for what controls should be used in each space type,” Arbouw explains. “Over time these codes and standards have matured and provide tried and true methods of conserving energy.” The key is making sure lighting controls enhance how the space is operated rather than interfering with it.

Wireless control retrofits are often a solution for existing buildings, especially in spaces where traditional installation is difficult, adds Bruce Bharat, Director of Product Marketing for Acuity Controls. Office, education and healthcare applications in particular may have hard ceilings or regulations preventing occupants from entering the ceiling.

Avoid Unnecessary Complexity

Don’t be tempted to put in more control than you need. Protzman recommends starting with energy code requirements as a baseline, even if you’re not kicking off a major renovation that would force you to bring the lighting system up to current code.

“Even just looking at the code requirements for new construction is great for giving you a rule of thumb on what’s considered a cost-effective solution,” Protzman explains. “All energy codes have to go through a process to understand the cost viability for projects, so if they’re recommending occupancy sensing in the restroom, that’s probably a viable answer for your project as well.”

Retrofits for many applications utilize the same few devices, Protzman says: daylight or occupancy sensors, area- or fixture-level controls and a master device to provide centralized control for all of the components. Using fixtures with wireless-capable occupancy and daylight sensors built in “removes the guesswork required for renovation jobs and minimizes the risk of miswiring,” adds Bharat.

Set Yourself Up for Future Success

As you investigate lighting controls, ask vendors about the long-term maintenance of the system. Your immediate lighting quality and energy needs are important, but so is being able to expand or upgrade later when space layouts or occupant needs change.

“Don’t invest in a 15-year asset that will be the same in year 15 as it was on the same day you installed it,” Bharat says. “Also, ditch the remote control. They’re expensive and easily lost, but more importantly, they’re not the best user interfaces for modern lighting controls. They provide no security over who can manage and configure the network.”

Scalability also affords you the chance to build up your lighting controls retrofit as your budget allows. Protzman recommends retrofitting a few rooms or a wing of one floor at a time, making sure you’re satisfied, and then expanding as you’re able.

Janelle Penny janelle.penny@buildings.com is Senior Editor of BUILDINGS.


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