Commercial Business Owners Must Focus on a Comprehensive Lighting Program for Bigger Energy Savings

Commercial building technologies have come a long way, and they will only continue to improve, providing some significant savings to commercial and industrial business owners who implement the new technologies, according to a study, "Frontiers of Energy Efficiency: Next Generation Programs Reach for High Energy Savings," released in January by the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy (ACEEE).

One of the most significant areas of technology advancement has been in lighting, something that can offer tremendous savings since one-third of the electric load from many commercial businesses come from their lighting, according to the study. New federal standards will soon be in place for fluorescent lamps and ballasts, but some regulations may only give building owners credit if they do more than change out lighting. Some regulations may require that they install fixtures and controls that will save energy and that they implement new lighting design approaches.

To get the most benefits of the new generation of commercial lighting programs and to get some of the credits for these programs, you as a commercial business owner must take a holistic approach to lighting that involves spending some money to install advanced controls (that integrate lighting with HVAC) and equipment that allow for a complete upgrade, rather than viewing the issue piecemeal and spending the minimal amount possible to make small changes here and there, the report suggests.

A comprehensive approach should include the following:

  • Reduced-wattage linear fluorescent lamps
  • One- and two-lamp fixtures
  • Task-ambient lighting design for offices
  • Efficient high-intensity discharge lamps for larger spaces
  • LED directional replacement lamps
  • Targeted LED applications

One challenge may be that you as a commercial building owner may not be aware of all the technology available to you. So, you must work with a contractor who has training in this area and who is willing to educate you on the options, their costs and their return on investment.

Another challenge is that the return on investment may not be as immediate as some commercial building owners might like, but the report notes that the payback typically is within five years. And as any commercial business owner is aware, incentives exist for installing more energy-efficient lighting.

Some of the new lighting technologies that the report details include:

  • Reduced-wattage linear fluorescent lamps
  • One and two lamp fixtures and task ambient lighting design
  • Efficient high-intensity discharge lighting sources
  • LED directional replacement lamps
  • Linear LED
  • Other LED applications
  • Basic controls: timers, occupancy sensor, bi-level dimming
  • Advanced lighting control systems

The report also looks at commercial building operations and performance programs as well as programs for industrial businesses. I recommend downloading a copy to review as you create a comprehensive energy-savings program for your commercial or industrial business.