At an estimated cost of $38 billion a year, lighting represents the largest source of electricity consumption in U.S. commercial buildings. There are a number of organizations who have set standards for illumination – from sports associations to OSHA – and others who have requirements for the equipment itself. Below you will find information and resources to guide you in your decisions about lighting your spaces, both indoor and outdoor. We suggest that if you have a specialized lighting application you look to a good lighting designer with experience in your specific application to guide you through your design process, ensuring you follow local ordinances and appropriate codes for your application. The US Small Business Administration has a great overview of lighting here. The Energy Trust of Oregon recently published a guidebook for their constituents that that also provides a good overview of lighting terms and options.
Make sure you don't have antiquated lights! Do you still have incandescent lights? Look at your exit signs too! What about T12 fluorescent fixtures? These are your first step with quick pay-back as they're costing you money and providing inefficient light. The Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007 (EISA 2007) established new efficiency standards for lightbulbs, helping to move industry to manufacture bulbs that use about 25%-80% less energy than traditional incandescents. Plus a number of these newer solid state and LED bulbs are "tunable" to your application – something that traditional fluorescent and incandescent could not accomplish. This allows you to change the color of light output to make customers and employees more comfortable, safer and/or better able to perform their tasks.
Are you getting the light you need where you need it? As you review your lighting assets, we suggest you invest in a light meter. A light meter is an inexpensive piece of equipment will help you measure the light output of your fixtures on surfaces, in hallways, in task areas, near computer stations, etc. Do not use just a cell phone app, as those do not have the right surface area for consistent, accurate readings. With a meter, you can quickly conduct a lighting audit of your space and begin mapping areas on floorplans to help you establish where you are over- and under- lighting your spaces. Once you decide you're ready for LED lighting, use the resources here to select the right Energy Star Certified lighting.
If you want to learn more about research and development in the area of solid state lighting -lighting applications that use light-emitting diodes (LEDs), organic light-emitting diodes (OLEDs), or light-emitting polymers check the DOE's Solid State Lighting program.
Outdoor lighting can be more complex – and costing you more – than you might think. You want to light for safety, but many fixtures send glare into the eyes of passersby and walkers. You want to light for marketing, but your local municipality may have ordinances regarding illumination levels and light trespass – and you want your neighbors to help market your business rather than complain about it! The best light is the light that does what you need and no more than that. With the rapid technological improvements of LEDs, it is much easier to control where your light goes and how much. Check resources here and here and find a designer who can help keep your light (and thus your money) to yourself!
Don't have the capital to re-lamp or redesign your lighting systems? You may be able to implement controls that will help you save energy and therefore money in some rather simple ways. Employees and customers cannot always be depended upon to be your lighting control. Very affordable occupancy switches can be exchanged for traditional light switches, many of which operate not only on motion but also on sound so restrooms or warehouses where the switch is separated from the activity won't become safety hazards. Power strips with built-in occupancy switches can turn off the ghost loads that accompany computer monitors, televisions, chargers for electronics and task lighting.
Ready to begin 21st Century lighting? Programmable lighting controls that integrate with old-school photocells and timers can take you the next step – similar to a programmable thermostat, they have set default schedules and the ability to temporarily override the schedule.
Want full control of your lights? If you can move to fully controlled lighting, technologies are available from every major lighting and many controls manufacturers to assist you in making smart and affordable lighting decisions. Controlling lights from your smartphone is no longer a science fiction dream, but full reality. Municipalities can turn on and off playing field lights without relying on the flag football league to remember.
The best and most efficient light - is free from the sun. Responsive controls can measure the natural light levels from windows and dim lights, control blinds and maximize daylight harvesting. Students learn better, employees are more productive and patients heal faster with natural light and access to the outside world.