Why Lighting Controls?

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Over the last 100 years, indoor lighting has been pretty much the same: inefficient, inflexible, and expensive. The world is changing, however, and rising costs, along with new regulations and standards, demand a new approach to managing lighting in commercial buildings.

Lighting costs can contribute up to 39% of a commercial building’s electrical consumption. Often, a considerable amount of this energy usage is unnecessary, as lights are on during the day whether the sun is shining brightly or not, or even if a part of the building is unoccupied because all of the lights are controlled by a single light switch.

When a new commercial tenant occupies a space, they often ask for fairly significant changes in the layout but these usually don’t include changes to the lighting that reflect the different configuration. For instance, a switch that previously controlled lights in a large open space may now control the lights in several different areas with no way to turn off the lights in an unused conference room without leaving the rest of the floor dark.

According to a January 2012 report by the U.S. Energy Information Administration, electricity in Adura’s home state of California cost an average of 13.1 cents per kilowatt hour (kWh) to commercial customers in 2010. To put this cost in perspective, that means an annual cost of $50 for each standard 100-watt light fixture inside of a building using only wall switches. Government predictions indicate an average increase in rates of 6 percent annually, resulting in a possible cost of 23.6 cents per kWh in 2020, an increase of more than 80%. In urban areas of the Northeast, some commercial retail rates already exceed 18 cents per kWh. With energy costs skyrocketing like this, there is renewed emphasis on managing energy consumption and lowering costs.

Additionally, recurring updates to local and federal energy conservation codes are placing increasing emphasis on lighting controls in mandatory requirements and voluntary best practices to achieve energy independence goals. The act of constructing a new building or retrofitting an existing building normally requires that the new/updated space is brought up to the most recent energy code requirements. ANSI/ASHRAE/IESNA Standard 90.1, the most widely adopted commercial building energy code nationwide, was recently updated for 2010, which included several new requirements for lighting control equipment. California is in process of adopting updates to its Title 24 energy conservation code for 2013 that should have several new requirements for lighting control. Across the nation, local municipalities such as Seattle and New York City have also recently adopted local energy conservation codes that have strong lighting control requirements. Finally, in addition to ongoing updates to existing local and state energy codes, the U.S. Department of Energy recently issued a ruling in 2011 that would require all states to adopt an energy code that meets or exceeds ASHRAE/IESNA Standard 90.1-2010 by October 2013.

Fortunately, recent advances in lighting control make it easier and more affordable than ever to increase energy efficiency, comply with energy codes, and save businesses money. Simply adding the ability to control lighting during times when a building is not occupied can reduce lighting costs by as much as 50%. Additional lighting control strategies such as occupancy detection (lighting only occupied areas of a building), daylight harvesting (reducing artificial light use by taking advantage of sunlight), and task tuning (reducing light output when the lights are too bright), can deepen the energy reduction potential and also reduce peak electrical demand – the most costly form of energy. For these reasons, advanced lighting controls have become a key element in green building best practices and LEED certification. Adura’s Wireless Lighting Control System can reduce lighting energy costs by 40 to 70% while offering  invaluable benefits to the occupants and facility managers of commercial spaces.