Efficient Lighting Tips

August 12, 2010

Colorful light bulbsAccording to the Energy Information Administration, lighting uses 44% of the electricity in commercial buildings.  And, buildings can save up to 1 Watt of energy in cooling for every 3 Watts of lighting energy reduced.  The savings add up quick!

But, how do we make our lighting systems more efficient?  Honestly, I don’t think too much about the lighting in my office, but maybe I should start.  According to an article in Consultant – Specifying Engineer Magazine, there are a lot of options for increasing the efficiency of a lighting system.  They all stem from three basic strategies: (1) reduce the power needed to run the system; (2) reduce the time the system is on; and (3) do both.

Reduce Power

  • Lower the overall lighting level, this increases task contrast.
  • Light vertical surfaces, creating a pleasant environment.
  • Put light only where it is needed.
  • Use task/ambient systems for areas with high ceilings and indirect recessed lighting for low ceilings.
  • Change lamp output by using ballast factor.
  • Select proper lamp and luminaire combinations.
  • Use natural daylight when possible.

Reduce Time

  • Install automatic lighting controls and/or a lighting control system.  [Do not make the system too complex and difficult to use and maintain, or occupants will wish they just had normal light switches.]
  • Use occupancy sensors in less-traveled locations.
  • Group luminaires or lamps through controls to achieve different light levels (this is called multilevel switching).
  • Use electronically adjusted shades on the exterior of the building to control daylighting inside.
  • Turn off the lights! [my suggestion]

There is nothing more frustrating, especially at work, than not having enough light (unless it is having too much light).  I once worked in an office where we didn’t need to turn on the lights until the afternoon during the summer.  It was nice to be able to work by the light of the most efficient system in the world (and it’s free too!).

Picture courtesy of Faith Goble through a Creative Commons License.


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Dawn Killough

has over 15 years experience in the construction industry and is the author of Green Building Design 101, an e-book available from Amazon. She is a LEED AP and Certified Green Building Advisor, and has worked on the LEED Certification of three projects in Salem, Oregon.  
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