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Get the Facts – Lighting Control

As we all know, energy efficiency is not something to make light of. Businesses looking to save costs and reduce energy usage often focus on machinery, but lighting control can also make a significant contribution to these goals.

Clearly good lighting is a must in any business, to ensure that staff can work safely and efficiently. But how many times have you passed empty buildings at night that are lit up like a Christmas tree – and it’s not even December.

To shine a light on the subject, we thought we’d give you a few of the key facts to help you consider how your company can take control and embrace the dark side...

What are the benefits of lighting control?

As with many energy-saving ideas, lighting control has two key benefits: cost (generally a saving of around 30%-50%) and environmental. If the eco-friendly option is also one that will save your company money, then it really is a no brainer.

With the recent major advances in lighting systems and lighting control, cost savings aren’t restricted to your energy bills – some modern lighting controls are cheaper to install than the traditional 230V switches.

The Carbon Trust estimates that non- domestic lighting alone is responsible for around 24 million tonnes of CO2 a year. If your contribution seems like a drop in the ocean, remember that if all businesses turned off their lights when not in use, the cumulative effect would be substantial.

What kinds of lighting control are on the market?

Lighting control covers both dimming and turning off lights when they are not in use. Systems should be easy to use and manage, and any staff training required should be minimal – although it is essential that your staff understand the new system and the reasons for its installation.

The following options can be used in a variety of combinations for flexibility:

Dimmers – existing systems can often be converted to allow lights to be dimmed. Nowadays, most lighting systems can be dimmed, even florescent lighting.

Manual lighting controls – these are useful for when the user needs to maintain control over the lighting, for example, during a PowerPoint presentation.

Timed systems – these can be set to come on and go off automatically at specific times of the day.

Movement sensors – these will detect the presence of someone in the room through movement and switch on and off automatically. They usually work in one of three ways: passive infra-red (PIR), ultrasonic or microwave.

Daylight sensors/photocells – often used in combination with movement sensors, daylight sensors detect the levels of natural light in a building and decide whether the lights need to be on, dimmed or off.

In recent years, the industry has also developed advanced new materials for reflectors and louvres, to increase performance and efficiency.

Onsite lighting assessments

Before you make any decisions about which lighting control package to introduce, it’s best to consult a specialist. They will be able to measure how much electricity you are currently using and establish areas where energy is being wasted. They will also be able to look at your current wiring and the overall fabric of the building to see if there are any restrictions on the lighting systems you can use.

If you are refurbishing or having a new unit built from scratch, this is the ideal time to call in a professional to look at your overall energy use, including lighting controls.

Anything else to consider?

You may need more than one lighting control system in your workplace, depending on the usage of individual rooms. For example, an open-plan office may need movement sensors in different areas, whereas a meeting room could have a switch control plate for ‘on’ and an automatically timed ‘off’.

Building regulations for new offices, factories and other workplaces now have specific requirements for energy efficient lighting, including lighting control systems. It’s also worth looking into government grants, as there is energy-saving funding out there to help you.

Finally, make sure you always use a qualified and accredited professional, such as an established electrical contractor. They will be able to tell you whether your existing system can be adapted or whether you need a new system installing. This will not only result in the most effective system for your business, but also ensure the safety of your staff.