Energy Efficiency | February 22, 2017

Your Guide to LED Lighting for Business and Commercial Buildings

Never to be underestimated, LED lighting and the lighting retrofit industry have huge benefits to offer business and commercial buildings through (relatively) simple upgrades. Lighting is so important to workplace environments, from enabling productivity to improving safety across all types of campuses. Do your research and discover which LED lighting solutions are right for your industry. This guide tackles a overview of LED lighting in the US, current lighting trends and things to know for those of us working directly in facility management.


Current status of commercial LED lighting in the US

LED lighting is being implemented differently throughout the country depending on the utility incentive programs offered and the cost of electricity in each state.

In New England for example, the cost of electricity is much higher than other regions on the map, and we have great utility programs that offer generous incentives on LED projects. The resulting higher savings and decreased out of pocket cost squeezes the project payback from both sides, motivating more local businesses to become increasingly energy efficiency.

In other parts of the country where the cost of electricity is lower and utility programs are much less robust, businesses are slower to upgrade their lighting due to less attractive returns on their investment.

LED lighting trends in commercial and industrial buildings

  • Upgrading to advanced LED lighting controls

Many businesses are making the shift towards advanced lighting controls for new or existing fixtures, as well as integrated lighting controls that connect to their building automation system. Businesses are showing greater interest in this IoT-style data collection that takes real time information from the lighting system on their building occupancy and gives them new capabilities such as granular temperature setback on their HVAC, leading to additional savings. The occupancy data can also allow companies to manage their building footprint much better, especially as a greater percentage of employees telecommute.


  • Installing lighting that mimics circadian rhythm

Another recent trend is LED lighting that mimics the human circadian rhythm. By adjusting the light level and color temperature wavelength of LED fixtures throughout certain periods of the day, “smart” fixtures can recreate the full range of natural daylight, boosting occupants’ alertness and productivity. Hospitals and schools seem to be the early adopters of this technology, but I believe we will see this trend continue into the commercial space.


  • Integrating Bluetooth technology to LED lighting fixtures

In the retail space, we are seeing LED fixtures equipped with Bluetooth technology, allowing the fixtures to connect with a customer’s phone as they are shopping. The fixtures can track your progress through the store, and communicate with you via a centralized controls system. For example, if a customer stops to look at several different choices of cereal in an aisle, a cereal manufacturer like General Mills could pay the retailer to have a coupon for their cereal pop up on the customer’s phone when they stop in front of a shelf containing their product.

Retail stores have always been interested in lighting with a high color rendering index (CRI), which directly affects the product appearance and makes it look more vibrant and attractive to consumers, which influences their purchasing decisions.

Combined with CRI, color temperature can also be customized for specific products to enhance their appeal. For example, a cooler color temperature will make fish more appealing, while a warmer color with a high R9 value will make red meats appear fresher. Lighting is increasingly helping businesses become more profitable.


What Facility Managers should know before installing LED lighting

Don’t necessarily go for the lowest cost option, and try not to hold yourself to a certain payback threshold.

Do your homework to the point where you can tell if a lighting salesperson is looking out for your best interest and suggesting solutions that actually alleviate your pain points, or if they are pushing a low up-front cost product or service that could actually end up costing you more over a 10 year lifecycle. This could be due to lower efficiencies (lumens/watt) resulting in lower comparable savings, a lack of lighting controls, or simply an inferior product from a company that may not be around to provide warranty coverage.

You should also consider implementing lighting controls when performing a building-wide LED retrofit.  A controls implementation may not be financially attractive enough to implement on its own, but when combined with fixtures with integrated sensors it can sometimes make the ROI even more attractive, depending on the run hours and cost of electricity.


LED lighting benefits and technological advances

The benefits found in LEDs are energy and maintenance savings (because they can last up to four times longer than fluorescent lighting), and they are easily controlled. LEDs lend themselves to lighting controls more than any other technology due to the fact that turning them on and off over and over again has very minimal effect on their operating life.

There are not many challenges that a manager should run into after a good LED lighting design is implemented, but the implementation itself can pose a challenge to those unacquainted with building-wide lighting retrofits Lighting is all in the details, and it takes a lot of up-front planning and preparation in order for a project to go smoothly. ;Fortunately, with the addition of lighting controls, we can fine tune light levels throughout the building to solve a lot of issues.>


LED lighting adoption rate by sector

Warehouses, manufacturing facilities, hospitals, 3-shift operations - really any space that operates long hours because they will have comparably higher electrical energy usage, and therefore can achieve the most savings.


Beyond LEDs - other efficiency solutions with high impact

Implementing LED lighting that ties in with the building’s HVAC is a great consideration for capturing additional savings. It will also engage the building owner/occupant to take a hard look at their HVAC system, which we have found usually will have many cost effective efficiency opportunities, including better control of equipment and/or upgrading to higher efficiency equipment.

Facility managers should always start with an energy audit because you could have a great investment available in your current facility just waiting to be revealed.


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