Lighting control has become a standard for offices in recent years. The market offers a wide range of control systems with different benefits, drawbacks and costs. It can be difficult to decide which approach, or which system, will be most effective in your office.
Here are 4 questions you should ask when considering office lighting control systems.
Can lighting control save energy?
Energy saving cannot be taken for granted with lighting control systems. In fact, many systems can actually lead to increased energy use by disengaging users from turning on/off the lights themselves. Spend some time thinking about how the system will actually reduce energy use and deliver savings. Is it just about making sure the lights aren’t left on all night?
As energy management experts, we know this is not a major problem for open office areas, so lighting control may not make a big difference. Will the system still leave on lights in large unoccupied areas?
Zonal controls mean that one person working in that zone will keep the entire area lit, potentially the whole office. Energy savings are usually the core justification for investing in lighting control – make sure you’ll get them!
Is lighting control cost effective?
Some lighting control systems can deliver huge savings – up to 90% - but cost several times more than other alternatives in the market. If you’re not saving more on lighting than you are spending on lighting control, then your investment isn’t delivering value. Some common offenders in this area are sensors. Motion sensors add significant extra costs, but they provide minimal extra savings unless they are perfectly designed and calibrated.
And it’s not just high-cost systems that can prove to be bad investments. A low cost lighting control system that does not deliver more than a few percent savings can be just as bad of a decision. So do your cost-benefit analyses, make sure the savings numbers make sense to you, and you’ll find your ideal system.
Is lighting control disruptive?
Employees are used to lighting on demand, so when you try to bring lighting under control it can lead to push-back. You need to consider the impact on your office occupants and make sure they’ll find the system acceptable. We have seen cases where employee push-back against motion-sensor control became so strong that the office had to dismantle the system and write off the wasted investment.
It’s important to balance savings with a sense of consistency. A lighting system that constantly turns on and off lights as people move around the office can be distracting and annoying to occupants.
Moreover, recent studies have found that giving occupants personal control over their lighting increases their motivation at work. Outsourcing control purely to a machine can thus lead to frustration and lack of motivation. Make sure your system gives your team direct control over their own workstation lights, or they could sink your investment.
Is lighting control flexible and future-proof?
Flexibility of a system determines how much you’re going to pay in the long run, beyond the initial system setup. If you’re not careful, you can end up with hidden costs when you need to modify or upgrade your system in the future. This pushes your payback further and further into the future.
Hard-wired zonal control systems are the worst offenders. Any changes to the lighting layout are extremely expensive due to costly and disruptive re-wiring. Some systems are even so complicated that any changes to the settings must be done by a trained engineer. This traps you between extra costs on the one hand and continuing with non-ideal settings on the other.
Motion sensors can also pose challenges in this regard. Placement and linking of sensors with nearby lights is a difficult art. Any changes to your office setup will require expensive professional advice, sensor relocation, and sensor re-calibration. You need the flexibility to change settings, rezone, and adapt schedules to your changing needs – without the help of an expert.
En-trak is an award-winning cleantech IoT company. We design and sell cloud-based solutions to help enterprises manage and optimize their energy consumption. Our flagship solution En-trak™ Energy enables users to know where, when and how they are using energy in real-time.
With continuous monitoring and advanced analytics, we’ve helped over 250+ world-class clients including Hong Kong Stock Exchange, National Environmental Agency, and Fuji Xerox achieve their sustainability goals. We’ve also recently launched our brand-new, patented En-trak™ Smart Lighting solution designed to help companies and building owners to automate and optimize their office lights.