In the UK the average business electricity bill has increased by over 50% in the last 2 years, a trend which looks very unilaterally to reverse. With costs increasing at such a dramatic rate it makes sense for business to try to reduce their energy dependence – it has the added benefit of being good for the environment and that's something your business can shout about.
Globally, 19% of electricity is used for lighting, but the figure can be as high as 30% for a business. Efficient lighting and lighting controls can reduce the electricity used in your lighting by 50% or more. That represents a potential 15% drop in your electricity bill, in the current economic climate that can not be ignored.
The key decision that must then be made is what the most suitable replacement lighting is, after all there seems to be a massive range of different lighting all claiming to save you money and save the environment. The most talked about technology at the moment is LED lighting but it is not suitable to replace everything; so what sort of lighting should you get?
Let's start with LED lighting. It can be extremely effective in the right situation, but there are a couple of things that you need to understand in order to decide whether it's right for you. Firstly, LED lights generally emit a lot less light than the lights that they can replace; to get around this problem the light is concentrated in to a narrow beam. These lights are perfect for highlighting, for shop displays or task lighting. What they generally are not so good for is lighting large spaces, without careful design you can often end up with bright spots and dark spaces. There are of course exceptions to this, such as some LED tubes (designed to replace fluorescent tubes) which light spaces nicely but these can be relatively expensive. There is also an issue at the moment with reliability, while the life expectancy of LED lights is generally 35,000 to 50,000 hours, as many as 15% fail in early life, even in branded product.
Fluorescent lighting has been around a long time and you may not think it is that efficient. Old fluorescent lighting certainly is not T12 and T8 tubes and their drivers can be horribly wasteful, sometimes using double the amount of power they are rated at. However T5 fluorescent tubes coupled with a modern ballast is remarkably efficient, almost as efficient in fact as LED lighting. Modern warm start ballasts have also increased reliability and allowed for extending the life of the tubes which can now reach as much as 30,000 or 40,000 hours. Modern drivers also operate at high frequency, unlike their older counterparts, which means there is no longer a noticeable flicker with fluorescent lights. Fluorescent lights do also suffer from early failures, and because they are readily on a filament the more often they are turned on and off the shorter their life will be; this means turning them on and of with presence detection to reduce their use and save money on your bill could backfire when you have to frequently replace the tubes. If you do go down this route make sure the drivers feature warm start and do not set the controls to frequently turn the lights on and off.
Induction lighting was invented over 130 years ago as a potential revival to incandescent light but never really caught on. It has seen a rejuvenation over the last few years which has seen more money spent on product development. Induction lighting is best at lighting large spaces and the more powerful units are more efficient. The technology is similar to fluorescent except it uses electro-magnetic coils to excite the gas rather than filament. Removing this weakness from the light mean that life expectancy is 100,000 hours (that's getting on for 12 years of continuous operation).
Induction lights, like LED and fluorescent are instant strike and re-strike which can be a massive bonus over some other technologies, it also means these technologies are suitable use with lighting controls. All of these technologies also have dimmable options which can used in conjunction with lighting controls for more flexibility in your lighting and also to reduce power usage further.
Do you really need your lights on all the time? This is a question you really need to ask yourself. Chances are you do not. Do you leave your office for 5 minutes and come back an hour later, in the meantime the lights have been burning the whole time. Are there aisles in your warehouse that are only used for 30 minutes a day but remain fully lit for 24 hours? If the answer to either of those questions, or countless others that I do not have room to write here, is yes then you could benefit from installing some lighting controls more advanced than an on / off switch. These come in different different flavors depending on your needs. They can control one light or a bank of lights, they can be sensitive the overall light level in the room this means that if sunlight is streaming through the window then the lights do not need to come on and will not. They can be used to detect the presence or the absence of people. They can dim lights or turn them on and off. What they all have in common is their ability to save you money by stopping you wasting electricity.