Modern lighting technologies can significant cut electric bills for commercial property owners

Lighting options for homeowners have never been so varied, allowing for a wonderful mix of functionality, security and aesthetics like never before. The same is true for commercial buildings – office buildings, warehouses, industrial plants, restaurants and retail – but beyond the lighting issues that homeowners look for, commercial building owners and operators also must concern themselves with a variety of different local codes and – the chief concern – the energy costs of those lighting systems.

It’s not as if paying the electric bill on residential lighting isn’t a cost factor; it is. And with new technologies in fixtures and low-wattage bulbs homeowners can save on powering up their home lighting.

To the commercial property manager, however, powering the facility’s lighting is a significant cost factor and one where handsome savings can easily be found. According to Xcel Energy, a leading electric utility in Colorado and seven other states, lighting in commercial properties accounts for as much as 44% of the monthly electric bill. Arizona Public Service Co. says these coasts can range from 35-cents per square foot annually in a primary or secondary school, to 50 cents per square foot each year in a large office building, to as much as 90 cents/sq. ft. for a large grocery operation. Obviously, cutting that electric bill, even by a small fraction, while maintaining the required and desired lighting characteristics, can add up to a bottom-line boost.

And it’s not just the direct electric bill for lighting where savings can be found: old-line incandescent lighting also puts out a lot of heat which puts an extra strain on a building’s HVAC system. Deploying newer lighting technologies can therefore save money on air conditioning costs as well, not to mention the comfort of the occupants.

If a commercial building operator is building a new facility, especially if it is to be a LEEDS “green” building at almost any certification level, the project architect will most likely spec in the newer lighting technologies right from the design phase. Retrofitting existing buildings with new lighting options, particularly older buildings, can also deliver great savings. While the initial cost for lighting systems – new or retrofit – can often be substantial, utility companies such as Xcel offer a wide variety of rebate programs that can trim those costs. Indeed, on the Xcel Energy website ( http://business.responsiblebynature.com/rebate-programs/lighting-efficiency) in the Case Studies area, the utility highlights a retrofit project for an American Furniture Warehouse facility under the Lighting Efficiency program that, with incentives and energy savings, paid for itself in 2.1 years.

There are many kinds of lighting for a commercial property, and each can lead to savings for a building owner. The changes can be as simple as replacing incandescent light bulbs with CFLs (compact fluorescent lamps) that burn cooler, use only 20% to 33% of the energy, and are rated for eight to 15 times longer life, to wholesale changes of fixtures to accommodate new technologies. Just one great example of some of the possible changes is to swap out incandescent bulbs with LED lights in Open/Closed and EXIT signs and save 80% of the energy.

A good place to start finding ways of saving money and going “green” in commercial facility lighting is to have the local utility conduct an energy audit under such programs as the Lighting Efficiency program through Xcel. This will set a baseline and give owners an excellent idea of what is possible.

Another good idea is to contact a professional commercial electrician, like Allstar Electrical in Denver, well experienced in new-build or retrofitting commercial properties with energy-saving lighting systems. Allstar Electrical conducts its own audits for commercial property owners, and in any case is a great choice to install the new lighting technology no matter who conducts the audit.

Commercial property owners have to concern themselves with exterior and parking lot lighting that complies with local codes and rules concerning light pollution, task lighting which may vary depending on the work being performed in the space, security lighting that stays on even during non-business hours or when a power outage hits the building or the area, signage, hall and stairway lighting, and, in the case of warehouses, ample lighting for the task at hand not matter what the height of the ceiling in the building.

There are many lighting choices in the commercial setting and it is best to contact an expert like Allstar Electrical to make recommendations based on the unique use in each facility. It could be replacing old T12 fluorescent lights with the new standard T8 lights, swapping out incandescent lights for halogens, and using LED lights were appropriate.

Savings can also be garnered by having an electrician install daylighting controls, occupancy sensors in low-use areas like washrooms and kitchens, changing magnetic ballasts with electronic ballasts, and much more.

For complete details on how to save energy costs through modern lighting technologies in commercial facilities, call Allstar Electrical at 303-399-7420.    

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