Smart lighting controls are continuously advancing the lighting industry. In this year’s report, ‘Energy Savings Potential of DLC Commercial Lighting and Network Controls’, it was shown that the use of network lighting controls or NLC could generate an average additional 47% savings beyond the savings that converting to LED offers.
The report shows results from 1,200 zones analyzed in 114 commercial buildings. It clearly shows an enticing reduction in energy savings of nearly 50%. But is the reduction in energy savings worth the cost of a smart lighting control system?
To help my clients understand whether network lighting controls will be a good long-term investment for their company, I use the following criteria.
What is the cost/benefit for a networked lighting control system? Based on the DLC report, adopting network lighting control is currently limited by the system’s usually complicated and expensive nature. Besides that, there’s the problem with undertrained contractors, limited utility support, and the fact that its benefits are often poorly understood.
Due to the added costs for network lighting controls, justifying the investment becomes highly application dependent. As a rule of thumb: The more complex your needs are for a sophisticated control system, the easier it is to justify the added expense.
What about the Savings?
It is difficult to determine exactly what your savings will be through lighting controls. It all depends on specific application characteristics such as the building design, behavior of the occupants, site orientation, device settings, and more. These variables make it difficult to accurately forecast your savings.
To help you evaluate the potential savings from networked lighting for your company, I have provided a handy reference guide from the DLC report. By matching your spaces (e.g., offices, warehouse) to the spaces and corresponding savings percentage by space, you can begin to understand how lighting controls can impact your company’s energy savings.
What to Choose – Dumb Controls or Smart Controls?
Non-networked, dumb controls such as wall switch sensors and fixture mount occupancy sensors, offer an inexpensive way to capture additional energy savings, making them easy to justify the incremental cost.
If your goal is to simply turn OFF, or dim the lights when the space is unoccupied, then dumb controls may be the smart answer!
For example, in about 90% of my lighting retrofit projects that include controls, basic non-networked occupancy sensors do the trick. They are easy program ON/OFF settings, and work seamlessly with today’s LED lighting.
However, for clients that need a more sophisticated lighting system as part of a building automation strategy, or LEED certification, smart lighting controls provide the ideal solution.
But note that the best time to install this type of system is for a new build or when retrofitting the lighting. Installing smart lighting control on a standalone basis would be extremely hard to justify on an ROI basis due to the high costs.
So, the question then is, “Are smart lighting controls truly worth it?” If your application calls for a more sophisticated lighting system, network lighting controls can generate tremendous value for you.
Click link below to download your complementary DLC savings by zones guide.