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How Lighting Energy Use Affects Overall Consumption in Commercial Buildings

Image of Jason Pohl
Jason Pohl

Lighting accounts for 17% of all energy consumed in commercial buildings across the U.S and is one of the largest sources of total electricity consumption in the commercial sector. Improving efficiency can therefore translate to significant savings. You can get started on reducing the cost of electricity in your facilities by taking a closer look at commercial building lighting energy consumption and the potential of efficiency-focused smart technology.

Commercial Building Lighting: An Overview

The Commercial Building Energy Consumption Survey (CBECS) is a national survey that provides great insight into building lighting energy consumption. The CBECS survey report highlights trends in commercial lighting and how the characteristics of the buildings influence their energy bills. According to their most recent findings, the most important factors in how much energy a lighting system uses are:       

Type of Building

The lighting consumption of a building is primarily driven by its purpose. The activities within the building will determine the amount of floor space that must be lit and the duration of illumination.  

In food sales, healthcare, and education, for example, the majority of the floor space is lit either around the clock or for a significant proportion of the day. Warehouse and storage, religious worship, and vacant buildings usually illuminate less of their floor space and use lighting for shorter periods of time.    

Size of Building

In a commercial building, lighting energy consumption depends on the size of the structure; small buildings consume less energy than large buildings if their purpose is the same. 

In the United States, the size of commercial buildings is increasing. Between 2012 and 2016, floor space grew by 11% while the number of buildings increased by only 6%. The size increase means that many newer buildings have higher energy needs than their older counterparts, and   facility managers must take even greater care to prioritize efficiency in these larger structures.

Type of Lighting 

The most common types of lighting used in commercial buildings are:

  • Incandescent
  • Standard fluorescent
  • Compact fluorescent (CFL)
  • Halogen
  • High-intensity discharge (HID)
  • Light-emitting diode (LED) 

Though each of these lighting types is best suited for particular lighting needs, rising energy costs and new regulations are compelling facility managers to replace energy-intensive lighting with more efficient alternatives. For example, compact fluorescent (CFL) lighting replaced standard fluorescent lighting in many commercial structures, particularly office buildings. 

Today, LEDs are considered to be the most energy-efficient and durable type of directional lighting across sectors. LEDs provide the same brightness as conventional bulbs but consume 90% less energy than incandescent and CFL lighting. They also last 15 times longer, which means they require less maintenance. 

Many building owners and facility managers delay retrofitting due to the initial cost of switching to LEDs. But compared to other Building Energy Management strategies, like upgrading HVAC units or replacing insulation, replacing energy-intensive lighting with LEDs is an affordable and easy change that makes a big difference. LEDs produce the greatest return on investment (ROI) for buildings with long operating hours or in regions with high electricity costs, but most buildings can benefit. Facility managers can take advantage of LED utility rebates and incentive programs to defray the cost of installation.  

Reducing Commercial Building Lighting Energy Consumption: Beyond the Basics

Regardless of the size or purpose of your building, automation is one of the most powerful ways to minimize energy use. By integrating IoT energy management sensors and smart building software, you can implement advanced lighting control strategies like:

  • Occupancy-based adjustments
  • Daylight response and daylight dimming
  • Time scheduling
  • Demand response 

Research shows that strategies like these lower energy costs related to lighting by an average of 24-28%—a significant proportion of overall energy use. Along with dramatically reducing overall commercial building lighting energy consumption, smart lighting systems streamline maintenance and improve building management.  

onPoint is a cloud-based smart building platform that gives you a new level of lighting control. Clear, data-driven insights offer deep visibility into your lighting strategies and allow you to realize the benefits of automation. With onPoint, you can create more comfortable and more energy-efficient indoor spaces.     

onPoint is smart buildings software designed by building experts. To learn more about how onPoint can reduce commercial building lighting energy consumption, watch this 5-minute demo video


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