Lighting The Way To Cost Savings

A variety of energy- and cost-efficient lighting solutions are available for commercial buildings.

By Regina Molaro
From the June 2024 Issue


Business decision-makers worldwide remain focused on the environment, sustainability, and decarbonization. Many feel it’s their duty to make responsible choices to reduce energy consumption, meet operational goals, and boost the bottom line. A little change certainly goes a long way in positively impacting the planet.

Lighting Solutions

Independent non-profit organization, DesignLights Consortium (DLC) helps its members (utility and energy efficiency programs) reduce energy, carbon, and light pollution. It arms them with data and smart resources on lighting, controls, and integrated building systems.

In its effort to offer sustainability and cost savings, the DLC provides Qualified Products Lists (QPLs) as well as research and reports on energy efficient lighting and control technologies and energy savings potential. Its technical requirements set performance thresholds for products to ensure that they provide lighting and energy savings while meeting environmental goals.

Liesel Whitney-Schulte, Program Director, DLC explained that the QPLs have a rigorous evaluation process. “We evaluate thousands of products monthly (using provided test and reported data measured in accordance with industry standards) to ensure that they meet the thresholds before they can be added to the QPLs,” said Whitney-Schulte.

lighting solutions
Lighting solutions can make an impact on your buildings energy usage, and overall bottom line. (Photo: Adobe Stock / natalia)


The DLC’s Solid State Lighting (LED) QPL is among the world’s largest and most influential verified lists of high-performing, energy efficient commercial products. Its QPLs are used by efficiency programs throughout North America and are referenced by the U.S. General Service Administration’s P-100 Facilities Standard and efficiency programs worldwide. Using these QPLs means that programs are aligned on a consistent set of energy efficiency and lighting quality requirements and provide incentives using the same validated set of qualified products.

The DLC LUNA technical requirements and QPL are a subset of products from the SSL (LED) QPL that helps users meet energy efficiency and lighting quality goals to mitigate light pollution. Numerous resources, including articles and research reports, are provided for municipalities with light pollution ordinances.

The Networked Lighting Controls (NLC) QPL lists NLC systems and their capabilities so that customers can determine which ones meet their needs. The lists require that manufacturers meet specific qualifications, including cybersecurity standards, to be eligible. Resources include research reports, webinars, consistent definitions, and a cybersecurity overview. It will soon include a list of case studies.

BetterBricks, a commercial resource supported by the Northwest Energy Efficiency Alliance (NEEA), provides Northwest utilities with resources and tools that enable designers, builders, managers, and operators to easily incorporate energy efficiency into their buildings and business practices. Since 1997, NEEA’s activities have saved enough energy to power over half a million homes per year.

Lighting Retrofits

Many people find old buildings to be an attractive place to operate their businesses. Repurposing buildings is also a sustainable option. Luckily, there are ways to retrofit buildings while reaping cost effective energy-saving solutions.

Among BetterBricks’ featured technologies for the commercial building retrofit market is Luminaire Level Lighting Controls (LLLC) — an NLC that integrates sensors and load controllers into fixtures. The perks: flexibility, control, and energy savings.

Installation is straightforward. Since LLLC seamlessly integrates into existing infrastructure, there’s rarely a need for major renovations. It also offers an option to retrofit existing fixtures or replace them with LLLC-enabled ones. The process utilizes existing wiring configurations and minimizes disruption. In addition, data transmission to the host occurs wirelessly, removing the need for costly wiring.

“In what I call the ‘renovation market,’ especially with older buildings from the late 1800s, LLLC emerges as an unsung hero. It simplifies the complexities of low voltage cable systems in historical structures, making it easier to manage luminaires and controls with no extra complications. It marks a shift toward streamlined processes and improved project adaptability,” said Neil Schilling—a Division Manager for Energy Solutions at North Coast Electric, which is one of BetterBricks’ market partners.

To incentivize adoption, utilities nationwide often offer rebates to offset initial installation costs. also hosts a utility incentive resource for companies operating in the Northwest. For example, Seattle City Light gets a $75 bonus per fixture with LLLC and a $/kWh incentive.

Even LED to LED with LLLC retrofits can save a significant amount of energy. Vision Profile Extrusions, a manufacturer in Everett, WA, replaced 181 LED high bays and 109 LED troffers with LLLC. As a result, it reduced more than 112,000 kWh per year and reaped $10,115 in annual savings. Since its local utility provided $43,000 in incentives, 86 percent of its capital cost was covered.

Older office buildings with fluorescent or first-generation LED lighting are ideal candidates for updating to energy efficient LED lighting and NLCs. “Linear fluorescent lighting can be replaced with LED products that provide improved energy savings, better light quality, and are easily controlled based on occupancy and daylight availability,” added DLC’s Whitney-Schulte.

By installing NLC such as the LLLC at the time of lighting retrofits, additional savings of up to 50% may be achieved. Nearly all the LED lighting on the QPLs is dimmable and can respond to signals from the control system. Some products have integrated controls built into each fixture. This saves the additional time and money associated with installing separate controls and ensuring compatibility.

Brighter Outlook

Happy occupants translate to less tenant turnover. There are ample ways to address tenant and employee satisfaction. One way is to keep occupants comfortable and safe via customized light. This can be achieved via dimmable LED lighting, which can be set to preferred levels in individual offices.

“Utilizing dimming with task/ambient lighting allows users to customize the light level by adjusting the ambient light in their offices and/or using task lighting. Users who are more visually challenged can use both types,” said DLC’s Whitney-Schulte. In addition, lighting that highlights the perimeter and walkways can provide visual interest and aid in safe passage. Whitney-Schulte noted that commercial lighting projects should always follow Illuminating Engineering Society (IES) recommendations.

LLLC fuses optimal light quality, flexible configuration, and ease-of use to meet the needs of tenants and building operators. The programmable nature of each fixture means zones, light levels, and behavior settings can be optimized regardless of tenant or business needs.

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With developments in technology, new opportunities are always emerging. Advancements in digitalization enable easier integration of systems. Lighting controls can be integrated with other building systems to provide occupancy signaling to turn off or set back HVAC in unoccupied spaces. LLLC can often be reconfigured as uses for different spaces change. Facility managers can customize light levels for comfort and/or energy savings.

LLLC’s system sensors are integrated into each fixture and can monitor occupancy, sound, and other activities within every space. They can be integrated with HVAC systems, enabling dynamic adjustments based on real-time occupancy data rather than rigid schedules.

Manufacturers are increasingly continuing to make the front end of their systems easier to understand and control, including access to data from the buildings. “This allows facilities to be the ‘quarterback,’ monitoring everything in real time and making decisions on its operations,” said Chris Wolgamott, Senior Product Manager of Northwest Energy Efficiency Alliance’s BetterBricks program. If areas have low occupancy, they can dim the lights by 15% and adjust the HVAC inputs to save additional energy, or managers can utilize heat-mapping to identify production efficiency opportunities.

lighting solutionsMolaro is a freelance editor whose work has been featured in more than 25 publications.

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