The Ten Benefits of Lighting Control

1. It’s Cheaper to Build a Dimmer than a Power Plant

The baseline benefit of incorporating lighting control in a built environment stems from the disparity in efficiency between the conservation and creation of energy. Intuitively, it makes sense that it would take less energy to conserve one watt of energy than to generate one watt of energy. Fortunately, we don’t have to rely on intuition. Dr. Ian Rowbottom, an energy expert and inventor of direct current dimming, performed an economic analysis of this very question. He goes through a great deal of detail, and explains down to the penny how much more efficient dimming is than power generation.

Disclaimer: This particular white paper was sponsored by Lutron, and is based on test data from Lutron equipment. Because of this, actual energy savings for other dimmers may be more or less than the savings shown here.

The summary of Dr. Rowbottom’s findings is this: it is 4 to 22 times more efficient to conserve energy using dimming than to generate energy via a power plant.

Comparison of Dimming Costs with Power Generation Costs

Dimmer Savings

For a deeper look into the analysis, you can read the full white paper from Dr. Rowbottom below:

2. LEED Certification

Incorporating a lighting control system in a building can contribute up to 37 out of 110 possible LEED points for a building. Below is a rundown of the ways lighting control can help you obtain LEED Certification.
Credit: Lutron Electronics, Inc.

LEED

For a deeper look into how this point structure is broken down, you can read the full LEED report here:
Credit: Lutron Electronics, Inc.

3. Smart Meters Mean Real-time Energy Feedback

Lighting control systems are going to be a crucial part of our evolving smart power grid. With the advent of smart meters, which are power meters that provide real-time feedback of energy usage, we will be able to control energy consumption during peak hours. In a home, for example, during peak hours the system could dim the lighting down to 80% throughout the house. This would maintain functionality while saving money and conserving energy usage. More importantly, because the lighting is part of a system, this can be accomplished automatically, without user input. A house or commercial building is no longer a mindless energy drain on the power grid, but a self-regulating node on the smart grid.

Smart meters are being rolled out all over the world. In some cases, they are run as small beta tests first, but in some cases, the rollout is fast and comprehensive. An independent consulting group is mapping the smart grid rollout, which you can see below.
The legend is as follows:
Red = Electricity
Green = Gas
Blue = Water
Triangle = Trial or Pilot Test
Circle = Project

View Smart Metering Projects Map in a larger map

Reducing Electricity Usage also Reduces the Carbon Footprint
While reducing electricity consumption does reduce the drain on our power grid, it also reduces a building’s carbon footprint. Lutron has a useful energy calculator tool which calculates how much carbon dioxide is removed from the air based on your building’s energy savings. For example, dimming lights in one room 30% prevents about 1800lb of carbon dioxide from entering the atmosphere.

For more info you can check out their energy calculator here:
Lutron Energy Savings Calculator

5. Dimming Reduces Recurring Monthly Overhead

From a purely bottom-line standpoint, dimming reduces monthly overhead costs. One dimmer dimmed to 30% can save about $500 over 5 years. With, say 20 dimmers, that’s $10,000 of savings in 5 years. That’s a significant reduction in overhead costs.

6. Scheduling Makes Lighting Effortless

Whether it’s putting your home on Vacation mode or setting your restaurant to change lighting scenes automatically throughout the day, scheduling takes the effort out of elegant, efficient lighting.
For residential applications, scheduling means the homeowner can leave home knowing that the house will operate according to their schedule.
Scheduling’s real power is in commercial applications, though. As most commercial buildings operate on a regularly intervaled schedule, the lighting can match that schedule automatically. Lights can come on in the morning, adjust throughout the day, then shut off in the evenings. This also ensures repeatability, which is the next benefit.

7. Repeatability Standardizes Complex Lighting Scenes

Complex Lighting
It takes a great deal of finesse to adjust the lighting in a multi-zone room to obtain a specific feel. Whether it’s setting just the right scene in a homeowner’s dining room or creating the right atmosphere in a museum, lighting adjustments are not something that should be made manually every day.
Lighting control systems remember the settings needed for any given scene and recall it at the push of a button.
In commercial applications, this is particularly necessary. Customers need to experience consistent lighting every time they visit, and the repeatability of a lighting control system ensures that.

8. Energy Management at the Push of One Button

Single-ButtonIt may seem obvious, but it wasn’t too long ago that homes had wall banks of dimmers and switches controlling multi-zone rooms. With the advent of keypad interfaces, lighting control systems have brought in a whole new level of sophistication. Instead of moving the side of your hand along a wall of switches, it just takes one button press. That one button press can control everything from one zone of light to an entire home. Coming next are programmable touchscreens with customizable graphics. You heard it here first.

9. Excellent Lighting = Excellent Productivity

While there has been no scientific study done on lighting’s effect on productivity, Dr. Rowbottom has written an interesting white paper which combines educated guessing with common sense. He arrives at the conclusion that a lighting control system will pay for itself in seven months, based solely on an increase in employee productivity. It makes for a good read, and I’ll let you decide for yourself. Here’s his white paper below.

10. Ambience Means Happier People

This fits together with #9 above, but affects the user on a personal level. While happier people are typically more productive, being happy can be an end in itself. Well-designed lighting scenes have been known to evoke moods , and can uplift or relax the body. Entire certification programs are set up strictly to teach professionals how to properly design lighting that creates a specific atmosphere.
This is why lighting control is so important, even at the basic, personal well-being level. It’s the lighting control system that makes the magic happen. The combination of dimming, pinpoint control, and repeatability means a homeowner can recreate exactly the ambience they wish every time.

Guest Post by Bill Trammel, Writer for Lighting Control Pros

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2 Responses

  1. Good article, but I can’t find the link to Dr. Rowbottom’s whitepaper and the LEED spreadsheet is hard to find on the Lutron site.

    Can you provide links to both?

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