From Edison’s invention of the incandescent bulb in 1879 to the creation of the first light-emitting diode to the launch of solar-energy roofing shingles, every year brings a new wave of innovation to look forward to in the world of energy and lighting solutions. And this year is no different. Savvy facilities managers, engineers and developers all across the globe are finding new ways to increase energy efficiency while tailoring their programs to better meet needs of occupants and stakeholders.
But with so many powerful ideas floating around, it can be hard to know where to start when you’re looking for new and innovative best practices. To help sort through the excitement, we’ve tapped our team of experts to highlight seven commercial energy and lighting trends you’ll want to keep an eye on in 2017 and beyond.
Whether you’re ahead of the game or still working on energy efficiency basics, these tips are sure to help you start off strong in the new year.
1. Finding Opportunities for Daylight Harvesting
Natural light is a beautiful thing. It provides a calming atmosphere, reduces your demand on energy resources and best of all - it’s free. However, in far too many office buildings, homes and businesses, daylight is viewed as an aesthetic “nice-to-have” rather than a core element of design and facility operations. In 2017, as you look for new ways to improve occupant well-being and trim costs, consider daylight harvesting as another tool for success.
“Beyond the intangible benefit of improving work environments and shared spaces, there’s a clear financial incentive for businesses and organizations to retrofit their buildings to maximize natural light,” says David Kaley, Product Manager at . “It’s possible for businesses to reduce their lighting costs by up to 60 percent, simply by keeping lights off when daylight is sufficient.”
Though the term daylight harvesting carries a broad meaning, in practice, it relates to using sensors to regulate light usage. Rather than setting a fixed on/off schedule, managers can supplement their lighting systems with dynamic sensors to automatically shut off or dim redundant lights whenever daylight reaches a preset threshold.
2. Limiting Energy Waste Through Vacancy Space Management
Similar to how many progressive operators use sensors to boost energy efficiency by harnessing natural light indoors, a growing segment of facilities managers are integrating occupancy sensors as a way to cut costs and limit energy waste in vacant spaces.
If your building or facility has several low-use areas that are constantly zapping energy, installing occupancy sensors may be an easy project to jumpstart the new year.
“Businesses are beginning to realize the impact these products can have in closets, bathrooms and other shared spaces that see limited activity throughout the day,” adds Kaley. “Half of an entire facility may not be in use, yet the lights are left on. Installing sensors can be a simple solution that has an immediate, positive business impact.”
Adoption of occupancy sensors grew steadily in 2016, and experts agree that it’s likely to continue to accelerate in 2017 as organizations update their facilities to meet more rigid energy standards.
But while government legislation is a strong catalyst for change, it’s not the only factor. Outfitting facilities and workspaces with occupancy sensors helps organizations align to green energy initiatives while also reducing utility costs, and that’s easy for anyone to get behind.
3. Leveraging Title 24 Peak Usage Devices
U.S. homes and businesses used three times more energy in 2015 than they did in 1949, according to the U.S. Department of Energy. And as you might expect, consumption has grown steadily year-over-year for nearly that entire period.
In an effort to curb this trend, state and local governments, have started putting tighter restrictions on energy use in high-demand areas. In some cases, utility companies are even including a surcharge when businesses draw energy during peak hours.
“Certain cities charge a premium price when energy is consumed during peak or high-demand periods,” explains Rita Bockrath, product manager at . “It’s the equivalent of Uber surge pricing.”
Progressive developers, seen more recently in California, have adopted new metering technology to help reduce usage when prices are high, thus helping their bottom line.
“Title 24 peak usage devices regulate consumption to avoid unnecessary usage during peak hours. They’re helping companies pay less in utilities and conserve energy while maintaining the same, or similar, operating standards,” Bockrath explains.
4. Selecting the Right Tools
Why use a bulldozer when a shovel will do? Progressive facilities managers are likely to ask themselves a version of this question at least once in 2017.
When selecting new controls and other energy-saving tools for your facility or office, take time to research what’s available to you at the outset of your project. Control technology is ever-changing, and you may find that what was once an industry standard has been surpassed by something that’s actually a better fit for your business.
“There’s been a major diversification of lighting and control solutions,” notes Kaley. “Facilities managers should work to understand the complete landscape and choose the products and solutions that best meet their needs.”
5. Thinking Through the Transition to LEDs
Lower costs and improved efficiency have encouraged many facilities to adopt LED lighting fixtures in recent years. Between 2012 and 2014, LED installations have increased in all applications, more than quadrupling to 215 million units, reports the U.S. Department of Energy. But while many managers have seen a dip in spending and increased efficiency, another cost factor is sometimes overlooked.
“All too often, facilities managers have to absorb unexpected costs because their [lighting] controls are not designed to handle high inrush current caused by LED lights,” shares Bockrath. “As a result, controls break down faster than expected and require replacement, thus negating the cost-savings.”
Bockrath advises facilities managers to make sure they have the appropriate lighting controls when installing new LEDs. Ideally, controls should be tested and specifically indicated that they're capable of handling LED bulbs.
6. Understanding Smart Technology and Mobile Controls
For decades, lighting systems, telephones, security systems, and H/VAC systems (among other applications) have been limited by their specific controls and points of access. Meaning, even small adjustments could require hours of extra maintenance work and a slew of manual updates. There were no dashboards, command centers or online tools to get the full view.
Now, thanks to widespread adoption of mobile devices and smart technology, more and more systems are able to communicate with each other to maximize efficiency and cater to the needs of occupants. What’s more, with the swipe of a finger or click of a mouse, engineers can manage lighting controls, adjust H/VAC settings and monitor system performance from practically anywhere, limiting last-minute headaches and allowing managers to focus on the projects that matter most.
“Innovative managers and developers will want to keep an eye on this exciting field as they upgrade their facilities in 2017 and beyond,” says Kaley. “Smart technology is not just for the home or personal use, and exploring opportunities for smart integration early on has the potential to give businesses and organizations a major edge down the road.”
From hotels and restaurants to offices and manufacturing facilities, when it comes to smart technology, the potential for innovation is limitless.
7. Nailing the Basics First
While designing a state-of-the-art smart office space or rigging your entire manufacturing facility with new LED bulbs may sound exciting, be careful not to bypass the basics when looking for new ways to make your business more energy efficient. It may cost you in the long run.
"Millions – if not billions – of dollars go to waste each year because lights are on when they don't need to be,” stresses Kaley. “Before implementing advanced controls, make sure you’ve got the basics covered first.”
That said, if you’re committed to making important changes within your business or organization, there’s nothing wrong with a hybrid approach. You can lock down the essentials of energy management - installing occupancy controls and timers, creating a lighting schedule, reviewing usage - while also focusing on more progressive measures.