A not so bright higher-up in a manufacturing company, concerned with energy usage, issued an edict instructing maintenance to “loosen” one “light bulb” from every four-lamp fixture in hallways and aisles. He excluded lights directly over production work areas.
The higher-up went on to explain his non-brilliant plan by asserting that the unused lamp would serve as a spare and thus save time when “a bulb burns out.” He was totally unaware the plant had a re-lamping program that already had solved this problem.
The plant engineer duly complied, counting on the howls of protest from plant workers to later get the edict deep-sixed.
The energy savings from this goofy scheme were not nearly what the higher-up calculated, for several reasons. For example, that ballast is still working for the other three lamps. And removing one lamp diminishes light by much more than he had guessed because the fixture reflector, shade, lens, and lamps work as a unit.
The poor lighting in hallways and aisles made for many complaints, including from the safety director. But another effect was that operators perceived less light in their work areas. So within days, a huge task lighting load was added. Incidentally, this also created an extension cord problem.
After the higher-up received a flood of complaints from workers, most of which came through the HR department, he sent the plant engineer a memo to “screw the bulbs back in” and find “an equivalent savings” somehow.
After the lamps were restored, all that newly added task lighting remained in place. So the higher-up’s scheme resulted in increase energy consumption and a workforce that felt less happy.
All kinds of hare-brained schemes are possible. To prevent these from inflicting damage, conduct a lighting audit. You will probably find that moving or re-aiming a few fixtures will redirect wasted light to where it’s needed and maybe enable a plant to eliminate some task lighting.
As part of your audit, note the age and type of lighting in a given area. Although LED is all the rage, it is still expensive. Unless your company is really gung-ho about LED, you can more easily get approval to upgrade an older fluorescent installation to a more energy-efficient energy installation.
Do a small project like this periodically, and any higher-ups with hare-brained ideas will see you’re already working on the problem and don’t need their “guidance.”
Be proactive, but don’t shoot for the moon. Identify relatively low-cost incremental improvements, so that you are steadily making progress. In this example, if the plant engineer had installed motion sensors, timers, or some other controls in those hallway lights, the higher-up probably would never have issued that edict.