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Saving Electricity is Just the Start – Explore the Non-Energy Benefits of Networked Lighting Controls

May 8, 2024
A study commissioned by the DesignLights Consortium demonstrates the non-energy benefits of NLCs.

Although research shows that adding networked lighting controls (NLC) to conventional LED lighting projects can boost energy savings by an average of 50 percent, the technology’s share of the market has remained low and hard to budge. Determined to change this pattern, the DesignLights Consortium has commissioned several studies that consistently demonstrate the value of lighting controls. One published last year stands out for focusing specifically on the non-energy benefits of NLCs - advantages that accrue beyond the energy savings realized from installing a lighting control system.

Conducted by Skumatz Economic Research Associates, Inc., the study quantified the value of non-energy benefits (NEBs) and produced some notable results:

  • For decision makers that participated in utility energy efficiency programs, including the net value of NEBs in cost-benefit analyses produced a return on investment 2.3 times higher than when only considering energy savings. 
  • For building operations staff, net benefits other than energy savings were valued at approximately 11 percent of a full-time maintenance staff member’s time to provide similar impacts. 
  • For building occupants, a net increase in self-reported productivity of almost 8 percent was estimated for each employee in workplaces where NLCs were operating.

So, what are the typical NEBs an NLC system can enable? Ubiquitous in ceilings throughout commercial buildings and industrial facilities, LED fixtures are potential vehicles for collecting data useful for various smart building functions if paired with advanced controls. Sensors housed in networked, controllable LEDs can collect a variety of data and be programmed to communicate with other building systems and directly with building managers to facilitate numerous benefits. Here are eight common ones:

  1. Asset Tracking - Configuring systems to help facility managers and employees find necessary equipment in a hurry, eliminating the need to spend time searching or to purchase duplicates. (For example, helping hospital employees locate wheelchairs and medical devices saves staff time and resources).
  2. Indoor Positioning – Enabling location assistance with NLC systems, which helps retail customers find products, for example, or provides wayfinding assistance in museums.
  3. Space Utilization – Observing and reporting activity to inform facility managers about congestion or unoccupied areas of a building, enabling more efficient space utilization planning. 
  4. Diagnose and Report – Monitoring lighting performance data, which allows scheduling of maintenance of fixtures during non-business hours, reducing workday disruptions.
  5. Room Scheduling – Integrating occupancy sensors with room scheduling software, allowing employees to quickly find available meeting rooms.
  6. Security – Customizing NLC settings and preferences to send out alerts when someone is detected in a space during non-business hours.
  7. Graphic Dashboard – Providing a real-time operation view of the lighting system, with graphs and charts that enable quick and easy identification of trends and outliers.
  8. HVAC Integration – Using real-time occupancy data from luminaire sensors to enable HVAC systems to operate more effectively, improving air quality for building occupants. (NLC-HVAC integration can lead to significant energy benefits, as well. A 2023 DLC study showed that, in some buildings, 20 percent of total energy usage could be saved cost-effectively when lighting and HVAC savings are combined.)

Check out this video for more details about the non-energy benefits of NLCs.

About the Author

Levin Nock

Levin Nock is Senior Technical Manager for the DesignLights Consortium.

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