Research led by Skumatz Economic Research Associates Inc. and published by the DesignLights Consortium (DLC) shows the nonenergy benefits (NEBs) of networked lighting controls and a methodology for quantifying them.
Designed for communication, networked lighting controls (NLCs) receive input from sensors, which is conveyed to lighting controllers that in turn send commands to the power controls. Because NLCs often interface with other building systems, they can perform other duties, such as monitoring for maintenance purposes, improving lighting quality—which benefits worker health and safety—and integrating with the demand-response server to reduce peak load.
“Networked Lighting Controls, which already support direct energy savings through automated switching and dimming of light fixtures, can further improve their payback by taking into account non-energy benefits enabled by the system through productivity gains, safety and security enhancements, extended equipment life cycles, and more in cost-benefit calculations,” said Stuart Berjansky, technical director for DLC.
According to the study, in cost-benefit analyses, the net value of nonenergy benefits produced a return on investment more than double (2.3 times) the result of just energy savings alone.
“Our report provides key data that can be used to improve return on investment of NLC installations. These are real savings that a building owner or facility manager should consider in the evaluation of NLCs,” Berjansky said.
When networked controls are operating in the workplace, an 8% net increase in self-reported productivity for each occupant was achieved.
Additionally, NEBs resulted in net energy savings of nearly 11% of a full-time maintenance staff member’s time to provide similar impacts.
Overall, the quantifiable benefits of controlling small lighting loads seem to have decreased in proportion to the rise of energy-efficient LED technology. However, although the direct energy savings may be less in comparison with savings derived from LEDs, networked lighting controls still provide important benefits.
Nonenergy benefits result in savings in many areas beyond just energy costs. Typical nonenergy benefits include extended life of lighting equipment, reduced maintenance, better light quality, improved safety and security and productivity gains.
Utilities can also create incentive programs based on NEBs, encouraging staff to convince the market to incorporate a set of metrics to measure the cost-effectiveness of NLC implementation.
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