Lighting Upgrade Benefits

Last month, I wrote about marketing lighting system upgrades based on predicted energy savings. It is the preferred method for convincing a customer to undertake a lighting upgrade project because the savings can be easily demonstrated, and the return on investment is relatively risk-free and can be high. However, energy savings only represents part of the return that the customer can expect from a lighting upgrade. Other benefits include revenue increases and operating expense reductions.

The luminous environment
Both artificial lighting and daylighting systems create the visual environment in which people live, work and play. The luminous environment can affect how people feel and determine how they experience and interact with the space. An effective lighting system will make the space inviting and enhance the experience of the activities for the occupants. Today, lighting manufacturers are providing a steady stream of new and improved products, including light sources, luminaires and controls that make it possible to provide the customer with a lighting system that is both efficient and effective. A well-designed and executed lighting system can increase the customer’s revenues and reduce operating expenses beyond energy savings.

Long-term view
It’s not easy to look beyond energy savings when considering a lighting upgrade. The electrical contractor would need to help customers focus on the effect of the lighting system on his or her business as a whole. Lighting upgrade outcomes beyond energy savings can include improved employee productivity, increased safety and accident prevention, improved customer satisfaction, and others. Each of these outcomes has the potential to improve the customer’s business and ultimately increase business profits.

For example, the Rocky Mountain Institute performed a study that included employee salaries as part of the expense of operating a typical office building. The study showed that employee salaries accounted for about 83 percent of the annual cost of operating the office building, and energy usage, including lighting, accounted for only 2 percent with the remaining 16 percent due to rent/mortgage, maintenance and other expenses. Based on this holistic look at the operation of a typical office building, the financial impact of improving employee productivity by upgrading the lighting system could surpass the expected energy savings. An office lighting upgrade can increase employee productivity by providing greater visual comfort and reducing fatigue, increasing work accuracy by reducing errors and rework, and possibly reducing absenteeism due to headaches and other related maladies (see “Work Lights” by Craig DiLouie).

Similarly, lighting upgrades in a retail store could increase customer traffic and the amount of time a customer spends in that store, which is accomplished by judiciously adding accent lighting, changing light sources to improve the color rendering of merchandise, increasing visual comfort by changing out luminaires, and making the retail space more inviting and interesting. The lighting upgrade should not only save on energy but also translate into increased sales per customer for the retailer and an improved bottom line.

A lighting upgrade also can enhance employee satisfaction and productivity in a manufacturing facility. In addition to saving money, coordinating task lighting with general lighting can improve productivity and quality of the manufactured product by helping employees see better. Seeing better on the shop floor means fewer errors and reduced rework in the manufacturing process and increased safety and accident prevention.

Marketing lighting upgrade projects
There is a tendency in the electrical contracting industry to believe that the lighting upgrade market offers little growth potential because a lot of customers have already upgraded their lighting systems over the past decade or are in relatively new buildings. However, the lighting industry is changing rapidly with new product offerings available every day—including the proliferation of light-emitting diodes—that ultimately save money with efficiency and contribute to a better luminous environment.

Even though these additional positive effects are difficult to quantify and intangible and may not be as certain as energy savings, the outcomes are real, and contractors should bring them to the customer’s attention for consideration in the decision--making process.

This article is the result of a research project, “Energy Roadmap: Electrical Contractor’s Guide for Expanding Into the Emerging Energy Market,” sponsored by ELECTRI International, Inc. Thanks to EI for its support.

GLAVINICH is director of Architectural Engineering and Construction Programs and an associate professor in the Department of Civil, Environmental and Architectural Engineering at the University of Kansas. He can be reached at 785.864.3435 and

About the Author

Thomas E. Glavinich

Freelance Writer
Thomas E. Glavinich was an associate professor in the Department of Civil, Environmental and Architectural Engineering at the University of Kansas. His tenure as one of Electrical Contractor's most trusted and reliable source of industry research end...

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