Light the Way

Today, there is a push to save energy and, therefore, money. One of the largest users of energy in a commercial building is its lighting system, which Darlene Bremer discusses in this month’s Energy Management column on page 86. If you approach a company’s lighting usage on a whole-building basis, you will see that new technologies available lead to energy savings and improved control. However, the last phase of a building’s lighting installation is maintenance.

A maintenance strategy

When you install a high-quality and managed lighting system for a customer, you might have used the approach of reducing the number of fixtures necessary because the added technology actually manages the full system. This is where it is extremely important to keep up the maintenance of this advanced system, and it is an opportune time to offer your customer ongoing maintenance.

Lutron Electronic Co.’s EcoSystem is an example of an advanced/programmable system that would require quality maintenance. With the aid of a personal digital assistant (PDA), you can control the lighting remotely. The products include fixtures with built-in intelligence, which allows turning lights off, adjusting levels of brightness, controlling light levels and/or sensing occupancy. If there is power to the fixture, you can control it. Maintenance for this type of system involves the programming necessary to accommodate the changing needs of the client (e.g., cubicle rearrangements that affect lighting coverage). Offering this kind of maintenance will keep the client happy, your foot in the door and the approval of your client.

Tony Zarzaca, national sales manager for Commercial Systems, Lutron Electronics Co., said, “Lutron systems are designed to be flexible to meet the customer’s changing needs. This flexibility allows the installing electrical contractor to establish a long-term consultative role to ensure clients get the most out of their product as their needs change over time.”

Also, look at maintenance through the eyes of the installing contractor.

“Contractors need to keep their customers up-to-date on what the opportunities are for energy savings; lighting maintenance is one of those opportunities,” said Norma Frank, chairperson for the Illuminating Engineering Society of North America (IESNA) Maintenance Committee, past president of the interNational Association of Lighting Management Companies (NALMCO) and current president of Colorado Lighting in Denver.

Understanding what to maintain comes from learning which technology is embedded in units that control a building’s lighting and knowing how to change it.

Lighting techniques can relate to energy savings, which is important to the customer. Even if a building is only five years old, the lighting systems can be updated to include the latest technology. Some of the latest technologies include occupancy sensors that also control light levels, light emitting diodes (LEDs), programmable ballasts, access through a Web browser, touchscreens and keypads that replace wall switches.

Contractors need to pass on information about these technologies to customers so they can decide if they want to take advantage of them.

Sell your expertise

If the customer decides to incorporate some of these current lighting technologies, the maintenance of these features could fit into your overall maintenance contract for the building.

The training and education you can get from manufacturers or groups such as NALMCO also is something you can point out that contributes to your expertise. Check out the existing lighting associations where education is readily available. NALMCO is a hands-on group that promotes professional lighting management techniques (education) to those who work in this industry. It also works to promote lighting management.

You can also read related text available through IESNA and NALMCO is RP-36-03, “IESNA/NALMCO Planned Indoor Lighting Maintenance,” which “examines common lighting maintenance procedures and the central components of an effective planned maintenance program.” Two of its eight sections are “planned maintenance techniques identifying proactive methods for continuously attaining required illuminance levels” and “designing for maintenance constructing a lighting system that can be serviced without great difficulty.”

As previously mentioned, there are new lighting control systems that you can maintain and that actually save energy for your customers. The systems keep the lights off when the building is empty and can be tweaked to meet changing building needs. The light-level sensors measure ambient light levels and automatically switch breakers or relays on or off to maintain a constant light level.

Benefits for building owners and facilities managers who employ these lighting technologies include improving work environment, stress levels and -productivity.

MICHELSON, president of Jackson, Calif.-based Business Communication Services and publisher of the BCS Reports, is an expert in TIA/EIA performance standards. Contact her at or

About the Author

Marilyn Michelson

Freelance Writer
Marilyn Michelson, president of Jackson, Calif.-based Business Communication Services and publisher of the BCS Reports, is an expert in TIA/EIA performance standards.

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