Questions & Answers
Our Q & A provides answers to commonly asked questions about electricity use in business. If we have not answered your question below, please ask one of our Power Smart Experts.
- Is halogen lighting safe to use?
- Do dimmers save energy? How?
- What can you tell me about T8 lamps, electronic ballasts and reflectors?
- I've heard of depression affecting office employees because of poor lighting. Are full lighting spectrum lamps more healthy for the office?
- Should I try to make use of daylight in my building?
- What is the best energy-efficient lighting that will increase employee productivity?
Energy Use Management
- Do you have any specific Power Smart tips for individual business sectors?
- How much electricity do computers, printers, and other office equipment use? How can I save electricity in this area?
- How can I get a detailed account history?
- What percentage of my Hydro bill goes to what?
- I'm in the initial stages of designing a new office building. Does BC Hydro provide any assistance in the designing of an energy-efficient office?
- How can I prepare my business for a power outage?
Working with BC Hydro
Halogen is safe with a special lens cover that comes as a part of the bulb. If you use halogen bulbs without an integral lens, make sure the luminaire has a protective glass lens. Using halogen lamps without any form of protective glass can result in UV degradation of objects and skin burns.
Yes. All modern magnetic and electronic dimmers save energy by reducing power to the lamp. Dimming also extends lamp life. For example, 25% dimming extends incandescent lamp life by four times.
Most dimmers sold in Canada are electronic, which use "chopping" techniques to cut the "sine wave" signal by turning the power on and off 120 times per second. Because the switching is so rapid the eye perceives a steady lowered level of light. Magnetic dimmers are less expensive than electronic ones but only 80% efficient. Dimmers for incandescent lamps start from a very low price. The dimmers for fluorescent and compact fluorescent lamps are more expensive and often are limited to 10% dimming.
Higher energy efficiency and lower operating costs have made T8 lamps and electronic ballasts the industry standard, replacing T12 lamps and ballasts. T12 lamps are 1 and ¼ inches in diameter as compared to a T8 lamp which is only 1 inch wide. T8 lamps when used with electronic ballasts use 40% less energy than older T12 lighting systems.
For example, replacing your older fluorescent 40-watt, T12 lamps with the newer 32-watt, T8 lamps will give you the same light output with less energy use.
- Are 1-inch in diameter
- Use 32-watt lamps
- Have better light quality than the older T12 lamps
T8 electronic ballasts:
- Operate the lamps at higher frequencies
- Use less power
- Eliminate the occasional flicker visible to some people
Reflectors, either silver or aluminum, are used to redirect some of the light that is trapped inside the fixture.
If you are interested in improving your lighting, consult the Power Smart Alliance.
4. I've heard of depression affecting office employees because of poor lighting. Are full lighting spectrum lamps more healthy for the office?
Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) is a type of clinical depression related to morning light deprivation, usually in the late fall and winter days. It is an acute depression which can be a serious, life threatening condition, and thus requires medical advice. Treatment of SAD consists of exposure to high light levels for 30 minutes each day, preferably before 10:00 a.m.
Full lighting spectrum lamps have not been proven to be any more effective in treating SAD than standard sources. One can argue that any light source that embodies all the colours of the rainbow, thus covering the full visible spectrum, is a "full spectrum" source. Even high-pressure sodium (HPS) lights meet this definition. A more conventional definition refers to the Colour Rendering Index (CRI) of the light source. Generally, if a source has a CRI greater than 92, it is classified as a "full spectrum" source.
Fluorescent sources are preferred for light treatment due to:
- high efficiency
- relatively little direct heat from the lamp, compared to incandescent or high-intensity discharge lamps
- long lamp life up to 20,000 hours
- low operating costs
Daylighting can reduce lighting energy costs, cooling energy costs, and peak cooling demands. Daylighting can also dramatically improve the quality of a space. Studies listed in the Rocky Mountain Institute's Case Studies have found a relationship between increased employee productivity and naturally lit offices. Thus, the goal is to bring maximum daylight as far into the interior of the building as possible without creating glare.
Although solar energy is free, implementing daylight strategies can be costly without following proper design guidelines:
- Avoid direct glare in areas where visual tasks occur, such as reading and computer use. Use direct sunlight/skylight (potential glare) in areas where visual tasks are not critical like lounges, lobbies, cafeterias and corridors.
- Surfaces should be of high reflectance. High reflectance interior surfaces such as light counter tops and desk surfaces allow the daylight to bounce throughout, delivering soft, more uniform light to the space. High reflectance exterior surfaces will reduce the interior-cooling load.
- Bring the daylight in high. When daylight is introduced high in the space, it can penetrate father into the interior. Also, light entering high in the space will likely bounce once or twice before hitting a task surface, providing a softer light to these critical areas.
- Lightshelves are architectural features that help to bring natural light further into the interior. An exterior lightshelf simultaneously acts as a shade to prevent direct sunlight from entering the space and as a reflector to redirect sunlight towards the interior ceiling plane. An interior lightshelf acts primarily as a reflector, increasing daylight illumination levels deeper into the space and may shade some low-angle sunlight. Lightshelf placement and depth will determine the amount of solar gain as well as glare through the window.
In order for employees to be productive, they have to be comfortable in their work environment. Proper lighting plays a huge role in the visual comfort of employees, customers and other occupants. Systems that provide proper light distribution with reduced glare and dimmable capabilities gives users ultimate customization and control. Newer technologies such as T8 lamps with electronic ballasts increase the lighting output, eliminate flickers, offer an excellent colour rendition (have a high Colour Rendering Index) and save energy. Also, direct/indirect linear suspended fixtures eliminate glare and increase the visual comfort of the occupants. Dimmable intelligent lighting systems allow the user to control light levels and save energy.
For more specific information on proper lighting alternatives for your building, contact us about the Power Smart Alliance.
BC Hydro offers information on managing energy costs for business sectors including: groceries, hospitals, motels, office buildings, restaurants, retail and schools. If your building does not belong to one of these categories, check out the operations and maintenance guides for advice on optimizing equipment efficiency or the buying guides for advice on buying equipment for your building.
8. How much electricity do computers, printers and other office equipment use? How can I save electricity in this area?
On average, desktop computers draw 150 watts. ENERGY STAR®-rated computers activate "sleep" mode, reducing energy use to about 20 watts when not in use.
- A small monitor (13-15 inches) draws about 60 watts.
- A medium monitor (16-18 inches) draws about 80 watts.
- A large monitor (19-20 inches) draws about 100 watts.
Monitors draw very little power if they have the energy saver (sleep) mode enabled on the ENERGY STAR computer.
Printers, when idle, draw power as follows:
- Inkjet – 20 Watts
- Laser – 60 Watts
Note that these average draws for laser printers are much less than the nameplate rating of the device because they draw much larger amounts of power for brief periods to keep the drum warm.
Enable "sleep" mode
All components of modern computers, including the hard drive, are able to operate in extreme temperature ranges and are not affected by cycling the power on and off. The best strategy for energy savings is to enable the power management features of your computers, so that they will enter "sleep mode" when not in use for more than 15 minutes. With maximum power savings enabled the monitor will turn off, disc drives will spin down, and the main processor will reduce power resulting in about 20% of the normal electric consumption.
At the end of the day, computers should be powered off to achieve the maximum savings.
To receive an account history, send a request in writing to your BC Hydro account representative. Or using your corporate letterhead, fax a request for your account history to BC Hydro at 604 453 6285. We will send you a 36-month Account History Record that will outline a monthly breakdown of your energy dollars.
You can also sign up to get internet access to your account information anytime you want, from wherever you are.
Here is a typical breakdown of the electricity costs of the average office.
11. I'm in the initial stages of designing a new office building. Does BC Hydro provide any assistance in the designing of an energy-efficient office?
Yes. BC Hydro's High Performance Building Program provides tools and incentives to help developers and owners make new buildings energy-efficient and environmentally friendly.
BC Hydro has one of the best reliability records in North America. Although we strive to provide a reliable electricity supply at all times, there are a number of external factors beyond our control such as lightning strikes and storms. Current and planned outage information is kept up-to-date on our web site.
Protecting electronic equipment from potentially damaging power disturbances is essential for any business today. Without proper protection, you risk damaging your data and equipment, increasing your downtime and reducing productivity.
If you're interested in collaborating with BC Hydro, please visit the Business to Business Opportunities section of our website.
If you have a new energy efficient technology you would like to talk to us about, please contact us by email.