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Lighting systems

Contractor and client discuss lighting upgrades

Plan for good lighting design

Lighting can be your highest business energy cost – and your greatest opportunity for savings. Reducing heat output from your lighting can also reduce your air conditioning costs. Without proper lighting, productivity, safety, security and overall aesthetics can be compromised. Good lighting design contributes to employee comfort and health, which in turn can result in greater productivity.

Consult with a member of our Alliance of Energy Professionals for advice in planning an energy-efficient design geared to your building and your needs. Consult with your employees about comfortable lighting levels.

Turn off lights when not in use

  • Lights should be turned off whenever an area is unoccupied, including unused common areas such as copy rooms, break rooms, conference rooms and restrooms.
  • If your lights can be controlled separately, turn off lights whenever there is enough natural light.
  • Install daylight harvesting photocell sensors and automatic controls to save energy when enough daylight is present.
  • Post reminders next to light switches or install occupancy sensors to keep lights off in unused areas. Occupancy sensors turn off lights automatically when space is unoccupied saving about 25% of the lighting energy.

Use task lighting when appropriate

Instead of using ceiling fixtures that light entire rooms, use LED (Light Emitting Diodes) task lighting.

Replace lamps before they lose effectiveness

The light output of a fluorescent lamp decreases as it ages, yet the same amount of energy is consumed to produce this lower level of light.

To eliminate this inefficiency, consider group relamping or replacing all the lamps in an area at the same time and near the end of their useful life. In doing so, you can:

  • Cut replacement labour costs
  • Reduce work interruptions
  • Ensure and maintain proper light levels

If your lighting system is more than 10 or 15 years old, consider an updated lighting design. See our Alliance of Energy Professionals for more information on how we can assist you.

Remove lamps that are not needed

Many lighting systems are over-designed, providing too much light for the task. This is inefficient and can make the working space uncomfortable. In some cases, lamps or whole lighting fixtures can be removed or retrofitted without creating lighting problems (de-lamping), although this may create uneven lighting in the working environment.

Consult a lighting professional for advice before embarking on a removal or retrofit project. This will ensure that the resulting lighting level will meet Workers' Compensation Board standards and provide optimal comfort.

Retrofit your old lighting system to save energy and improve lighting quality

Energy-efficient LED technologies are replacing standard lighting technologies (like incandescent, high intensity discharge and fluorescent sources) throughout North America to reduce energy consumption and improve lighting quality, at compatible costs to users.

T8 fluorescent lamps: Replace your existing T12 fluorescent lamps and magnetic ballasts with tubular LED lamps (TLEDs) to reduce energy costs, lower maintenance costs, increase the system's lifespan, and improve the quality of light.

LED lamps and luminaires: By switching to either LED screw-in lamps, complete LED fixtures or retrofit kits it will allow you to achieve the maximum of energy efficiency from your lighting systems. Today, LED luminaires are available for most of the lighting applications.

Use LED systems for exterior lighting

Replace older outdoor incandescent or mercury vapour lamps with LED luminaires. This can save up to 75% of energy use while providing similar light output. Similarly, replacing high-pressure sodium or metal halide systems with performant LED systems will save up to 50% of energy use and last over 10 to 15 years.

Very bright light sources can cause glare. Unless bright sources can be effectively shielded, a greater number of low-wattage lights usually create a better visual environment than a few higher-wattage lights.

Use LEDs (light emitting diodes) for exit signs

LEDs are the standard for illuminating exit signs. LED exit signs or retrofit kits consume 1 to 3 watts – a fraction of the energy used by incandescent-based signs – and last about 100,000 hours. LEDs can also be inserted in the same sockets as incandescent lamps.

Switch to LED holiday lights

British Columbia is a world leader in the adoption of LED holiday lights, which provide brilliant colours along with the practicality of major energy savings and longer bulb life.

One example of a successful conversion is the Vancouver Park Board's switch to LED lights for the grove of trees overlooking English Bay on Beach Avenue at Bidwell Street. The switch to 12,750 LED orbs reduced holiday season consumption from the former 20,400 kWh with incandescent strings on the six elm trees, to just 2,650 kWh with LED holiday light strings.

Use LED lamps

Replace incandescent lamps in pot lights and general lighting fixtures with LED lamps. These lamps use 75% less energy while lasting at least 15 times longer, considerably reducing maintenance costs.

Many models of LED lamps come in a compact self-ballasted unit, complete with screw-in base, ideal for easily replacing incandescent light bulbs in residential and commercial applications.

Only light occupied areas of your building during cleaning

Ask janitorial services to light only one area of the building at a time while cleaning rather than having the entire building unnecessarily lit. Also, ask janitorial staff to take advantage of partial switching (such as turning on only one lamp of a three-lamp fixture) to further reduce energy use during building cleaning.

Improve interior surfaces' reflectance

Consider painting walls, floors and ceilings with lighter colours to improve the reflectance values and lighting efficiency and thereby reduce the lighting electrical load.

Use timers or photocells for outdoor security and parking area lighting

Timers and photocell sensors automatically turn on outdoor lights at dusk and off at dawn (be sure to adjust timers for daylight savings time). Astronomical timers, which make seasonal adjustments, are also widely available. Photocells activate exterior lighting to ensure that high wattage "outside lamps" are not accidentally left on during the day. Photocells are better than timers as they are not affected by power failures.

Install dual switches and dimmers

Consider dual switching (when multiple switches control the same light) in some rooms and installing dimming controls. This will enable lights to adjust to lower levels when rooms are not in use or when tasks at hand differ. Dimmers can be local, centralized or even wireless controlled. Incandescent dimmers start at a very low price while fluorescent and compact fluorescent dimmers are more costly. Ask a BC Hydro representative, an electrician, your vendor or a lighting professional for details.

Adjust lighting levels to match needs at different times

Before and after "public" hours, use lighting according to need. Full lighting may not be necessary; have just enough light for employees to do jobs such as cleaning or restocking shelves.

If you can control lights with a bank of switches, you may be able to turn off up to half of the lights and save considerable energy. Even if you have to rewire the lighting system to permit partial lighting, the payback from energy savings and increased lamp life may make the investment worthwhile.

Use advanced, networked lighting controls

LED technology is continually becoming more viable and less expensive. The benefits of LED lighting include higher efficacy, longer service life, ability to dim and tune colours.

However, incorporating the advanced lighting controls systems will really make this LED technology shine and add 20% to 50% more energy savings. The benefits of advanced, networked lighting control systems include various energy management features, including dimming, occupancy sensing, daylight harvesting, the ability to effectively schedule lighting, the ability to create virtual zones of control to suit changing floor layouts, the ability to provide feedback on the energy consumption and time of use of each fixture, and the more exotic LED specific ability to tune light’s spectral colour to suit space use or time of day conditions.

These features could be used to reduce customers' energy use and demand, as well as the non-energy benefits such as improved health and productivity. The control networks could also be wireless, better suited for retrofits.

Label electrical switches

Simple labeling systems for electrical switches and panels can help increase lighting efficiencies and save about 20% of lighting energy use. These labels identify switches that need to be:

  • Left on at all times
  • Left on during business hours only
  • Left on during occupancy hours only

You may have other equipment that can also be labeled and turned off after hours for additional savings. Ask a BC Hydro representative, an electrician or a lighting professional for details.

For multilevel commercial buildings, consider installing an automatic building management system, which can be programmed to efficiently control your lighting and HVAC load to suit your needs and save energy. See our Alliance of Energy Professionals for more information.

Clean and inspect your lighting systems regularly

Dirt and dust accumulation can reduce light output by 30%. Clean and inspect your lighting systems for surface dents, scratches and burns that can lead to rust formation. Rust can affect the reflectance on the inside surfaces and decrease lamp life.

Improperly selected or over-used cleaning compounds can deteriorate luminaire surfaces. For best results, follow the manufacturer recommendations for each application. Here are some suggestions for cleaning:

Aluminum: Apply very mild soaps and cleaners followed by a thorough rinse with clean water. Never use strong alkaline cleaners.

Silver Film: Apply a 0.5% nonabrasive solution of mild liquid detergent and water using a soft, damp rag. Ultrasonic cleaning machines are ideal for multiple cell louvers.

Enamel: Use detergents, automobile or glass cleaners. Do not use alcohol or abrasive cleaners.

Glass: For lenses, use detergents or nonabrasive cleaners and rinse after. Glass reflectors may be wiped dry.

Plastics: Use anti-static compounds rather than ordinary detergents. Do not wipe plastics dry after application of a rinse solution, as this will form electrostatic charges. Vacuuming is the most effective method of drying plastics.

How energy management can help

To help you plan and implement energy management into your business, we offer:

  • Useful resources for understanding lighting system technologies and areas for optimization.
  • Generous funding to help your organization improve your lighting system.

Alliance of Energy Professionals

Our network of contractors can help you identify lighting opportunities and guide you through the process of applying for incentives.

Programs and incentives

Business energy-saving incentives

  • Since 2010, we've been helping B.C. businesses reduce their operating costs through the implementation of energy-efficiency projects. Whether you run a small family business or a large property management firm, we have incentives that can help cover up to 75% of the cost of your project.

Self-serve incentive program (SIP)

  • Our online application process makes it quick and easy to apply for incentives.
  • Receive funding of up to 75% for your lighting retrofits.

Project incentives

  • Get a fast return on your investment with incentives and ongoing energy savings.
  • We offer up to 75% of your upgrade costs. Incentive level and limits vary depending on your billing rate class (distribution vs. transmission).


Energy efficiency feasibility study

  • An energy expert will closely analyze more efficient alternatives for lighting your facility.
  • This study will provide the cost/benefit details you need to make strategic decisions.
  • We offer up to 100% funding for the study.

Health benefits of white tuneable LED lighting  [PDF, 503 KB]

For customers looking to upgrade their lighting and receive not only energy savings but also health benefits.

  • Analysis of research and products applicable to white tunable LED lighting.
  • What is white tunable LED lighting?
  • Find out how light can benefit your sleep quality and mood.