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Stretch your power dollar with dimmer switches

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BY KENT CROOK
President, Wiremasters Electric

“Turn off the lights when you leave” is a phrase your parents probably used quite often in their attempts to trim the monthly electric bill. Today’s modern technology lets the lights turn themselves off or reduce the lighting level from very bright to dim.

The typical commercial building, about 50,000 square feet in area, spends about $45,000 a year on lighting energy. My source is The New Thinking About Lighting published in Building Operating Management in August 2008.

Lighting controls are the key to keeping your commercial property’s power bill under control.

Benefits to you as a property owner include:
• Lower operating costs.
• More flexible space because of lighting and shading zones created without rewiring.
• Increased productivity and comfort for employees.
• Ability of employees to create preferred light levels and automated shade control.
• When the proper equipment is installed, you have what seems like unlimited possibilities for controlling the lighting in your offices.
• Lights turn on when someone enters a room and turn off when the room is vacant.
• The shades covering the windows are opened or closed according to outside conditions, so that energy consumption is reduced.
• When lights are dimmed and shades are automatically controlled, there is reduced need for lighting and reduced load on the HVAC system.
• Lights can be scheduled as to when to turn on and when to turn off.
• Employees can set the preferred light level for different tasks. Because 90 percent of information is received visually, it is important for the employee to have the right amount of
light for the task at hand.
• If the needs of a certain office space change, it is possible to use wall controls, occupancy sensors and daylight sensors for reassigning settings to different fixtures.

Let’s take a day in the life of an office, to show how technology adjusts the needs for lighting:

7 to 8 a.m.: The security staff and facility staff enter the building. Shades open to let in daylight. Occupancy sensors turn on lights to 50 percent to save energy. If more light is needed, adjustments can be made a wallstation.

9 to 10 a.m.: Office workers arrive, so lights are automatically set at 80 percent light output. Daylight sensors reduce electric light levels to respond to available daylight.

Lunch: Lights automatically dim down to 10 percent as workers leave for lunch.

2 p.m.: Workers have returned by now so lights automatically rise to higher levels as daylight decreases.

3 to 4 p.m.: Workers dim their lights and adjust shades with handheld remotes so they can clearly view their computer screens and have enough light to take notes during a webinar.

5 p.m.: Workers leave, so lights automatically dim down to 10 percent. Control devices can override this setting if additional light is needed.

6 p.m.: Cleaning crew arrives, so lights automatically turn on to 80 percent for the janitorial staff.

After hours: The time clock automatically turns the lights off and lowers shades to save energy. This is also minimizing light pollution.

The benefits of a lighting control strategy go on and on. And one of the most satisfying benefits is that reduced amount of money spent each month for electricity.

Kent Crook is president of Wiremasters Electric. Contact him at 305-385-9379 or via email at <kent@kcmiami.com>.

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