Lighten your energy load with smart building technologies
By John Watkins
By John Watkins
May 8, 2020 – Is your business using everything in its power (pun intended) to stay competitive? Optimizing your company’s energy efficiency doesn’t just reduce overall energy costs—it can also help you edge out the competition and improve your bottom line. But how do you ensure that you’re being efficient in a market that’s always advancing? Smart building technologies can provide a doubly effective solution, monitoring current systems for efficiency while including easily updatable components to progress alongside shifting technologies.
Broadly speaking, a “smart” building—also known as IoT, or “Internet of Things” architecture—is one in which multiple technological systems share information in order to improve and continually update the building’s overall performance. For businesses, having a smart building is an excellent way to reduce costs, maximize efficiency, advance sustainability, enhance customer experience and stay competitive in an ever-evolving marketplace.
Read on to get a sense of what these systems are, how they work and how you can integrate them into your building’s operating procedures.
Smarter buildings, streamlined operations
Smart building features usually work by connecting power-generated systems like lighting, HVAC and security to a cloud-based internet operating system. This not only enables managers to control all systems remotely from one device, but also provides opportunities to program automated settings (dimming lights after hours, for example) that reduce instances of user error and put good energy practices on autopilot. These small changes can add up to tens of thousands of dollars in energy savings each year.
Lighting systems provide one of the most effective areas for implementing IoT controls, because they tend to utilize the most energy in a commercial setting. Warehouses, distribution centers, hospitals and office buildings require very large lighting systems that are often on 24/7, which contributes greatly to power drain.
The first step to overhauling lighting controls is to make sure that your building has upgraded to an LED-based system. LEDs use far less energy than their counterparts, and are the only lights that can be programmed with smart controls. Most lighting systems can be easily retrofitted to work with LED bulbs and set up with hardware that coordinates with a smart technology software system.
Some of the most effective lighting controls buildings can include are:
Intelligent sensors: Sensors that measure the brightness of the room and adjust to “daylight harvest”; that is, automatically dim or shut off lights according to the amount of available natural light. Sensors can also detect when a room is not in use and shut lights off accordingly.
Key entry linking: Coordinating lights with employee entrances/exits. This is especially useful after business hours, sparing extra energy usage via unnecessary after-hours lighting, and improving safety for late-night workers who won’t have to fumble around in the dark to turn on the lights.
Remote control: Allows all lighting controls to be accessed and adjusted on a portable device in any location as opposed to one control panel in a set location.
Productivity enhancement: Automatically adjusts lights to reduce glare, allows for more natural lighting and illuminates task lights vs. all-day overhead lighting to make for a more comfortable, replenishing workspace.
Future-proofing: Installing lighting modules that are specifically designed to be adaptable to new technological advancements. A lighting specialist can advise you on best future-proofing practices.
Lighting is not the only system that can benefit from an IoT overhaul. Smart controls can also help to manage HVAC efficiency, security monitoring and occupancy/space utilization. Automating your facility with the help of smart technologies can save huge amounts of energy and power costs over time, and it doesn’t take long for the investment to pay itself out. One plastics manufacturer, for example, saved upward of $50,000 in power costs for the year just by updating their lighting system, which was almost the exact cost of their system overhaul.
Other best practices for efficiency
In addition to implementing IoT controls, there are other basic practices that your commercial property can incorporate to improve efficiency. A professional energy audit is always advisable, as it will help pinpoint exactly where energy is being wasted so that you can better prioritize where to make improvements.
Additionally, ensuring that your systems are up to date and well maintained will help eliminate energy drain. This is especially true in the case of HVAC; these systems require near-constant maintenance, and are too often neglected, ignored or tampered with in ways that make them incredibly wasteful.
Finally, encouraging workers, managers and visitors to be more aware of how they’re utilizing energy can make a huge impact. While automation is ideal, a lot can be achieved by raising consciousness of the fact that energy is actually a finite resource. Collective change starts with the individual, and encouraging awareness of personal actions is the first step to a more efficient future.
About the author…
John Watkins has been in the energy-efficient lighting industry for over 25 years. His background in lighting controls, power management and IoT, as well as LED solutions, has helped FSC Lighting transition from a fluorescent OEM to an LED fixture manufacturer and technology integrator. John oversees FSC’s product development, sales and marketing efforts directly. He also manages the company’s overall P&L, with Purchasing and Operations reporting to him.