If you are reading this magazine at your desk, chances are that all the lights in your office are on--even though the sun may be shining brightly outside the window. The fact is, lighting accounts for 20 percent to 25 percent of the total amount of electricity used annually in the United States, according to EPA figures, and 80 percent to 90 percent of that amount is used by industry and business.
The EPA estimates that more than half the electricity used for lighting is wasted through inefficient technology and poor design, and that if more energy-efficient lighting were used, the nation could cut its electricity bill by more than 10 percent. So why aren't American businesses taking better advantage of new lighting technologies?
Energy-efficient lighting technologies have been available for five to 10 years but have yet to make significant inroads into the market. The biggest deterrent seems to be the initial cost of retrofitting. "It takes more than just replacing standard bulbs with more energy efficient ones," explains Alden Hathaway, Sylvania's manager of pricing and applications. "Generally, a company needs to research various options for lighting a particular area, and it may be necessary to change the entire fixture in order to put in place the best lighting solution."
"Lighting is usually handled by facilities managers and is not considered a management item," another industry spokesperson says. "Typically, building managers are not positioned to ask for an increase in their budgets. So, many continue to purchase conventional lighting rather then retrofit for systems that offer lower lifecycle costs through electricity savings."
Such thinking may be increasingly penny-wise and pound-foolish. According to industry experts, organizations may see a payback in the shape of lower electric bills in as little as one year.
The EPA has initiated a "Green Lights" program to educate American businesses to the advantages of energy-efficient lighting. Under Green Lights, corporations agree to research and upgrade their facilities with energy-efficient systems; in turn, the EPA commits to provide these organizations with a variety of products and services to make the job …