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How Energy Efficient Lighting Saves You Money

Grainger Editorial Staff

Impacting not only workplace comfort and operations, lighting across facilities accounts for a large slice of your budget. Out of date and out of code bulbs and fixtures can demand constant replacement while wasting power, making them a poor choice for operations at any scale. Often inefficient and on 24/7, these lights can be a drain on your power bill and negatively impact the environment.

By replacing older lighting technology for newer, energy-efficient options, you can cut your power bill and energy use while getting closer to your sustainability goals. Moving to more efficient lighting includes swapping older bulbs for new LED lights, installing tools to save power and automatically shut off lighting, and tracking progress toward lowering your environmental impact. The resulting changes can lower power bills by thousands of dollars and save space and time.

The True Cost of Outdated Lighting

Often an afterthought or a given in a facility, lighting is everywhere around a company and a big part of production and operations. When added up, lighting costs – from supplies and power usage to labor and storage – can make up more of the budget than you might expect.

Lighting makes up more than 11% of the energy budget in the United States 1, with roughly 10% of the average commercial power budget dedicated to lighting. Outside of heating costs, lighting is the third most impactful budget item for most commercial organizations2. Inefficient or unneeded lighting can represent a very large portion of your energy budget each month – hundreds or thousands of dollars depending on your scale3. From the smallest bulbs in your exit signs to factory-scale fluorescents, these costs add up and can be a drain on tight budgets. 

Efficient lighting choices can help reduce this impact, but cannot solve all lighting waste by themselves. While buildings need light during working hours, these lights are often left on all the time or when the building is closed. Even if nobody uses a room or enters the facility, lights can stay on and waste power. Traditional incandescent bulbs left on overnight only have a lifespan of about 40 days4, and waste most of their power. Some bulbs, like CFLs, will need to be left on to warm up and cool down efficiently, but more standard bulb types only waste money and power when used in empty spaces and outside of working hours. 

Outdated bulbs and technology can also be an inspection concern. Beginning in 2012, federal regulations recommended switching to newer lighting technologies to save power and reduce waste 5. Depending on your location, this federal policy can drive local lighting regulations that require energy-efficient lighting and building materials.

Whether to save money or to stay up to code, a move to energy-efficient lighting technologies can be a smart choice for your operation.

Energy-Efficient Technologies

The most significant change that can be made to impact lighting efficiency is replacing incandescent and fluorescent bulbs whenever possible. Most lighting in facilities that have not moved to energy-efficient options will be one of these two types. Often, this lighting can be easily replaced with LED bulbs to save money and reduce power use.

LED bulbs swap filament and gas for low-power, cool-running systems. Drawing significantly less power and producing little to no heat, these bulbs sip energy and provide as much light as traditional options. Depending on location, LEDs can also be adjusted to provide warmer or cooler lighting that helps eye strain. LED bulbs can usually be swapped in directly for other types of bulbs, often requiring no new equipment and simple installation.

Compared to traditional lighting, LEDs consume far less power on average, using 20% to as much as 85% less energy to provide similar light6. This adds up to a similar cost reduction for each light, significantly reducing power bills at scale. LEDs are also rated for a much longer lifespan than more traditional options. While incandescent bulbs can last for approximately 1000 service hours on average, a comparable LED bulb can often last for over 25000 hours. That longevity means fewer new bulbs, less product needed in storage, and fewer hours spent refreshing lighting each month. 

Sensors and automated switches can further increase energy savings. Standard room sensors detect movement and automatically turn off once a room is empty. Similar sensors can raise or lower lighting levels based on the ambient lighting in a room. Photocontrol technologies can combine the two approaches, providing motion detection and automatically shutting off lights at sundown.

A combination of energy-efficient lighting technologies and smarter controls can cut down on the budget for both product and energy, major savings that start with the first new bulb.

Benefits to Your Wallet and the Environment

More efficient lighting saves electricity, not only impacting your monthly power bill, but also aiding sustainability efforts. By switching outdated equipment for newer, more efficient options, you can take an inexpensive step toward long-term sustainability. 

By switching to LED or other efficient lighting technologies, your facilities stand to save real money each month. While a traditional incandescent bulb can require nearly $5 per year in energy costs6, a similar LED model can cost $1 or less. At scale, where facilities can have hundreds of bulbs, these savings become even larger. Though these bulbs can be more expensive up front, they require replacement far less often. 

The savings from LED lighting come from more efficient use of energy as well as a vast reduction in heat. Up to 90% less heat is generated by LED bulbs compared to incandescent options7, preventing waste and saving money. In its lifespan, one LED bulb can replace 25 equivalent incandescent bulbs. 

With less frequent replacement of lighting, and a more consistent product profile, less space is also needed to store lighting products. Standardized bulbs can be automatically ordered when needed, and a wide variety of bulbs do not need to be kept on site. With less space used for maintenance products, more space can be used for operations or resources. Less frequent bulb replacement – nearly every three years per bulb – allows workers to also focus on more important tasks. 

Efficient lighting options have a large secondary benefit particularly important to organizations interested in environment impact and sustainability. These efficient options use less power, produce less waste, and require less energy production, making them the right choice for environmentally conscious facilities.

Federal studies have found substantial environmental benefits from switching standard lighting for LED bulbs8. If all bulbs across the United States were to be switched, overall lighting energy consumption would drop by half, while preventing nearly 2 billion metric tons of carbon emissions per year. That energy savings means that several hundred fewer power plants are needed, and the benefits are increased if solar or other renewable options are selected.

Lightbulbs and fixtures themselves have been prone to be “throwaway” items, swapped out every two months and thrown away. By switching to LED bulbs, bulbs are thrown away less often and the resources needed to create them are preserved.

By switching your facility to energy-efficient lighting options, including LED bulbs and automatic shutoffs, you can save a large portion of your energy budget while helping the environment by lowering emissions and power waste.






The information contained in this article is intended for general information purposes only and is based on information available as of the initial date of publication. No representation is made that the information or references are complete or remain current. This article is not a substitute for review of current applicable government regulations, industry standards, or other standards specific to your business and/or activities and should not be construed as legal advice or opinion. Readers with specific questions should refer to the applicable standards or consult with an attorney.


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