If you’re a facilities manager, you likely perform periodic checkups of the heavy machinery and other equipment that you use daily. But there might be a large aspect of your daily operating equipment that you’ve unintentionally forgotten.
In both commercial and industrial facilities, the lighting used is a huge energy draw. These are often vast spaces that need to be brightly illuminated for long periods of time. Sometimes even for the entire 24-hour day.
If you’re currently using LED lights (or in the process of switching to LEDs), you’ve already taken a significant step in reducing your energy costs. But, even with LEDs, if your lights aren’t running properly, they use even more energy. Thankfully, there’s an easy way to ensure that your commercial lighting or industrial lighting is functioning the way that it should, a lighting audit.
What Is a Lighting Audit?
A lighting audit is performed as an in-person analysis of a building with the main purpose being to find your current lighting situation and provide steps on how to optimize your energy savings opportunities. The audit can be conducted in indoor and outdoor spaces.
General Information Needed
Basic info includes:
Floor and ceiling plans showing current fixture locations
Space dimensions (Length x Width x Ceiling Height)
Future renovation plans if they exist
Financial Information Needed
The last type of information needed is financial. Knowing the average electricity bill in terms of kWh and kW is needed to calculate existing operating costs at the facility.
From here, you can calculate the long-term savings the customer can expect from an upgrade project.
There are many reasons why you might want to change the lights in your business or building. Perhaps you are looking for ways to lower your electric bill.
Maybe want to improve your customer experience through fine details, or maybe you have realized that your current lighting fixtures are just not the right fit for your workers and business in general.
Whatever your reasons may be, now is the right time to substitute those ineffective and costly lights and find the ideal solution for your business’ needs.
However, to make the most out of this project, you will need to perform a lighting audit.
Lighting Information Needed
You will need to collect the lighting specifications for each area. This information can include:
# of fixtures
Type of fixtures
How many lamps and/or ballasts are there in each fixture?
Type of lamps or ballasts used
Wattage of each model of fixture used
What is the space used for?
How many hours per day is the space used for?
At what height are tasks performed?
How much natural daylight is there?
It is useful to know how the existing lighting system is perceived. This type of insight can be pivotal to understanding the pain points for your customer.
This step can involve surveying employees or management. Great questions to ask include:
Do occupants experience glare on their screens?
Is the lighting too dim to work effectively?
Does it feel like they are being baked by the sun?
How to Perform a Lighting Audit
If your business facility has lots of lights, you need a detailed plan. Just visiting the local home improvement store won’t cut it.
Shopping without a plan may result in you ending up with lights that may not be as cost-efficient as you need them to be, will look out of place at your site, and may not save you as much energy as expected.
For this very reason, it’s important to perform a lighting audit. This process will help you approximately estimate your entire lighting retrofit and will help you get an idea of your project’s ROI (return on investment).
Determine Your Objective
Before you start calculating how many bulbs you would need to buy, you need to consider your goals and objectives and be clear about what you’re looking to achieve with this lighting outfitting.
Lighting retrofits can achieve a diverse array of goals; however, the best upgrades have highly specific objectives. The savviest business owners have already determined what they want to achieve with this upgrade before starting the project.
Are you looking for ways to reduce your energy bill and save energy? Are you hoping to reduce your maintenance costs? Is the lighting too strong or too soft? Do you want to improve your lighting quality? Do you want lighting in another color?
All these concerns should be tackled in any project of this kind. The first step of your audit should be determining which one of these goals you want to achieve:
Reduce Maintenance Costs
Improve Light Levels
Boost Light Quality
Change Light Color
When deciding which objective to tackle, spend some time analyzing their importance for your business and rank them. The next step is to determine the level of change you’re looking to achieve. For instance, do you want to dramatically increase the quality of your lights or slightly improve their effectiveness?
Mapping out your needs this way can help you determine the crucial parts of your project and focus more on them. This is also a highly recommended exercise to do if you’re collaborating with a lighting contractor with extensive experience in the field.
By categorizing your needs by their importance and determining the degree of change you would want to see in your facility, you’ll significantly help your contractor to get an idea of what exactly you need so they can create a detailed course of action. If you plan on undertaking this project yourself, this step will help you start off on the right foot and create momentum to get most of the work done.
Gather Your Tools
Once you have determined your main goal for this project, you should start gathering some valid data. However, you first need to be equipped with the proper tools for the job.
If you’re dealing with a medium-sized facility, counting all the fixtures with your fingers is simply not going to cut it. Similarly, you can’t just hope you’ll remember all the kinds of lights you have, their exact location, and their output. At this point in your project, you will have to start using some basic tools.
Luckily, this ensemble is very small. Here are your tool essential tools:
High Resolution Digital Camera
Digital Laser Measure
Lighting Audit Form
You can start with your phone’s camera. Take a photo of each type of light you have installed. Take shots from various angles in the areas where your employees work.
Capture every model of fixture up close so that you will know the exact types you have. You should also take some point-of-view shots of all your rooms or floors so that you can compare how they looked before the remodeling and how they look after.
Buy a digital laser and a tape measurer to get the exact dimensions. This is particularly important if you can’t access any drawings or floor plans of your facility. For best results, it is of paramount importance that you know the length and width of every area as well as the distance between the floors and lights.
You can use a light meter to accurately read the light levels in your facility. This will help you determine whether you will want to decrease, increase, or just maintain those levels with your new lighting fixtures. The light meter should read in “foot candles,” which will show you how much light is spent at the task level.
Finally, the most important part of this project is the audit form. With this piece of paper, you should note every piece of information about your lighting system you deem important. You should write down the number of fixtures, how many of each type you have, the current and desired light quality and level, and the ideal colors.
As mentioned before, if you’re collaborating with an experienced contractor, this piece of paper will be a great starting point for them as well. However, if you don’t have this form, a lighting contractor will do their own audit and handle these details.
Take a look at the lighting worksheets down below that you can use if you want to change the lighting in your facility. Regardless of whether you plan on working with your employees or want to employ a commercial lighting contractor, these forms can help kickstart your project and help you manage it more efficiently.
If your facility doesn’t have a great variety of fixtures, you will need only this worksheet. Just write down the information for each lamp together with the rough hours it is used on a monthly basis.
This will help you evaluate how much energy your current lighting fixtures consume and how much energy the LED lighting will save you in the long run.
If your business has a diverse range of lamps, using this worksheet together with the Room Count worksheet will help you inventory your facility. Make sure to note each lamp type you have and give it a reference number which you will use in the Room Count.
This will help you to keep track of the kinds of lights you have in each area.
Get Exact Numbers
“The most important part of conducting a lighting audit is writing down the exact number of fixtures, the right lamp and wattage types in every fixture, as well as the ‘burn hours’ for each light, and not just the business’ hours of operation” – The FSG Albuquerque Branch Manager, Billy Ramirez.
The truth of the matter is, in most facilities, lights are kept on much longer than during normal business hours. Many employees come to work earlier and leave later than others.
Plus, in some companies, the cleaning and maintenance teams work during the night. Also, some facilities work throughout the weekend, although they are officially closed. And during all those extra hours, the lights are on.
So, when you are trying to figure out how many hours exactly you and your employees use the lights so that you can calculate the lifespan you would like to get from your new fixtures, consider their actual pattern of use. You would be wrong if you just simply multiply nine hours a day by five days a week.
There are also a couple of other figures and information that you should keep in mind when doing your calculations:
Financial Information (your electricity bills)
Facility Information (drawings, floor plans, exact locations of HVAC, exit points, controls, and equipment rooms)
Occupant Information (burn hours, problem areas, etc.)
The more calculable factors you end up having after the audit, the better the beginning of your project will be. This way, you will gather all the info you need to enhance the lighting in your business yourself or give this info to an experienced contractor to tackle the project.
Here’s an extensive list of the important considerations you’ll want to include in your lighting audit:
- Hours of Operation
- Burn Hours
- # of Fixtures
- Lighting Controls for Each Area
- Input Voltage
- # of Lamps per Fixture
- # of Lamps per Ballast
- Type of Lamps and Ballast
- Are there reflectors, lenses, wire guards, or emergency ballasts?
- What is the condition of the fixtures, failed lamps, or systems?
- Are the fixtures air handlers?
- How much daylight is there?
- What tasks are performed in the space and the appropriate light level for each
- Are partitions used? Do they block any light?
- Any unique fixtures or physical features, such as explosion proof classification.
- What is the ceiling type?
- What are the space dimensions?
- At what height are tasks completed?
- Are there any obstructions besides partitions?
- What is the fixture mounting height?
- How are the fixtures mounted?
- Are the walls or floors reflective? If so, what color are they and how reflective?
Making Changes After a Lighting Audit
A lighting audit should expose any weaknesses in your facility’s lighting. Unfortunately, it may result in the realization that all your facility’s lighting is underperforming.
In fact, if you’re using fluorescent, metal halides, HID bulbs, or any combination of those, your lighting is absolutely lacking, not only in production but also in cost-cutting. LED lights run better, brighter, and for longer, making them an ideal choice for both commercial and industrial lighting applications.
And, although you do still need to do lighting audits if your facility is using only LED lights, they can be done much less often. LEDs have a longer lifespan and experience a drastically slower lumen loss than all other bulb types. So, you can be a little more hands-off, and still save money and energy at the same time.
About the Author
Cory Peterson is Director of Sales & Marketing at LED Lighting Supply where he focuses on improving customer experience and revenue operations. Cory writes about commercial & industrial lighting, along with topics important to contractors and facility managers. In his free time, Cory enjoys traveling, snorkeling, exercise and cooking.