Return to Office Trend Has Employers Seeking Energy Efficient Upgrades

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There is a new energy in downtown areas, office parks, and main streets. From the return of rush hour to the sound of footsteps on the street, we are seeing signs of new life as employees return to the office (RTO) and many employers nationwide update or end their remote work policies. The energy unleashed by the RTO trend is creating a new need and opportunity to improve office efficiency, especially regarding energy use.

During the years of office underutilization, employers had a unique chance to reimagine how their spaces would operate and how they could save money with less regular occupancy.

One of the most effective ways to manage business energy costs is through a variety of lighting control systems. The benefits go beyond cost savings: Lighting controls have been proven to enhance productivity, sustainability, and the aesthetic environment for employees and customers.

The Business Case for Lighting Controls:

"The business world is experiencing another paradigm shift," Xcel Energy Business Lighting Program Manager Kim Lidbeck explained. "As remote employees return to the office, companies must adjust to enhance their work environment, and regulate their energy use. These sophisticated new control systems are going to grow in popularity as this need increases."

Lighting controls (especially when paired with new low-energy, highly flexible lighting sources like LEDs) give employers maximum control over their work environment. From the simple efficiency of turning off lights in unused spaces to the ability to tailor lighting levels to the preferences of employees at individual workstations, controls are the key to an energy-efficient work environment.

Popular Lighting Control Solutions:

These controls go far beyond old-fashioned manual dimmer switches and motion sensors. Modern lighting controls may use new power sources, wireless communication, remote controls, detailed reporting, and intelligent autonomous controls to balance efficiency with functionality. Here are some of the latest technologies in play:

  • Luminaire-level lighting controls (LLLC), or "embedded controls," are sensor- and logic-based systems. In LLLCs, autonomous controllers provide flexible control points for individual luminaires. LLLCs are among the more rapidly growing control options for interior lighting. LLLCs use up to 75% less energy than non-controlled fixtures, and with more employees coming back to the office, LLLCs can provide a better work environment. Some LLLC systems also offer asset tracking, space utilization, and enhancements to safety systems. *
  • Bluetooth lighting control (BLC) systems utilize Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE) to connect devices with light fixtures. The system can transfer data, control lights individually or in clusters, manage lighting schedules, and adjust color, temperature, and brightness. BLCs can control lights from any nearby location without installing switches, dimmers, or sensors. Businesses can customize their lighting by time-of-day without rewiring fixtures. BLCs save energy by automatically dimming and turning off lights when not needed. Bluetooth controlled lights provide health benefits as well, helping to reduce eye strain and fatigue. **
  • Power Over Ethernet (PoE) lighting is groundbreaking technology that can create substantial energy savings and can significantly enrich a business operation. It uses network cables to transmit both power and data to lights, abolishing electrical wiring. PoEs augment energy efficiency, and provide superior lighting systems controls, which is necessary when more employees are occupying the office. PoE lighting uses energy-efficient LED lights, which reduces energy utilization and fosters a more sustainable, environmentally friendly company. PoEs allow a business to effortlessly regulate brightness and color temperature of the lights, which equates to a more comfortable and productive workspace. ***

Lighting Control Benefits:

Modern lighting controls offer businesses a host of benefits and opportunities:

  • Energy efficiency. Data collection tools enable managers to pinpoint areas of energy waste, allowing them to adjust accordingly.
  • Automated settings. Reduce the need to worry about human error when it comes to proper light settings.
  • Glitch warnings. Lighting controls pinpoint equipment trouble so managers can immediately tend to these issues.
  • Maintenance. By monitoring energy use, preventive maintenance scheduling becomes easier.
  • Cost study. Smart control systems provide a clearer snapshot of the fiscal impact and savings associated with the company's lighting equipment.

As the RTO trend plays out and companies seek a new normal when it comes to work in the office, investments that make workplaces both efficient and desirable will continue to pay dividends. Interested in learning more? Talk with an Xcel Energy Advisor at 855-839-8862.

*LLLC: The Benefits | Trade Ally Network Northwest (tradeallynetworknw.com)

**Bluetooth Lighting Control: User Experience and Well-Being (linkedin.com)

***What Is Power over Ethernet Lighting - PoE Lighting? - Cisco

Visit bizenergyhq.startribune.com to view more tips from Xcel Energy and discover how your business can get started saving money and energy today!