Smart lighting - how it can help specifiers meet carbon emissions targets

Smart lighting is revolutionising residential and commercial lighting installations with its appeal firmly rooted in the complete control, customisation and long term cash savings it offers. But has enough spotlight been placed on its other ability: carbon reduction?

We know that approximately 19% of the world’s total energy use is on lighting, a figure that is considerably higher in the commercial sector. As the UK continues to push towards a net-zero, carbon-neutral status – it is becoming increasingly important for people to examine their existing lighting systems to identify areas for improvement. 

Operated via Wi-Fi and Bluetooth, smart connected lighting solutions can offer huge benefits. For ease of use, connected products can be programmed to respond to voice or motion, can be scheduled by time or operated remotely. The technology enables a variety of different lighting scenes to be created in homes or offices, by defining specific luminaire combinations of brightness, intensity and colour settings to suit the mood or the time of day.

Smart lighting systems can also have real health and wellness benefits. The right lighting changes, such as going from a bluer hue in the morning to a softer orange hue in the evening can help regulate a person’s natural circadian rhythm, resulting in improved focus and productivity during the day and fewer sleep disturbances at night.

Smart lighting is ideal for use in almost all indoor and outdoor settings, from residential homes and gardens to car parks, industrial spaces, commercial buildings, hospitals and schools, it is an energy efficient, cost-effective solution that uses automation to ensure that lighting is only used where and when it is needed. As a result, it is the perfect solution for workplaces that are being used sporadically, where lighting requirements change regularly and according to the movement of its users. 

In commercial and industrial settings, although it has been around for a number of years, smart lighting has probably never held as much value as it does today. It offers a solution which allows building managers to truly optimise lighting use, giving complete control over when lights are on or off or set to specific scenes or temperatures – all at the touch of a button.

Luminaires can be linked together to create different scenes, groups and schedules. Operated via Wi-Fi and Bluetooth, they can be programmed to respond to voice or motion, can be operated remotely and can even be integrated with eco systems such as Alexa. They also eliminate the reliance on human intervention, reducing the risk of users accidentally leaving the lights on and wasting energy. There are many products available that can do this, from interior downlights to outdoor bi-directional wall lights and garden spikes.

In addition to fully connected systems, there are a large number of smart lighting products available which naturally regulate energy use by controlling the quality and quantity of light.

Daylight harvesting systems for example, allow buildings to maximise the availability of natural lighting, thereby reducing the need for electric lighting during periods of high-level daylight. For example, in a space with significant levels of natural daylight, the need for artificial lighting will be less, compared to areas deeper into the space where the natural lighting is either reduced or non-existent.

So, the broad energy saving benefits of smart lighting are clear, but what about reducing carbon emissions? Smart lighting systems use LED lighting, rather than incandescent and, according to The Climate Group,  a global switch to energy efficient light emitting diode (LED) technology could save more than 1,400 million tons of CO2 and avoid the construction of 1,250 power stations.  Add the additional savings of smart automation to that and the savings could be mind boggling.

With savings of up to 50-70%, LED lighting has been recognised as one of the most actionable and ready-to-implement technologies.  LEDs are a solid-state lighting solution that have demonstrated unprecedented energy savings as a direct replacement technology. But, combined with smart automation,  the benefits of LEDs go much further, an opportunity for every office user to adjust their local and personal lighting environment to suit their working hours and preferences.  

Local authorities have really woken up to the benefits of LED smart lighting externally, updated street lighting across the UK.   In a recent implementation, more than 7,000 of Wolverhampton’s street lights have been transformed under a major scheme to make the city lighting smarter, greener and more cost effective.  To date, the council has converted 7,164 older higher energy sodium lamps, used in both residential and city centre streets, into remotely controlled new low energy LEDs. And the results have been impressive, since the Smart Lighting scheme began in April last year,  it has resulted in savings of £105,583 as well as 350,000 kilowatts per hour of energy and 88 tonnes of carbon compared to the previous period.  

Meanwhile, in the residential space, perhaps amidst the focus on the convenience of controlling lighting with our voice or an app, there has been less emphasis on the very real carbon savings that can be achieved with smart lighting, whether installed in a single room, an entire house or an office.  The challenge with any ‘go green’ initiative is always changing consumer behaviour, but that’s what makes LED smart lighting such a gamechanger. Implement the technology and the waste that comes from normal human behaviour is removed without effort, replaced with lights powered only to the exact level required and used when needed.

Domestically, whilst one household switching to LED bulbs and smart lighting from incandescent may not make a huge contribution to cutting carbon emissions, if millions choose to make the switch, we will make significant progress.

  Return to News & Events