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Key steps to saving energy on lighting

This page sets out what charities can do to save energy costs and be more sustainable by managing their lighting more efficiently.

Four LED lightbulbs.

Light-emitting diode (LED) bulbs can save your charity money and reduce your organisation's carbon footprint. (Photo: Geoffrey Landis via Wikipedia, CC BY 3.0)

Millions of pounds are wasted each year on energy for unnecessary lighting of offices. Every £1 wasted on energy converts to approximately 5-6kg of unnecessary CO2 emission into the environment.

Here are some measures to take to reduce your lighting costs and energy use:

Use natural light: Make the best use that you can of natural light by positioning workstations near windows. Avoid obstructing natural light sources: keep glazing clean and ensure blinds and curtains can be fully opened 

Similarly, you can implement lighting controls that take into account the amount of natural daylight. Areas within five meters of windows can have sensor controls that relate to the amount of available daylight.

Avoid flooding spaces with light: Blanket lighting in large open-plan offices can waste lots of energy on lighting empty floor space. Make use of individual lights and task lights like desk lamps for key areas. This can be far cheaper and better for the environment than keeping a whole room overly bright.

Install lighting controls: Lighting controls can help save energy by automatically turning lights off when they're not needed or by reducing light levels when full brightness isn’t necessary. 

Common types of lighting controls include:

  • Dimmers
  • Motion sensors and  occupancy sensors
  • Timers 

Link lighting to occupancy: Unused meeting rooms and empty toilets that remain lit are wasting energy.  Implement controls that switch off any unnecessary lighting when the area is unoccupied.

Consider reducing light levels in little-used spaces: Corridors must provide safe evacuation routes for a building's occupants, but in some buildings, there may be corridors that are used rarely or only for short periods of time. Use lighting controls such as presence detectors to reduce lighting levels when corridors are unoccupied, particularly at night when the building is likely to be under-occupied.

Switch bulbs: Energy-saving light bulbs use less electricity than old-style incandescent light bulbs, provide the same amount of light and last up to 10 times longer.  There are two main types of energy-efficient light bulbs available: compact fluorescent lamps (CFLs) and light-emitting diodes (LEDs).

LEDs are largely replacing incandescent bulbs and CFLs. They use up to 90% less energy and last up to 25 times longer than traditional incandescent bulbs. The cost of LED light bulbs has fallen, and while they are still more expensive than traditional incandescent bulbs, they will still save money over the long term.

Switch fittings: Begin a rolling replacement programme to introduce energy-saving fittings. 

Clean light fittings: Implement a regular cleaning schedule for light fittings; regularly cleaning reflective fittings and lampshades will stop dust from reducing light levels.  

Paint walls in light colours: Dark colours absorb light. When redecorating choose lighter colours which will bounce light back into the room.

Reduce outdoor lighting: Consider reducing your outdoor lights and limit any festive lighting.

Educate staff and volunteers 

Your charity's staff and volunteers can play a key role in saving energy if you help them to do so. Simple steps can make a big difference, for example:

  • Label light switches clearly. Consider providing simple diagrams showing what switches control which light fixtures.
  • Inform staff and volunteers about how the lighting controls work. 
  • Encourage everyone to turn off lights when they are the last to leave at night. 


Business Energy Scotland has produced a good detailed web page on How to save money and energy on lighting systems

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