Hospitality businesses using traditional lighting equipment could make significant savings on their lighting bills

Hotel and Catering Review – Issue 7 | 08.2018

Aisling McGrath

Aisling McGrath

Lighting is a significant expense for businesses – for many the second highest outlay after staff. But, with a little thought, hospitality businesses using traditional lighting equipment could make significant savings on their lighting bills (and reduce their carbon footprint) by simply switching to more efficient options.

“Switching to more efficient lighting can save you up to 90 per cent on your lighting bills,” the Sustainable Energy Authority of Ireland (SEAl) notes. “But it’s not just the cost savings. Through improved, modern LED lighting, your business will have a fresh, brighter look and ambiance to it. This contributes to improved environment, higher levels of staff satisfaction, and much improved productivity.”

Before you replace your existing lighting there are a few steps you can take. Ensure that your business is making the best use of natural light, encourage staff members to turn off lights when not in use, clean lights regularly and remove excess lighting. Lighting conditions can also be improved by changing the colours of ceilings, walls and floors, removing furniture that is blocking natural light, or moving tasks under lights or away from sources of glare. However, to reduce your bills even further you’ll likely have to replace your lights. The SEAI advises sourcing a reputable supplier or consultant to carry out a lighting survey with the aim of delivering an optimum solution. This would go beyond simply replacing bulbs, identifying the correct amount of light required and where, as well as locations where lighting controls such as daylight or occupancy sensors could be used. Proper lighting controls could deliver additional savings of between 15 and 20 per cent- no small amount.

Abbey Hotel Upgrade
As part of the SEAI’s Smart Lighting Pilot Scheme, the Abbey Castle Manor Hotel in Roscommon upgraded its lighting in 2017 across all service areas in the hotel. Over 1,400 incandescent and tungsten halogen lamps were replaced with LED versions, reducing the average watts per fitting from 75 to just under 20. The hotel also installed an electricity monitoring system providing real-time information on energy savings and consumption 24/7. The overall project cost was €31,000 with annual energy savings estimated at €28,958.

If you’re replacing bulbs or other items, make sure you’re buying the right product. It’s worth checking the Triple E Products Register, a searchable list of energy efficient products that all meet stringent criteria. The SEAI describes these products as being of a “best-in-class efficiency standard”- consulting the register will help you choose efficient products. Even better, products on this register qualify for Accelerated Capital Allowance (ACA), a tax incentive designed to encourage companies to invest in energy-efficient products that allows businesses to depreciate the expenditure on eligible purchases in the same year rather than over eight as is normally required. Price shouldn’t necessarily be a differentiator when it comes to making your decision – quality is key as you want to ensure you buy a long-lasting product.

When it comes to price, buying LED lighting based on price can result in poor-quality products. “It’s really important for these businesses to note that energy savings are achieved by improving the quality and not compromising on it. People go out and buy maybe cheap LED lighting and then it doesn’t last- it creates a negative outlook on LED lighting going forward,” explains Aisling McGrath from eLight, a company that works with Irish businesses providing “Light as a Service” and has worked with hotels including the Dalata Hotel Group, several hotels under the Tifco Group banner, and the Westport Hotel Group. Their approach can be helpful for businesses seeking to upgrade in that eLight invests 100 per cent of the capital cost associated with energy-efficient lighting projects, paid back through the energy savings achieved. The company has also launched an SME initiative with Bard na Mona, replacing traditional bulbs and spotlights with Philips LED lamps at no cost to the client ( “We provide surveys and proposals at no charge either, so there’s no downside to exploring whether the concept actually works for business,” McGrath adds.

Seeking outside help from companies like eLight can be a worthwhile move, as those with more experience in the field could help identify better suited products or provide direction on available supports. Take the Energy Efficiency Obligation Scheme – energy suppliers are required to support energy efficiency projects undertaken by businesses and homes in return for energy savings credits. Support may be in the form of financial or technical assistance or both, such as an energy audit of your business or a financial incentive. It’s recommended that you contact your energy supplier to see if they can help. A number of grants and supports are also available to from time to time. Grants of between 30 and 35 per cent of the cost of upgrades work for small and medium-sized enterprises (less than 250 employees and annual turnover under €50 million), though this pilot scheme has since closed for 2018. “Keep an eye on for updates,” the organisation advises. “In the meantime, you could send your staff on an SEAl training course or why not download our SME Guide to Energy Efficiency, which is full of useful tips and guidance on how to save energy and reduce your costs. See”

The benefits of making the move to efficient lighting options are clear. Lighting is an important element in creating and enhancing the character of a hotel or restaurant and can play a big role in the customer experience. The cost savings, too, cannot be ignored.

“LED lighting requires only about one-tenth of the energy of incandescent bulbs. This means huge savings in bills over time, especially for businesses that use a lot of light bulbs,” the SEAI advises. “LED bulbs cost more, but the prices continue to drop. LEDs are also a lot more convenient and last up to 1,000 times longer and so reduce your maintenance bill as well. In the time you would replace 25-50 incandescent bulbs, you’ll replace just a single LED light – so [it’s] a definite option to consider”.