Lighting plays an important role in employee health and energy costs.

Lighting plays an important role in employee health and energy costs.

Though it may not seem like a significant change, there are two ways that your business can improve its carbon footprint and sustainable energy usage through lighting. Regardless of whether you’re renting out a commercial space or operating in the den of your home, you can take better advantage of natural light through the installation of windows and skylights, and replace inefficient bulbs and fixtures with Energy Star rated models. 

Even better, the benefits exceed environmental; these improvements will have a significant impact on your employees’ health and productivity, as well. 

Better Health

According to a study by the National Renewable Energy Laboratory, “Daylighting has been associated with improved mood, enhanced morale, lower fatigue, and reduced eyestrain…. Specific benefits in these types of office environments include better health, reduced absenteeism, increased productivity, financial savings, and preference of workers.” But, how can you implement this in your business?

  • You can increase the availability of natural light within your building by installing skylights and windows.  Along with providing health benefits to your employees, utilizing natural lighting decreases your usage of artificial lighting and, therefore, lowers your electricity costs.
  • The beneficial effects of natural light can also be seen in customer behavior. A study by the Heschong Mahone Group found that retail stores with skylights experienced 40% more sales volume than identical stores that were lit solely by artificial lights.

Lower Energy Bills

Lighting costs can eat up as much as 40% of the average commercial building’s electric bill. Energy Star qualified commercial light fixtures – including the new compact fluorescent bulbs – last ten to fifty times longer and use 75% less energy than traditional incandescent lighting.

  • Put off by the higher price of the new fluorescent bulbs? Remember that each bulb is replacing not one, but at least 10 incandescent bulbs by lasting that much longer and still producing the same amount of light. Though your immediate purchase cost may be higher, your annual budget for bulbs will actually shrink when you switch to fluorescents.
  • The more you compare costs between traditional and sustainable lighting, the more you’ll believe how much less it costs to be energy efficient. For every additional $1 you invest in energy efficient electrical equipment, you will save $2 in investments in electricity supply (World Energy Outlook 2006, International Energy Agency).

Tax Advantages

You already know that taking changes to your commercial space in order to be more energy efficient pays off in reduced employee absenteeism and lower electricity costs. However, you can also realize a large financial boost come tax season should you take advantage of the Energy Efficient Commercial Buildings Tax Deduction (CBTD).

  • This deduction was created to provide a financial incentive for businesses to buy or install energy-efficient lighting, heating, and other building technologies.
  • If your switch to sustainable lighting ends up saving you at least 50% of your building’s energy costs, not only do you benefit from said lower utility bills, but you can take a full or partial deduction for the cost of making the switch.
  • Depending on the extent of your improvements (according to ASHRAE Standard 90.1-2001), your deduction can range from $.60 to $1.80 per square foot.

The CBTD will only be available for one more year – it expires on December 31, 2013. In order to take advantage of the deduction, you need to have installed your new sustainable lighting system by that date.

Make 2013 the year that you improve employee health, lower energy costs, and take advantage of the many benefits of sustainable lighting.

Megan Webb-Morgan is a web content writer for She writes about small business, focusing on topics such as commercial real estate. Follow Resource Nation on Facebook and Twitter, too!