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Visit Scotland | Alba

Effective and attractive lighting is essential for customer comfort and satisfaction. It's vital for the health and safety of staff and visitors.

Use of energy efficient lighting and controls can enhance all aspects of operations. They provide an opportunity for saving money and reducing your carbon emissions.

1. Easy wins - switch it off!

The easiest way to save energy and money is to promote a "switch off" policy on lighting. For example, through appropriate messages and labels on switches for guests and staff. Make it clear which switch is for what to help people select only the lights needed.

  • Top tip

    Sometimes giving someone the permission to switch off a light is more encouraging than giving an order. For example, try placing a label in a bathroom or public toilet, saying: “Please feel free to switch off this light!

2. Automatic lighting controls

In some instances, putting automatic lighting controls in place is more effective than manual switches.

There are three main types of light controller

  • Passive infra red sensor

    A sensor switches on lights when they detect movement and switches them off following a set period of non-detection. This type of sensor can help you save up to 30% on lighting costs. It's particularly useful in:

    • public toilets
    • cellars
    • storerooms
    • offices
    • back of house areas
    • function rooms
    • banqueting suites


  • Light level sensors

    Also known as "photocells", these measure the light level and adjust it accordingly. You can use them to dim or switch off artificial lighting if there is enough natural daylight. Since daylight hours vary throughout the year, sensors can help provide more control and save money. They are particularly useful for:

    • external lighting on signage
    • driveways
    • car parking areas


    You can also combine light sensors with time switches or presence sensors for more precise control.

  • Timer

    You can use a timer switch to manually switch a light on and automatically off after a set time. You can also use a feature to specify when a light comes on and goes off. If only using a timer, remember to adjust the times according to the season.

    Use light controllers as well to offer a more precise and sophisticated control. For example, on external lights you could have a light level sensor combined with a presence detector to stop lights being on all night.

  • Hints for hotels

    A range of controls exist to switch energy consuming services down or off when a guest vacates a room. You can control some systems from the front desk and others by key-card access.

    These systems can achieve significant savings and can pay back installation costs within one to three years.

3. What to look out for when specifying lighting controls

The area that a sensor controller can "see" varies in angle and distance depending on the type selected. So, take care to ensure you select the appropriate controller.

These sensors might initially need adjusting to the right level and trial and error may be necessary, so make sure it is easily accessible.

Fitting lighting controls doesn't necessarily need any changes to wiring. A good opportunity to install more extensive lighting controls might be during a wider refurbishment.

  • Top tip

    Have more than one switch to control different light circuits to ensure only those needed are switched on instead of all of them at once. This is especially effective in a larger space like a lobby, corridor or conference room.

4. More lighting tips

Letting natural light into a room during the day is the best way to limit the need for lights. Avoid using blinds, even those that are tilted open limit incoming daylight.

Keeping open blinds and curtains away from the windowpane also means more daylight comes in. So, placing tracks higher and well clear of the window is a good idea.

  • Top tip

    Many businesses keep lights on to look "open for business". But when visitors look in they see the far wall. So, rather than having all the lights on, it is more important to have the back wall illuminated.

5. Further advice

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