Controls, Energy + Environment

Here Comes The Lighting–HVAC Integration Tsunami

Here Comes The Lighting--HVAC Integration Tsunami


Before a tsunami, the ocean withdraws out to sea. Similarly, the signs are growing that a new tsunami is about to hit the lighting industry. That is the integration of lighting controls with HVAC controls.


It’s well known that LED “socket saturation” as well as diminishing returns when LEDs are combined with advanced lighting controls are quickly eliminating significant ROI for lighting retrofits and control installations. Utilities are abandoning residential lighting rebates completely by the end of this year, and many utilities are struggling to figure out how to replace energy savings from commercial lighting retrofits. In short, much of the energy saving potential from LED lighting is already being saved and the “energy efficiency – industrial complex” (in which the lighting industry has played a major role) is in desperate need of a new large source of cost-effective energy savings.

HVAC integration

 Advances in networked lighting controls (NLC), LLLC, wireless technology, sensors, and building management systems, have all laid the groundwork for the integration of lighting controls with HVAC control. This will not try to squeeze more blood (energy savings) out of the lighting stone. Rather, it will utilize lighting sensors and control systems to inform HVAC control systems of opportunities to better schedule and control HVAC systems to significantly reduce HVAC energy usage. According to the US Energy Information Administration (EIA), HVAC consumes 52% of commercial building energy use in the US (space heating + cooling + ventilation in the chart below). Meanwhile, lighting has declined to only 10% of commercial building energy use, and only 10 years ago it was 17%. Well done LED lighting industry! A quick look at the EIA chart below will show that HVAC is by far the only building system in which to find double digit percentage savings of commercial building energy use. All other systems (except lighting) are less than 10%). For example, if lighting integration with HVAC could save 20% of HVAC energy use, those savings would equal all the energy used in commercial lighting today! Therefore, HVAC potential savings dwarfs the energy savings potential from lighting energy use.

Climate Action

As if these weren’t enough reasons to pursue lighting-HVAC control integration, there are enormous new pressures coming to commercial buildings. Climate action is resulting in:

  • Electrification of vehicles with enormous new EV charger electricity demands on commercial buildings.
  • Electrification of HVAC with heat pumps has high initial costs and greater electricity demand (to replace fuel oil and natural gas use).
  • Municipal and state commercial building performance standards to reduce building energy use & carbon emissions. Many of these standards now have fines on building owners for non-compliance.
  • At the same time, some municipalities are instituting financial incentives to building owners to electrify and reduce energy use. Carrots and sticks!
  • Rapidly rising electricity rates due to the Russia-Ukraine war, chaotic growth in electricity demand from electrification, price inflation and some shortages in critical electricity grid supplies, such as transformers, poles, substation components, etc.
  • Projected shortages and price spikes in critical metals needed for electrification, such as copper, aluminum, cadmium, rare earths, and others.

All of the electrification stresses above can be reduced through significant energy savings in commercial buildings. But where to save significant building energy? Lighting – HVAC integration.

Once you start looking for them, you’ll find plenty of signs that the lighting – HVAC integration tsunami is coming. Here are some that I see:

  1. LiteTrace merged with Autani, last month. One driver was to combine their respective lighting controls with building automation systems, to provide lighting-HVAC integration.
  2. Last week’s DLC Controls Summit had a large focus on lighting-HVAC integration. See Randy Reid’s recap of the event here. There was a conference session devoted to lighting-HVAC integration.
  3. I’m aware of large Chinese factories that are already building their product development strategy around lighting-HVAC integration, such as making EVERY fixture sensor-ready (containing a sensor receptacle). These factories in China have heard that utility rebates will be shifting to lighting-HVAC integration, and they want to be positioned to get sales lift from those anticipated future rebates.
  4. Trane has expanded from HVAC to lighting and is actively discussing the arrival of lighting-HVAC integration, and their unique position to facilitate it. See here.

Are you seeing other signs of the coming lighting-HVAC integration tsunami? Please share them in the comments section below.


Top image: Berkeley Lab

author avatar
David Shiller
David Shiller is the Publisher of LightNOW, and President of Lighting Solution Development, a North American consulting firm providing business development services to advanced lighting manufacturers. The ALA awarded David the Pillar of the Industry Award. David has co-chaired ALA’s Engineering Committee since 2010. David established MaxLite’s OEM component sales into a multi-million dollar division. He invented GU24 lamps while leading ENERGY STAR lighting programs for the US EPA. David has been published in leading lighting publications, including LD+A, enLIGHTenment Magazine, LEDs Magazine, and more.


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