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Publications archive - Human settlements


Key departmental publications, e.g. annual reports, budget papers and program guidelines are available in our online archive.

Much of the material listed on these archived web pages has been superseded, or served a particular purpose at a particular time. It may contain references to activities or policies that have no current application. Many archived documents may link to web pages that have moved or no longer exist, or may refer to other documents that are no longer available.


For Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs)

Cartoon Image - Greenhouse Challenge Plus Fact Sheet 1 - Lighting

Climate Change

Climate change caused by greenhouse gases is one of the most serious challenges facing our community. Human actions—particularly burning fossil fuels (coal, oil and natural gas) and land clearing—are generating more greenhouse gases. These additional greenhouse gases trap more heat and raise the earth’s surface temperature. This is called the enhanced greenhouse effect—it causes global warming and is changing our climate.

The impacts of climate change will have social, environmental and economic consequences that will affect all communities across the globe.

Why Small and Medium Enterprises

Greenhouse gas abatement is not just for the big end of town. Climate change will affect all of us and therefore it is to everyone’s benefit to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Most measures to reduce energy consumption and greenhouse gas emissions will save you money in the long term, increasing profitability. Some measures will even help to improve productivity and the marketability of your business. Reducing greenhouse gas emissions should be seen as an opportunity to provide your business with a strong business advantage.


Making changes to the way you light your business is a good place for small and medium enterprises to begin reducing greenhouse gas emissions. Lighting changes are generally easy to make, low cost and depending on the type of business, can reduce energy costs by up to 50 per cent.

Simple No Cost Changes

Not using lights is the easiest way to reduce lighting costs, so start by reviewing where and when you use lighting, and whether the lighting is necessary. Before changing your use of lighting or lighting systems, consider all the occupational health and safety (OH&S) implications that any actions you take will have. Always ensure that all the actions that you take are consistent with the OH&S guidelines of your workplace.

Use natural light. Natural light is free. Ensure that windows are clean and window areas are clear so as not to block out light. Arrange work areas and desks so they are close to windows. Educate staff to use natural light when possible.

Switch lights off. Lights should be turned off in unoccupied areas. Turn off lights in storerooms, meeting rooms, kitchens and bathrooms that may be unnecessarily lit. Labeling switches can assist staff to identify areas in which unnecessary lighting can be turned off. Remind staff to switch off lights when going out to a meeting or to lunch. Check that external lighting is not on during daylight hours.

Clean lights. Ensure that lights and light fittings are cleaned as part of the regular cleaning schedule.

Task lighting. The use of overhead lighting can be reduced if extra light is focused directly on the area where it is required-saving your business energy and money.

Reduce unnecessary lighting. Often areas such as hallways and corridors are over lit. Experiment to see if removing lamps will still light work areas to staff satisfaction. For example, two lamps in a four-lamp fixture might provide enough light and avoid over lighting the area. Use of lower light or indirect lighting to avoid or reduce glare on computer monitors may be appropriate in some cases providing that the lighting levels are consistent with the OH&S requirements of your workplace.

Low Cost Options

Consult with your maintenance contractor to identify opportunities to improve lighting efficiency and develop a management plan to introduce more efficient lighting and hence reduce the greenhouse gases produced by it.

Establish a maintenance schedule. Lamps and coverings need to be kept clean for a lighting system to operate at its optimum level. Dirt and dust build-up can reduce light output by up to 50 per cent and can also decrease the life expectancy of fixtures and lamps, increasing costs.

Choose the right lamp. Using energy efficient lamps can lead to significant cost savings in relatively short periods. Replace incandescent light bulbs with compact fluorescent lamps (CFLs) or light emitting diode LED s. Consider using CFL or LED downlights or floodlights instead of halogen lamps for display lighting. For fluorescent lighting, use the more efficient triphosphor fluorescent tubes rather than conventional fluorescent tubes. Sodium lamps or metal halide lamps are an efficient lighting option for exterior lighting or in factories and warehouses with high ceilings. While generally more efficient lamps are more expensive than conventional lamps, they use less energy, last longer and provide higher quality illumination. Do not wait until old lamps wear out to replace them with more energy efficient lighting, as savings from the use of these will generally outweigh any initial investment.

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Exit signs. Replace incandescent exit lighting with LED lamps. LED models use approximately 70 per cent less energy than conventional units and can provide significant energy and cost savings.

Redecorate. Choosing lighter colours for wall surfaces will reflect light, reducing your lighting needs. Simply keeping wall surfaces free of dirt will also improve illumination. In a partitioned office, consider lowering partition height as taller partitions may block effective lighting. Installing skylights may be an option, especially in warehouses.

Investment Projects

Reflectors. Silver or aluminum reflectors fitted behind lamps can improve efficiency by up to 40 per cent.

Ballasts. Typically up to 20 per cent of the total energy used in fluorescent systems is lost in heat from the ballast. By installing low loss ballasts for fluorescent lighting substantial savings can be made in energy costs.

Timers. Timer devices can be installed to switch lights off after a certain amount of time or at a certain time of day. Various models are available and many models incorporate manual override functions for situations where light is required for an extended period.

Sensors. Occupancy sensors detect movement and turn lights on when someone enters the space, so lights are only on when the space is being used. They are particularly effective in bathrooms, external areas and low use locations such as storerooms and meeting rooms. Another approach is to use light sensors that detect the level of natural daylight and switch lighting on and off according to preset light levels, so lights are only used when there is insufficient natural light.

Rewiring. Instead of using central light switches to turn all lights on in your premises rewire these to switch on background lighting only. The installation of switches for localised lights will then allow lights to be switched on when required. Areas with access to natural light should be rewired to switch on and off independently from areas without natural light, enabling some lights to be turned off during the day.

New premises. When building or leasing a property remember to take lighting design and the flexibility of the lighting system into consideration. Look for optimal lighting solutions that incorporate the use of natural light and the use of energy efficient lamps (e.g T5 lamps).

Additional Benefits

Improved comfort and ambiance. Energy efficient lighting typically produces more gentle colours and generates less heat, providing light for your business in a more aesthetically pleasing manner.

Improved staff performance. Energy efficient lighting often produces a decrease in eyestrain and headaches associated from glare from inappropriate lighting. Improved comfort levels can increase staff productivity.

Improved marketability. Improved lighting can make products displayed more appealing, while increased comfort levels make customers more relaxed.

Savings in energy costs. Energy efficient lighting consumes less energy reducing your electricity costs while at the same time reducing the greenhouse gas emissions from your business.

Case Study

Caterpillar of Australia Pty Ltd is a wholly owned subsidiary of Caterpillar Inc., a manufacturer and supplier of a broad line of machinery, engines and lift trucks. An energy audit conducted by Caterpillar of Australia’s Melbourne site identified lighting improvements as a way to reduce energy. Improvements included:

The changes when implemented will reduce greenhouse emissions by around 2,000 tonnes C02-e per year.1

Lighting Fundamentals

1Emission savings based on research undertaken by the student placement initiative run through North Link/NIETL and RMIT University, in partnership with the Greenhouse Challenge Plus program, and are estimates only.

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