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Jul 27, 2016

Occupancy Sensors Deliver Substantial Cost Savings

Sponsored Content provided by Joe Marston - President, Wilmington Winlectric

For those of us who work in the lighting solution and electrical supply industries, the concept of occupancy lighting sensors is not new. The technology, which can detect when a room is occupied or vacant, then adjust the lighting accordingly, has been around for many years.
Considering that it’s a relatively simple technology, and the fact that it provides a tremendous cost savings has been documented extensively, I am often shocked when I hear my clients and friends tell me that it’s not in use at their workplace.
Installation and upfront costs are not significant, and study after study shows that businesses using occupancy lighting sensors realize up to a 50 percent savings on the amount of energy they consume each year.
Whether it’s a small office, industrial setting or commercial environment, there are a variety of applications designed to help business owners create a more robust and healthy bottom line. As with many other things in life, it’s good to approach the decision-making process from a position of knowledge instead of uncertainty. With that in mind, here is a quick discussion about the different types of occupancy sensors available today.

  • Passive infrared technology. This was first introduced in the U.S. in the 1970s with motion detectors. It was only when the technology was refined that it started appearing in occupancy lighting sensors. Basically, passive infrared technology (PIR) detects the heat produced by our bodies and reads the movement of a person across switching zones as an indication of occupancy. Sensors with a higher number of switching zones are more sensitive to small movements than sensors that have a lower number of switching zones. A key advantage to PIR is that false activation, or tripping, rarely occurs. One of the disadvantages is that the effectiveness of the sensors is reduced in areas with partitions, such as cubicles. For this reason, PIR is most commonly used in open environments, including individual offices, classrooms or factory floors.
  • Microphonics technology. As the name suggests, this type of technology uses a microphone inside the sensor to monitor whether or not the space is occupied. It is typically used in combination with PIR since the functionality of microphonics is not affected by obstructions in the room. For example, it’s not uncommon for a business to have PIR on the factory floor and microphonics in the bathrooms or office areas with cubicles. One of the more interesting aspects of this technology is that it can actually distinguish between background noise and the sounds produced by human activity. Microphonics can even adapt to its environment over time, which ensures that something like a ticking clock or a TV does not make the lights stay on when the room is unoccupied.
  • Ultrasonic technology. Probably the most advanced of the sensors listed here, ultrasonic sensors transmit and receive high frequency sound waves to detect occupancy. The sensitivity of these sensors is off the charts, but that can actually be a disadvantage because it can lead to high amounts of false activations. Many types of movement can trip these sensors, even outside of the desired target area, plus installation and adjustments can be a headache.
One of the takeaways is that there is no such thing as a one-size-fits-all approach to identifying the best lighting solution for a given building. What works in one space might not be the best strategy for another. For a comprehensive assessment about how to realize the most cost savings possible for your business, please contact me today at (910) 742-7029, by email at [email protected], or on the web at
Joe Marston is a seasoned entrepreneur and the president of Wilmington Winlectric, a leading distributor of lighting solutions and electrical supplies. Offering reliable guidance and trusted insights, Wilmington Winlectric serves clients in the industrial, commercial, and residential markets. Wilmington Winlectric is a locally-based provider of consultation services as well as lighting solutions, controls and electrical equipment. To find out how Wilmington Winlectric can benefit your business, call (910) 790-1909, email [email protected], or visit

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