Secondary Author(s)

Parker, Danny; Sherwin, John

Report Number




Energy Consumption; Buildings; Electrical Loads


Occupancy sensors have the potential to significantly reduce energy use by switching off electrical loads when a normally occupied area is vacated. While occupancy sensors can be used to control a variety of load types, their most popular use has been to control lighting in commercial buildings. Manufacturers claim savings of 15% to 85%, although there is little published research to support the magnitude or timing of reductions. Energy savings and performance are directly related to the total wattage of the load being controlled, effectiveness of the previous control method, occupancy patterns within the space and proper sensor commissioning. In an effort to measure performance, energy savings, and occupant acceptance, occupancy sensors were installed in a small office building and two elementary schools. 15-minute data was collected to assess performance. The three sites varied not only in size but also by occupancy patterns, occupant density, and the previous manual control strategies. Aggregate time-of-day lighting load profiles are compared before and after the installation and throughout the commissioning period when the sensors are tuned for optimum performance. For instance, savings on weekdays in the office building were less than 10% prior to the commissioning, although nearly doubled by proper tuning of the time delay setting and correcting false triggering problems. False "ons" during evening hours also affected savings. Occupant acceptance, sensor performance, and commissioning aspects are discussed as well as some recommendations for improved performance.

Date Published



Buildings - Electrical Loads; Buildings - Energy Consumption



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