How Natural Lighting Can Reduce HVAC Costs

By Jeff Brain | March 30, 2017

It is surprising for most people to learn, but energy use for heating and cooling can account for up to half of a building’s total energy usage, according to the US Department of Energy. Because of this, reducing HVAC usage in your facility can create distinctive energy savings. One way of reducing this is by incorporating efficient natural lighting into your facility. Here are three ways that natural light could help to cut HVAC costs for your home or business.

Reduce Waste Heat

Many forms of electric lighting are extremely inefficient, wasting 50-90% of the total electricity they consume. Where does this energy go? Most of the time, it is used generating heat instead of light. This waste heat can drastically increase the temperature inside a building, requiring buildings to run their HVAC for longer hours to maintain a comfortable temperature. A study by the Energy Center of Wisconsin found that simply replacing electric lighting with natural lighting could reduce a building’s cooling costs by up to 50%.

Minimize Heat Loss

Another source of elevated HVAC usage is due to heat loss. Windows and other poorly insulated areas of a building break the building envelope allowing heat to escape to the exterior. During winter months, heat loss can force your heating system to work overtime to maintain a comfortable interior temperature. When you are looking to purchase a natural lighting system, search for a system with a U-value as close to zero as possible to minimize your building's heat loss.

Prevent Solar Heat Gain

Solar heat gain can be another major issue for facilities. The light that windows, and other daylight methods, allows into the building can warm the interior, oftentimes creating an uncomfortable environment. Rather than relying on fans and HVAC systems to reduce the indoor temperature, facilities can integrate natural lighting through skylights with a low Solar Heat Gain Coefficient. A study by the US Navy found that this could reduce energy use for cooling by 47% and for ancillary equipment such as fans by up to 31%.


Despite the possible benefits, be careful when integrating natural light into your building. Utilizing the wrong system can achieve the opposite effect, elevating both lighting and HVAC costs, harming your facility’s bottom line.

To learn more about the daylighting systems on the market before investing, download our eBook A Guide to Selecting the Best Skylight Solution for Commercial Buildings. 

(Photo: Curtis Perry, CC.)
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