5 Steps to Successful Lighting Controls Installation
Following these five tips for avoiding potential problems during lighting controls installation.
1. Use on-board control equipment
Not all electrical contractors are experienced with wiring controllers, digital LED drivers, UL924 relays, analog or digital sensors, etc. Therefore, it is generally preferable to incorporate fixture controllers (to switch and dim the light) and any other required equipment in the fixture housings — pre-installed by the fixture vendors in a factory setting. If this approach is used — especially with a wireless lighting control system — then the electrical contractor simply connects line-voltage power wires to the fixtures as they would with any others and no additional wiring to fixtures is required.
2. Use industry standard wire colors
Not all electrical contractors have previously installed fixtures with 0-10V dimming ballasts or drivers, digital (i.e., DALI) dimming ballasts or drivers, advanced lighting control systems, or unusual methods of providing emergency lighting or transfer to emergency power sources. Therefore, in addition to providing drawings showing all wiring connections, it’s imperative that vendors fabricate all fixtures using industry-standard wire colors. Just as one example, 0-10V dimming signals should be carried through violet and gray wires. This is especially important if fixtures are used that cannot incorporate all required components within the fixture housing, pre-installed by the fixture vendor.
3. Be prepared for more complex integration of emergency lighting
In most projects, a limited percentage of light fixtures have some means for providing emergency lighting. This is typically achieved either by using on-board batteries, or by powering those fixtures from an emergency power source (such as an emergency generator). When using an advanced lighting control system, fixtures are typically nodes on a digital wired or wireless network for transmission of control signals or other information. Integration of emergency fixtures into the lighting plan may require more complex methods of local transfer to a source of emergency power.
For example, besides providing emergency power to the designated fixtures, applicable codes may also require that UL924 relays cut out any signals on digital networks also connected to those fixtures or on-board dimming signals to the ballast or driver. Some electrical contractors do not have experience in installing such equipment. Therefore, it’s essential that complete documentation be provided explaining how emergency fixtures or other equipment are to be connected — for that specific project.
4. Keep inventories of fixtures and control equipment
On a typical lighting retrofit or even new construction project incorporating an advanced control system, shipments to the job site may arrive separately from fixture vendors as opposed to the control system vendor. It’s essential that someone be responsible for checking the shipments to ensure that all required equipment is on-site prior to the start of installation. It’s possible that certain equipment can be installed while waiting for other equipment to arrive — or maybe it isn’t possible.
For example, typically fixtures can be installed and even wired and energized to provide light in occupied spaces before the control system is commissioned. However, none of the functions of the control system will operate until all of the control system equipment is on-site, installed, and properly commissioned and programmed. Because of the complexity of such an installation, it’s imperative that a designated party take responsibility for checking shipments against the specifications and drawings.
5. Streamline installation procedures
Depending on which electricians are present on a given day, they may physically install and connect power to new fixtures but not connect other required wiring or equipment (such as low-voltage network wiring, sensors, switches, etc.). In a retrofit project, it is desirable to minimize disruption to the existing space, as well as the number of times that the plenum must be accessed by opening ceiling tiles. Therefore, it is preferable for electricians to install all required equipment in a given location and to pull all required wiring through the plenum at one time.
In some wired lighting control systems, the “network” wire connecting fixtures, sensors, and switches to the gateways or server is an uncommon cable type — and the installing contractor must order that separately since only they can predict how many feet will accommodate their needs based on where equipment will be located. If they do not pre-order this special cable, then they cannot complete the control system installation. Even worse, this will necessitate reopening the ceiling to pull the cable at a later date.