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To get the most out of a high-performance building, control is essential. Increasingly sophisticated technology allows for increasingly sophisticated control of a building, give facility managers more possibilities than ever before for operating a building efficiently. As well, control in building also means incorporating Internet of Things devices to control HVAC, lighting, and other building systems. This allows for even more flexibility, greater ability to collect and analyze data, and better opportunities to act upon what that data reveals.
Lighting controls, arguably the fastest growing controls segment, are already common in most commercial buildings. In the past decade, lighting controls have become increasingly automated due to energy codes and energy-saving benefits. According to the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, common lighting control strategies can reduce lighting energy consumption by an average 24 to 28 percent.
While mainstream in new construction, adoption of energy-saving controls has been slow in existing buildings. The proliferation of LED technology, coupled with advances in wireless and sensing options, is changing that. The LED source is highly controllable, with dimming standard or as a standard option in most products. Wireless communication reduces the cost of installation in existing buildings. The miniaturization of sensors integrates control hardware into luminaires (light fixtures). New configuration tools make setup easier. New capabilities extend the utility of controls beyond simple energy savings into new areas of value. Further, networked lighting controls can provide a tool for implementation of Building IoT technologies and strategies. As a result, facility managers considering an LED upgrade can also consider even more sophisticated control options to enhance lighting energy savings and value.
It’s critical to understand the basic functionality and value lighting controls deliver to buildings. Facility managers also must have a grasp of key lighting controls trends to watch and of how to do upgrades involving replacement of luminaires with LEDs. Armed with this knowledge, facility managers are able to identify the types of available solutions most appropriate to their buildings. They can also evaluate the many types of available lighting control solutions as well as the trends driving their development.
Lighting controls have come a long way in the past decade, producing a range of solutions. The biggest drivers in development are energy codes, falling cost, miniaturization of sensors and network integration hardware, advances in wireless technology, and rapidly growing demand for highly controllable LED lighting. Here is a list of the top eight most important types of lighting controls.
1. Traditional controls — Traditional lighting controls include standalone devices (e.g., switches) for control of local loads and centralized panels for control of large loads.
2. Luminaire- and room-based control systems — based systems embed or integrate sensors within luminaires, enabling them to respond individually for greater flexibility and energy savings. Room-based control systems package lighting controllers and input devices for autonomous, plug-and-play, preprogrammed room lighting control. In both cases, the lighting controllers may be networked, which allows programming.
3. Building- and enterprise-based control systems — In this system, lighting controllers are networked across a building or multiple buildings. Facility managers can then program all lighting control using operating software and potentially pull performance and other data to a central server or the cloud.
The most suitable choice depends on the application and the operator’s skill level. What is particularly interesting for facility managers is that the need for a premium dimming ballast no longer limits dimming used to increase energy savings in occupied spaces. LED lighting is highly controllable, and the majority of LED luminaires feature dimming standard or as a standard option. Introducing more-advanced lighting control options in existing buildings is similarly also no longer limited by running low-voltage wiring between devices, as wireless connectivity eliminates that need.
Now that we know the gamut of solutions available for controlling lighting, we can look at trends shaping the future of control.
4. Embedded controls — The lighting industry is increasingly offering luminaires packaged with embedded sensors and, in some cases, lighting controllers. This simplifies installation while increasing flexibility of control response.
5. Wireless control — Many manufacturers offer lighting and control solutions that enable control points to communicate wirelessly, such as using radio waves. This eliminates the need for dedicated low-voltage wiring, a major benefit for controls installation in existing buildings. This potentially reduces the installed cost of lighting controls in existing buildings while making the upgrade simpler and less disruptive. In some solutions, the control points may be networked within a programmable, scalable system that generates useful data.
6. Networked control — An increasing number of lighting control solutions network all control points, assigning them unique addresses for individual or group programming. The solution may operate autonomously or integrate with other building systems. This approach offers numerous advantages, including detailed control zoning, distributed intelligence, zoning using software, programmability, data generation, and more. Coupled with wireless communication, it can be suitable in many lighting upgrade projects.
Energy efficiency organizations and utilities are now looking to get behind networked lighting controls in a big way. Estimating that one-third of all LED-based energy savings may be derived from connected lighting and controls by 2035, the Department of Energy is promoting the technology and working with industry to enhance it. The DesignLights Consortium recently developed a specification and Qualified Products List for networked lighting controls, which utilities are now using to develop rebate programs promoting the technology.
7. Data generation — Some lighting control systems allow data collection from control points connected via a digital wired or wireless network. The system may directly measure or estimate energy consumption or monitor operating parameters. Additional sensors embedded in the luminaire may collect data such as occupancy and temperature. In some outdoor lighting control systems, other sensors may be added that collect data on everything from carbon monoxide to snowfall.
Data is fed to a server or to the cloud for retrieval and use via software. Energy consumption data may be analyzed and shared for a variety of purposes. Monitored conditions may prompt alarms for maintenance response.
8. Color tuning — With LEDs, it is relatively economical to provide users the ability to adjust lighting correlated color temperature (CCT), or shade of white light. With tunable-white LED lighting, users can adjust light source CCT with separately dimming arrays of warm- and cool-white LEDs. Other colors may be added to enhance the available color spectrum and ensure good color rendering. Two other approaches are dim-to-warm (LED products that dim to a very warm white similar to incandescent dimming) and full color tuning (separately dimmable red, green and blue LEDs plus amber or white and potentially other colors).
This is a remarkable development in lighting control as it creates new visual needs applications. With tunable-white lighting, designers can calibrate source color output to render colors in the space optimally. Facility managers can adjust space color appearance based on time of day, time of year, or changing space use. Manufacturers can build products that automatically calibrate across luminaires and over time. The list of applications is enormous.
Craig DiLouie is education director for the Lighting Controls Association, a NEMA-administered council dedicated to promoting lighting controls through education.
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