New Lighting Controls Help Manage Energy Usage

By Lindsay Audin  
OTHER PARTS OF THIS ARTICLEPt. 1: Lighting Offers Opportunities To Cut Energy UsePt. 2: Fluorescents, Induction Lighting and LEPs Continue to Expand and ImprovePt. 3: This Page

Taking full advantage of microchips, embedded software, sensing technologies and machine logic, new lighting controls are optimizing light levels and minimizing burn hours.

Newer models of occupancy/vacancy sensors are overcoming the commissioning nightmare that previously plagued the technology. Using chips with embedded smarts that "learn" occupancy and movement patterns, they self-adjust to avoid the false offs and ons that caused complaints. Better yet, many are now wireless. Using 10-year lithium batteries and miniature radio transmitters, a sensor may be re-located by building staff as needed.

Even the standard wall switch has become wireless. Using the energy of your finger pushing a switch button (no batteries are involved), a now well-adopted technology sends a radio signal to receivers in light fixtures whose built-in relays handle on-off control. The transmitters can be reset to control different groups of fixtures.

Controls are also being built into fixtures and ballasts. Bi-level fluorescent fixtures with built-in occupancy and daylighting sensors are drastically cutting kWh in stairwells, and skylit or common areas typically illuminated 24/7. Some LED track and spot lighting fixtures come with customizable light outputs using dials with 10 manually settable levels. HID fixtures with electronic ballasts are available with built-in occupancy sensors that allow bi-level control, cutting wattage by almost 50 percent when spaces are unoccupied.

Recent tightening of lamp and ballast efficiency standards has eliminated production and import of old-style T12 fluorescent lamps and magnetic ballasts. As a result, such units may become scarcer and more expensive as stocks dwindle. Utilities presently offering rebates for replacement of the old lighting may drop such offerings as change-outs become mandatory due to lack of supply. Now is a good time to take full advantage of such funding to install new lighting technologies.

Lindsay Audin is president of EnergyWiz, an energy consulting firm based in Croton, N.Y. He is a contributing editor for Building Operating Management. He can be reached at energywiz@aol.com.

Finding Help

Navigating the abundance of lighting choices can be dizzying for the facility manager who thought that the lighting upgrade done 10 years ago would be the last before retirement. Fortunately, sources of useful guidance have expanded to assist with that effort.

— Lindsay Audin

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  posted on 10/17/2012   Article Use Policy

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