Wireless Lighting Controls Ride LED Wave
The emergence of LED lighting has driven the popularity of wireless control systems.
“If I was to change out a retrofit situation for LEDs, I’ll save the energy because the LEDs draw less wattage than the thing they’re replacing,” Ericson says. “But I probably can’t realize the ability to dim LEDs unless I have controls, and sometimes adding the controls is too expensive. Wireless might be the only way to go to capture savings by controlling or dimming. It would be the only viable option to add controls to an existing system.”
North Carolina State University recently incorporated wireless lighting controls into an LED retrofit of fixtures in its facilities’ stairways, residence halls, common recreation areas, and computer labs.
“We’ve been a pretty early adapter of the (wireless lighting) technology,” says Peter Fraccaroli, the university’s engineer and facilities manager. “I’m typically looking for 30-percent-ish savings on fixtures I’m installing. That’s where I start to see my return on investment (ROI) to justify the purchase of LED lighting. (Lighting controls are) icing on the cake when you’re getting that ROI just a little bit quicker than with traditional lighting.”
The university has been selective about installing wireless systems.
“We place them in areas that typically have a long burn time and areas that are on all the time,” Fraccaroli says. “One of the things that’s very hard to quantify is the relamping process. I have not gone in to figure out how many times our staff goes to relamp, but I probably should. That’s not only the energy savings, but one of the biggest benefits of using LEDs is the (lack of) disruption of students. We don’t have to go in their space.”
Before changing to LEDs the university tried using wireless controls with fluorescent lamps in its residence halls but with little success before changing to LEDs.
“When you set (the controls) at a low time — say 30 seconds after no occupancy in this instance — the lights go out and return to low lighting, but what I’d find is the fluorescents burned out very, very fast,” Fraccaroli says. “I came back a few months later and had to replace 30 percent of my lamps. The fluorescent lights just do not respond well to turning on and off repeatedly.
“The lighting control technology where I thought was going to be the best for my applications — fluorescent lighting — was just not working. The nice thing about LED technology — whether it was integrated into the technology, which it was in this case or a separate lighting control — I can turn those lights on and off as many times as I want, and it does not affect the life of the fixture.”