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How New Lighting Control and LED Technologies Improve Buildings

By Andy Wakefield

Disruptive lighting control technologies, such as LEDs, evolving software, and wireless protocols, are helping to make buildings smarter and more energy efficient, but all this disruption can also be overwhelming for maintenance and engineering managers in institutional and commercial facilities.

When planning a lighting project, consider these four questions about controls, integration, data, and long-term benefits.

1. LEDs save energy, but what else can they do for my building?

LED lighting retrofits can result in lighting energy savings of up to 40 percent, and deliver a more efficient building, but lower energy use is just the beginning of a story that includes comfort, long life, flexibility, and a superb building environment.

Layering control solutions into your lighting retrofit makes it easier to maintain these efficiencies over the life of your building, improve occupant comfort, and more easily adapt to changes in building use or layout. As you add control strategies — from daylight harvesting, to personal control, to high-end tuning — energy savings increase as well.

While LED retrofits alone generally reduce lighting energy use by 30 percent, lighting controls can contribute another 40 percent energy savings, and still deliver simple payback of less than 2½  years. Combine ongoing savings with long LED product life, and fixture/control retrofits have tremendous economic benefit.

New technologies, such as color tuning, are making LEDs significantly more flexible than other light sources. Today, forward-thinking control and lamp manufacturers are working together to provide high-quality dimming and superior performance. The result is creative, engaging environments that are perfectly suited to building occupants.

2. How does new software make facility management easier?

Lighting control systems have had powerful software capabilities for some time now, but intuitive new apps and Graphical User Interfaces (GUIs) can put all this information at your fingertips right from your smart device. Your facility staff is better equipped to unlock the system’s full potential without having to navigate lengthy decision trees.

Automated control systems manage lights, shades, and temperature in response to pre-defined building settings, scenes, time clocks, or user-defined events, and the resulting data can help your team quickly identify when and where the building is using most of its electricity, and adjust control settings to optimize building performance.

Even fine adjustments can help achieve peak energy reductions of up to 30 percent, meet and exceed energy codes, and make sure your facility conforms to federal and state energy mandates.

3. What are the advantages of wireless controls?

Almost any new lighting control system includes occupancy sensors, and many include daylight sensors that automatically adjust electric light in response to daylight. Wireless protocols make it easier to install these sensors, but they also make it easier to fine tune control location and setup without disrupting work schedules or opening up walls.

Sensor performance can be affected by bookshelves, shades, partitions, or a variety of other things that often change once the building is fully occupied. With proper sensor placement and setup, an open office space can realize additional lighting energy savings of up to 44 percent on a typical workday. Additionally, wireless wall controls can be easily installed, relocated and reprogrammed without rewiring, tearing out walls, or further disrupting the workspace.

Another major benefit of wireless controls is they can be utilized even prior to system installation. The wireless sensors can be installed and programmed to log data that will accurately predict the lighting control system’s energy performance.

4. You expect everything to perform well on day one, but what can you do to ensure system performance over time?

Advanced control solutions are helping to make buildings more sustainable, comfortable, and productive. In many cases, the right mix of support services is the final piece of the puzzle, and the key to continuing to unlock a building’s full potential – from design through building occupancy and beyond.

A relatively small, upfront investment in services can make the entire job process go more smoothly, reduce change orders, avoid miscommunications, and save untold time and aggravation. The best time to think about services is at the beginning of a project, before you’re too far into system design, installation, and commissioning.

Sensor layout and tuning services, periodic reviews of energy use data, and annual training/preventive maintenance services provide peace of mind, keep your systems and staff up to date, and limit unpleasant surprises.

Disruptive technologies challenge the status quo and drive change, creating buildings designed to save energy without sacrificing comfort or productivity. That’s great news for the people who work in these spaces, and great news for a sustainable future.

Andy Wakefield is the senior sales director of building solutions and services for Lutron Electronics.

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posted on 11/14/2016