By Cory Vanderpool
One of the most important and often least appreciated ways to reduce lighting energy use in buildings is through lighting controls. Lighting controls can also improve lighting quality and enhance occupant comfort. The LED lighting revolution has ushered in valuable innovation with respect to controls and along with it, the ability to collect critical building data through lighting. The advent of fixture-embedded nodes or “control-ready” lighting solutions allows integrators to supply advanced lighting control technology that is simple, flexible, and scalable.
Today’s advanced lighting controls leverage the power of granularity, whereby control can independently occur at each individual fixture, targeting a single lighting zone or an entire building. Data collected from intelligent lighting nodes can include ambient light levels, occupancy status, light status, color temperature, and even power consumption. This information can be collected wirelessly and delivered via the BACnet protocol to any building automation system by utilizing information-gathering gateway devices.
The benefits of this type of data and control capabilities include:
- Individualized task-level lighting control for workspaces
- Immediate initialization and recognition of demand response
- Implementation of lower ambient and higher contrast lighting for retail
- Employment of lighting driven, personalization strategies to drive store traffic in big box retail
- Enhancing store appearance using advanced lighting and controls in grocery stores and other retail applications
In addition to the capabilities of lighting controls, advancements in LED driver technology are also important. There are drivers that allow users to gather real-time data, which can be used to make highly informed decisions regarding lighting loads in a building. Adding a wireless node that includes both occupancy and lux detection on the fixture itself makes even further information available. Such drivers provide power to the sensor using an open standard digital interface. Furthermore, the driver captures power consumption of the light point, and the wireless node collects this power consumption data and converts it seamlessly to BACnet, allowing the building automation system to deliver enhanced logic now using data on the energy consumption of every fixture in the space.
Despite the continued integration of lighting with building automation, there is a continued rise in the adoption of software-based lighting control. Even with these benefits, many engineers and integrators don’t really understand software-reliant lighting control systems. This may be because these systems can be complex and overwhelming.
As BACnet and lighting merge, the need for software-based systems will be reduced, as users will not necessarily require redundant systems. Another point of consideration for integrators is the process of commissioning and configuring lighting controls. Various techniques are employed with systems ranging from “no configuration needed” to systems that tout smart, self-learning. It is important to select a solution that is initially easy to setup and one that can also be changed after installation in the field.
With lighting control technology that has intelligence embedded at the device level, software can be incorporated but it doesn’t rely upon software to function. Configuration tools bring advanced control capabilities in a standalone capacity. Look for lighting control that integrates with DALI, PWM (pulse-width modulation), and/or has 0-10V compatibility with products that are ideal for both new construction and retrofits. Integrators benefit from lighting control that is interconnected and easy to manage, ultimately providing the end user with an excellent view into real-time, detailed energy usage.
Vanderpool is the business development director for Magnum Energy Solutions, a manufacturer of wireless energy management technology located in Hudson OH. Prior to joining Magnum, she was director of the EnOcean Alliance. Cory began her career in government contracting, ad during her pursuit of her Ph.D. in Environmental Policy, she realized her passion for environmental stewardship. Vanderpool serves as a board member for the National Federal Development Association and was a contributing writer for TriplePundit.com.