Energy Efficiency And Lighting Controls

How connected LED lighting controls can benefit small- to medium-sized businesses.

Despite these benefits, as well as incentives offered by more than 50 utilities across the U.S., fewer than 10% of new construction projects and 1% of commercial lighting retrofits include NLCs. In the under 50,000 sq. ft. category, some three million commercial buildings employ no lighting control strategies beyond an on-off switch.

networked lighting controls (NLC)
Lighting control technology can be daunting for any business to navigate. (Photo: Adobe Stock)

Options For FMs

In fairness, the realm of lighting control technology and devices can be daunting for managers of any sized building to navigate. In essence, all control strategies used in commercial buildings revolve around one idea: We should turn light fixtures down or off when daylight is sufficient or when no one is there. Here is a quick look at different options to accomplish this:

  • Manual Control – A building user pushes a button or flips a switch to initiate a change in lighting levels, with controls typically wall-mounted but possibly integrated into audio-visual systems, desk mounted, or part of a mobile app.
  • Scheduling – Light fixtures turn on or off according to a programmed schedule based on business needs, compliance with energy codes, and local sunrise/sunset. This can also be a backup for other lighting strategies to accommodate sporadic working hours.
  • Occupancy Sensing – Presence sensing devices determine if a human is present in a space and respond accordingly. This strategy can be implemented either by vacancy sensing (manual-on/auto-off) or occupancy sensing (auto-on/auto-off).
  • Dimming – Dimming decreases electrical consumption through the act of reducing the visible light output of a fixture for both visual comfort and energy efficiency.
  • Daylight Harvesting – The lighting control system automatically reduces or increases dimming levels of electric light in response to the presence or absence of daylight, in such a way that the users don’t notice a change and retain enough light to complete their tasks.
  • Plug Load Control – “Phantom” electric loads are reduced by plugging all or some devices (i.e., desk lamps, monitors, printers, etc.) into controlled outlets, so they turn off along with overhead lights when a space is unoccupied.
  • Demand Response – Utilities or grid operators ask electricity customers to temporarily reduce energy consumption (either manually or automatically) to help reduce power grid instability, typically during times of extreme summer heat.

To implement the above strategies, the lighting industry has invented various systems, ranging from centralized panels of remote switches (relay panels) and stand-alone room controls to wired, wireless, or local area wireless networked systems.

In short, building managers contemplating LED lighting control projects are faced with a plethora of choices involving equipment and approaches that are often unfamiliar and complex. Hence, uptake of this potentially transformative energy-saving technology remains scant.

Building managers contemplating LED lighting control projects are faced with a plethora of choices involving equipment and approaches that are often unfamiliar and complex.

As a non-profit organization with scores of utility members across North America—including many already incentivizing connected LED lighting, the DLC is exploring creation of a new program geared to small-scale NLC systems. Taking opportunities to learn more about the NLC technology will help small- and medium-sized businesses lead to a bright, connected future for the small buildings sector.

Jason JeunnetteJeunnette is the DesignLights Consortium’s Technical Manager for Building Integration and Controls.

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