By Andy Yanoshek, PE – Electrical Engineer  |  Portland Office

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New Lighting Technology

In recent years, lighting and lighting controls have undergone a transformation to keep up with technology and the ever-increasing need for sustainability. Minimizing power usage by converting fluorescent light fixtures to Light Emitting Diode (LED), and going from manual to automated controls, has helped to lower power bills worldwide. As these new technologies have become more common, the national and local energy code requirements have expanded to require more automation to lower energy consumption. A thoughtfully designed networked lighting control system provides an easy solution to meet these requirements and flexibility to modify facility controls to meet current and future needs.

Concept and Implementation

Networked lighting controls are usually full building control systems and are installed as either a centralized or a distributed lighting control system. For a centralized system, a central control panel provides direction to the control devices and lights in each room or zone. In a distributed lighting control system, each zone has a smaller control module for that specific space, with all the modules being networked together on the system.

For a fully networked system, each control device, such as a switch, occupancy sensor, or daylight sensor, communicates back to the main control panel or zone controller. The lighting in each room is then programmed from that control panel to operate as desired. Room lighting controls can:

  • Add occupancy or vacancy control to the room to turn lights off when not in use.
  • Add daylight harvesting to areas to dim the lights when windows are providing adequate illumination.
  • Create different switching arrangements to dim or turn off portions of a room, such as classrooms or conference rooms, to provide better lighting for presentations.
  • Add time clock controllability to turn off lighting in large zones after regular business hours.

Reduction in Wiring Requirements

Networked lighting control systems allow for savings when completing wiring for a project. In traditional lighting control systems, a multizone room such as a conference room would require several control relays, switches, and additional wiring to create the control zones. With a networked control system, the individual lights can each be assigned to a switching or dimming zone. This allows the lighting controls to be easily rearranged or updated through programming rather than having to change the wiring configuration of the space. This is very effective in large, open areas such as open office spaces, especially when the layout of the space needs to be reorganized.

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A networked lighting system decreases the amount of wiring required for interconnecting the fixtures and control devices. Occasionally, the wiring can be eliminated entirely by using a wireless system. This can save time and money on installations, especially in tenant improvements, space remodels, or lighting retrofits. Many manufacturers also provide light fixtures with integral controls and networking capabilities. In lighting update projects, controllable lighting fixtures can provide an upgrade to energy saving automated controls with no changes to the existing power wiring. In large facilities, network connected fixtures can also improve maintenance efficiency by reporting issues in individual fixtures and control devices to maintenance personnel.

Energy Code Compliance

As energy codes such as the State of Washington’s continue to get more stringent in their requirements, a networked approach to lighting control becomes the most straightforward solution for meeting all control requirements. The Washington State Energy Code even offers a required energy credit for the inclusion of addressable fixtures and a digital control system.

Energy Cost Savings

While the upfront costs of a networked lighting control system are more than a traditional lighting system, the energy savings almost always make up for these costs throughout the life of the building and lighting system. One of the largest benefits of a networking lighting system is that it is scalable to fit each project owner’s needs, which means that they can be installed to simplify the controls of a single space or to network the entire building’s lighting systems. Additionally, as construction trends continue to move toward more energy efficient designs, a networked system provides an enduring, energy-saving solution.

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