8 Considerations for Advanced Lighting Controls

Aug. 24, 2015

Ensure you deliver the right light in the right place.

Ensure you deliver the right light in the right place.

Could you stand to save one-third of your lighting system’s energy consumption?

Savings greater than 30% are possible with advanced lighting controls, according to a new report on wireless advanced lighting control systems by the General Services Administration (GSA).

In fact, GSA’s assessments of two federal buildings in northern California achieved 54% energy savings by retrofitting advanced controls in a building with fluorescent lamps that had dimmable ballasts; another building implemented controls with new LED fixtures and saved a staggering 78%.

Find who made the Top 10: ENERGY STAR Buildings

Could your building achieve similar savings? Discover the evolving capabilities of today’s advanced lighting controls to find the best fit for your facility.

Evaluate Your Options

Lighting controls have evolved rapidly over the last 5-10 years and an increasing number of manufacturers are entering the control market, yielding more options for FMs than ever before, says Chuck Piccirillo, marketing director for ENCELIUM (a networked lighting control system) with OSRAM SYLVANIA.

Buyers aren’t stuck choosing from just a few vendors anymore – they can shop around until they find a system that can be truly customized to their needs.

Develop a list of specific requirements before you start looking at systems so that you can compare them all against the same framework. As you assess your facility’s needs, consider these eight areas.

1) Energy Savings

This top priority is the chief motivator behind many lighting control system retrofits. Lighting controls should absolutely deliver energy savings, Piccirillo says. Consider a system that provides reporting capabilities so you can ensure you’re meeting your savings targets.

2) Oversight

A networked system will allow you to check on the status of sensors and fixtures all over your facility, Piccirillo explains. This capability is useful for troubleshooting.

On topic: How to Manage your First Lighting Retrofit

“If you have standalone lighting controls where there’s no central area connecting all of the dots together, you could have someone masking the sensor in their office because they were tired of the lights turning off while they were in the space,” Piccirillo says. “All of the potential savings go away because the occupant overruled the proper use of that technology. When you have a networked solution, you can monitor for those kinds of scenarios. Networks create a feedback loop that makes sure your savings goals are met.”

3) User-Friendly Integration

You don’t want to feel as if you need a degree in engineering to adjust setpoints and monitor energy consumption. A graphical interface will still give you highly granular information, but in a format that’s easy to understand. Choose one that can monitor multiple energy conservation measures to avoid having to track multiple systems in the same space, recommends Zach Gentry, Vice President of Business Development for Enlighted, a lighting control system developer.

Related: How to Implement Building Technologies

“In the old days, if you had an occupancy sensor and wanted to add daylight harvesting, you’d have to have some sort of local controller that would mediate between those two energy conservation measures. That was referred to as the sequence of operations,” explains Gentry. “Now, in an advanced system, most of the sequence of operations is handled by the software package itself. Energy conservation measures should be integrated.”

4) Serviceability

Ask vendors what happens if you renovate an area of your facility and need to change the function and light level of a space or adjust how fixtures are zoned, Gentry recommends. Do you need to call the vendor and request a service technician, or is it easy enough to make the needed changes in-house?

5) Expandability

You should be able to adjust the level of control you have, Piccirillo recommends, especially if this is your first foray into lighting controls.

“I’d start with an open office or conference room and start with the basics. Look at doing a relay panel and just go to a relay-based level of control where you can dim all of the lights in the space at the same time,” Piccirillo says. “I would recommend as a best practice that you eventually go all the way to a granular level of control where you have an interface that lets you control each fixture in the area. This way it’s almost like future-proofing.”

As the space changes, your objectives as an FM may change with it, Piccirillo adds.

“You might start by setting the expectation that your team will set up the relay and enable group control of the luminaires,” says Piccirillo. “Next year, you might get a new target of shaving 20% off of your energy consumption. You can go back to your boss and say ‘No problem – we’ll institute individual fixture control and I’ll dim the light levels over this row of cubicles during certain hours because no one is occupying them.’ That way you now have individual fixture savings and it didn’t require any new capital to make it happen. All you’d have to do is go into the remote software managing this network and modify your strategy.”

6) Scalability

As you peruse your options, ask vendors how scalable each system is. Can you expand its reach one department, floor or structure at a time? If so, you can start by perfecting your strategy in one area, then moving on when you’ve confirmed your new system is saving energy.

“Open office areas and parking garages are good places to start,” Piccirillo notes. “In warehouses, lighting controls are almost a no-brainer when it comes to energy savings, partly because they operate 24/7 so there are more opportunities to reduce consumption. Office areas may not be entirely occupied every shift and just have certain rows or cubicle that are occupied. Those areas are great candidates for savings.”

7) Tunability

Does the system you’re looking at allow you to modify light levels to the needs of each occupant? It’s worth asking, as most offices are overlit to compensate for how lights dim over time.

Read also: Sorting through the Facts and Fiction of Tunable Lighting

“Architects overlight buildings in expectation of it degrading to a level that’s acceptable, but in the meantime there’s too much extra light provided to the facility and that’s a huge energy loss,” explains Gentry. “It also causes significant occupant discomfort. If you work at a computer, that alone probably provides you with enough light to work – the overhead light is doing nothing for you other than acting as a source of glare. In most cases, we can reduce office lighting by 40 to 50% and still have satisfied occupants.”

8) Daylight Harvesting

The trend toward glass curtainwalls and large banks of windows makes daylight harvesting a handy feature for lighting control systems, Gentry says.

“When you have floor-to-ceiling windows, the amount of daylight harvesting you can get increases tremendously from light filtering into the building,” adds Gentry. “You can get the biggest impact from daylight harvesting if you have a system that not only controls fixtures near the windows, but also compensates for daylight further into the building.”

Janelle Penny [email protected] is senior editor of BUILDINGS.

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About the Author

Janelle Penny | Editor-in-Chief at BUILDINGS

Janelle Penny has been with BUILDINGS since 2010. She is a two-time FOLIO: Eddie award winner who aims to deliver practical, actionable content for building owners and facilities professionals.

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