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Use Data Logging to Boost Your Lighting Retrofit

Lighting retrofits with advanced control strategies can help to improve interior comfort, enhance occupant productivity, deliver higher energy efficiency levels, and result in lighting electricity savings. New light sources including LEDs and fluorescents continue to provide better light quality, lower electricity bills, and paybacks in 2 years, but, to achieve desired results, it’s important to make the right lighting and control choice in the first place.

Success starts in the planning stages where the lighting needs to be designed to support the people in the space. You’ll want to understand how the space is actually used. How do building occupants interact with their environment, and what kind of lighting and control system will save energy without sacrificing the quality of the working environment? Data loggers can help you effectively assess patterns of lighting use to ensure that your choice of lighting retrofit will best support your energy and performance goals. Perhaps even more importantly, they can give you the confidence that the lighting control choices you ultimately make are best for your occupants.

Manufacturers offer a variety of measurement and verification tools that help you understand how much lighting energy is used, where, and when by providing time-stamped occupancy and on/off light use patterns. To understand basic patterns, simple, stand-alone, battery-powered devices can be configured and installed in just minutes allowing facility managers and contractors to monitor selected conditions with no need for human interaction – data logging activity is unobtrusive and generates an accurate, unbiased picture of what happens in the space. Project managers and contractors are then better equipped to add and program lighting controls on a project based on actual data, thereby achieving real ROI.

What to Look For

Look for loggers that have the ability to log data about lighting use and occupancy, and make sure the accuracy and range is acceptable for your facility. Make sure the logger provides software that can be installed on any computer in your facility, works with the latest operating software, offers an easy-to-understand graphical interface, and gives you full access to the data without requiring you to send information off to a third-party.

Most buildings will want a wide variety of data points, requiring multiple data loggers. Make sure you look for a company that offers software that facilitates easy configuration, readout, and data export via USB connection to streamline the process of data collection and analysis. Effective data logging puts energy analysis at your fingertips, and improves your ability to predict energy savings.

Choose a data logger that makes it easy for your facilities team to read and understand the data. Data loggers vary widely, but by choosing one with an LCD display you can easily see at a glance that it’s working, that the battery life is sufficient, and whether or not there is enough memory available. 

Now You Have the Data – Get the Right Lighting Controls

A lighting retrofit can be greater than the sum of its parts if you plan appropriately, select a system while considering future changes and paybacks and have clear goals for expected results. Data logging identifies lights that are on when a space is unoccupied, and occupancy patterns that suggest where advanced control strategies can help maximize energy savings.

Consider whether a wired or wireless lighting control solution is best. Wireless lighting control systems don’t have to be complex – even a solution as simple as a wireless occupancy sensor and switch can put you on the path to a 30% lighting energy reduction in just a few minutes. Wireless controls can also be installed with little-to-no disruption to building occupants, and usually include occupancy sensors, dimming controls, daylighting harvesting, and automated shading solutions depending on your budget and energy-saving goals.

Data loggers help you understand lighting use patterns; the next step is to look for a control manufacturer who offers tools to make the process simple. For example, mobile apps can save time and money, and help you confidently choose the right system for your building. These apps are often very easy to use, and require only basic project information to quickly deliver lighting energy audits, lighting control proposals, and projected ROI.

Consider a digital control system that offers flexibility, functionality, and scalability. Lighting and shade control systems that can be expanded easily without replacing the existing equipment or complex reprogramming offer the assurance that the system can adapt to the changing needs of your building. Ask the manufacturer how easily it scales from a small system to a larger space in case of future changes.

Finally, choose a lighting control provider who is committed to service. Ask about available support service, field service, online help, and customer service. 24/7 support is also something to consider, just in case. If you are retrofitting a large space or a building, check to find out the types of warranty and service options available to ensure your investment is protected today and for as long as you own the system.

In today’s business environment, good data is key to making decisions that enhance the value of your space, save energy, and ensure the comfort and productivity of your occupants is not compromised. Data loggers give you an accurate, unbiased look at how the facility’s systems are used and allow you to make the most effective decisions for your lighting retrofit. 

Brian Donlon is vice president of sales for Lutron Electronics. He can be reached at bdonlon@lutron.com.

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