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7 Considerations for Selecting Networked Lighting Systems

Networked lighting systems - a combination of lighting, advanced digital sensors, smart controls and data analysis - can offer a range of features, including occupancy and vacancy sensing, flexible programming, task tuning, daylight harvesting, specific real-time data and more. These features help building owners and operators drive down facility operations costs, increase efficiency, improve indoor environments and harness the power of the Internet of Things.

However, there are a number of systems on the market today, and it is important to understand the full capabilities of these systems in order to select the right one for your facility. Key considerations include: energy savings, granularity of data, potential for increasing employee comfort, scalability, code compliance, future proofing and ensuring the system is proven in the field. 

1) Energy Savings

One of the key advantages of upgrading to a networked lighting system is energy savings. Quality systems have proven to save facilities upwards of 70% in lighting energy savings. For example, AT&T recently upgraded lighting systems in 1,000 of its largest energy-consuming sites and 500 retail sites to include smart sensors, and is saving $8 million annual in lighting energy costs.  

Integrated sensors – such as occupancy and vacancy sensors – ensure lighting is only being used when necessary. One key tip is to ensure the smart sensors can accurately distinguish people from other heat sources such as fax machines and space heaters, as well as human and non-human, such as boxes on a conveyer belt. Otherwise, energy savings will be slightly hindered.

Additionally, consider investing in a system that offers integrated daylight harvesting sensors. Daylight harvesting tracks the amount of natural light coming in through windows and adjusts artificial light levels accordingly.

2) Increasing Employee Comfort

Enhancing employee comfort is also extremely important when selecting a networked lighting system. The system you select should provide tangible benefits for employees, for example:

  • Customization options that allow employees to adjust their workspace to their comfort levels
  • Task tuning can adjust light levels depending on the employee’s current task.
  • Time of day dimming control that can help support circadian rhythms (e.g. reduced light output for employees working early morning shifts)
  • Dim-and-linger occupancy controls support employee safety and security by warning occupants prior to lights being turned off. 

Increasing employee comfort can lead to increased productivity, potentially increasing the bottom line.

3) Granularity of Data

The data networked lighting systems can provide is also extremely beneficial to building owners. For example, data gathered about space utilization – which maps movements through space over time – can help in the design process of spaces for more strategic space utilization and to augment productivity. Occupant monitoring – which identifies where occupants are in a building can contribute to disaster recovery and business continuity planning. Environmental monitoring – which monitors ambient light and room temperature – can help increase occupant comfort.

Two considerations when it comes to the creation of building data with sensors to consider are the richness and granularity of the data. When smart sensors are installed in every light fixture (1:1), the quality of the data is much higher and more usable for a variety of current and future purposes. The more granular the data, the better. Also, ensure the data provided is actionable on the back end. There is no benefit to data if you cannot use it.

4) Scalability

Lighting is just the beginning when it comes to a networked lighting system. Ensure the networked lighting system you select can extend beyond lighting, and control other building systems such as HVAC, demand response systems, security, and access control.  

This can provide numerous benefits, such as the potential to optimize heating and cooling and the ability to monitor people’s movement in buildings for both productivity and safety purposes. For example, data can be used to determine what rooms in a building – such as conference rooms – are not frequently in use so space and energy can be allocated more efficiently. Or, sensors can determine where people are within the building during an emergency situation.

5) Code Compliance

Some networked systems eliminate code compliance concerns right out of the box, including codes like Title 24 and ASHRAE 90.1-2010. By selecting an entire packaged system that meets these codes upfront, building owners and facility managers can avoid the cost and delays associated with the requirements for trained engineers to approve plans. This also allows building owners, facility mangers and specifiers like architects, lighting designers and engineers to focus on their job at hand rather than worrying about code compliance.

6) Future-Proof

Select a system that will not only meet your facility’s needs now – but in the future as well. Will the system remain relevant as technology continues to advance? Will it be easy to reconfigure spaces as needed? Wireless systems certainly help reduce any wiring needs during installation and space redesign and a system that is built to incorporate future technology can give your building a leg up.

7) Industry Proven

A plethora of lighting control systems and luminaires that claim to be networked are flooding the market. Be sure to look for a reputable company and a system that is proven in the industry. Case studies are often available from manufacturers and can provide evidence to back energy savings claims, which can play a key role in deciding between multiple systems. For example, both California Sate University and AT&T are benefiting from a networked lighting system. CSU is currently saving $56,000 annually and AT&T is saving $8 million annually on lighting energy costs. The amount saved ultimately depends on the scale that companies and organizations deploy the systems across their buildings and campuses, but the end result is the same – energy and dollars are being saved.

Zach Gentry is the Vice President of Business Development at Enlighted, Inc. He can be reached at Zach.Gentry@enlightedinc.com.

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