Take Control

Dec. 3, 2001
Put light where it's needed with lighting control products and systems

If lighting controls make you think of false-offs, complaints, and headaches, think again. Today's generation of lighting control solutions are better than before and tout benefits that are not only raising eyebrows but also saving energy.

Manual on/off switches are a long way from extinction. However, increasingly more advanced forms of lighting control are popping up in facilities nationwide. It's not just a phenomenon - it's the future.

Proactive facilities professionals aren't alone in recognizing the importance of these systems and products. Due to the actions of regulatory agencies, building codes are beginning to reflect a new consciousness about the advantages of installing lighting controls. "We're getting to the point in this country, where codes and legislation are forcing us to use lighting controls," explains Pete Baselici, manager of Market Development Control Systems with Decatur, GA-based Lithonia Lighting. In the revised ASHRAE 90.1-1999, mandatory provisions call for automatic lighting shut-off through the use of lighting controls in non-residential buildings 5,000 square feet or larger. California's Title 24 has even stricter requirements.

Beyond code compliance, making a case for lighting controls is easy. With more benefits than you can count on both hands, such an investment is worth the time and money. Lighting controls can increase building occupant comfort, simplify on/off functions building-wide, increase monitoring capabilities, and balance daylight and artificial light. And then there is the reduced energy load and savings that inevitably result (see Figures 2 and 3). A few options follow.


With dimming technology, light levels can be adjusted to accommodate a slide presentation, an employee with a migraine, or at times when natural light is available. "We are seeing savings as high as 65 percent vs. fixed light output installations. In addition to that, the worker comfort and productivity increases payback and makes it really attractive," says Brian Beck, director, Electronic Product Management, at Chicago-based Advance Transformer Co., on the advantages of dimming.
Added benefits include extended lamp life. "You dim lights 10 percent - incandescent lights, for example - you double the life of those lamps," explains Thomas R. Ike, director, Commercial Integrated Systems, Lutron Electronics Co. Inc., Coopersburg, PA.

Manual dimming allows occupants to take ownership of the light levels in their space, consequently increasing employee comfort and - theoretically - their productivity. According to a 1998 Workplace Study by Grand Rapids, MI-based furniture manufacturer Steelcase Inc., 75 percent of survey participants expressed the desire for more control over light levels in their workspaces.

When dimming technology is coupled with daylight harvesting, photosensors can gauge the light level in a workspace and raise or dim artificial lighting to achieve a better balance of the two. Using daylight can significantly reduce your energy consumption. Daylight dimming, though advantageous, can be highly complex, requiring calibration and careful placement of photocells in the ceiling plenum. A hanging plant or window shade can block light and "communicate" to a photocell that higher light levels are required, reducing energy savings. Spaces with partitions that block natural light also need to be considered.

Figure 1: Typical Lighting Control ApplicationsSource: US Dept of EnergyType of ControlPrivate OfficeOpen Office - DaylitOpen Office - InteriorOccupancy Sensors++++++Time Scheduling+++++Photosensors/Daylight Dimming++++NA++ = GOOD Savings Potential + = SOME Savings Potential

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