Exciting New Technologies
Lighting interfaces are becoming simpler as the systems themselves become more complex. Now, highly effective sensors allow lighting fixtures to sense what’s happening around them. This has expanded the focus of controls beyond mere energy savings. As a result, building owners and facility managers are able to integrate lighting controls into their building systems to improve occupant comfort, performance, safety, and overall wellbeing.
Lighting control technology is evolving rapidly—with ongoing improvements to both hardware and software. As a consequence, building codes and regulations are also changing. If you're considering upgrading the lighting infrastructure in your building, you need to work with an energy services contractor with a clear understanding of both the latest technology options and local code requirements.
Alco Building Solutions can help. Our expertise in lighting system design and implementation is perhaps best proven by our many happy repeat customers—and the referrals we receive continuously. We work diligently to ensure we select the optimum pairing of fixtures and controls to meet each customer's aesthetic, functional and financial goals.
Levels of Control
After decades of advancement, lighting fixtures now have the components needed to turn everyday lights into smart devices. Highly effective sensors enable lighting fixtures to sense and respond to their environment, ensuring that lights are in use only when they’re needed. With this basic level of controls, building managers can add the functionality for scheduling and occupancy—turning luminaries on and off at scheduled times or when spaces are unoccupied.
A control zone is essentially one or more light sources controlled simultaneously by a single control output. Zones may be organized to align with specific energy savings goals, daylight availability, space characteristics, activity/tasks, types of lighting, or specific energy code requirements. Smaller control zones tend to provide greater flexibility and greater energy savings.
Building Level Control
Networked control systems at the building level utilize an intelligent network of individually addressable and sensor-rich LEDs and control devices. The network can operate autonomously or integrate with other building automation systems. Fixtures can provide system performance data, thereby facilitating predictive maintenance.
Occupancy, temperature, humidity, and air-quality sensors integrated into the system enable more efficient operation of other building infrastructure, including HVAC and security. Sensors on outdoor lighting control systems can collect data on everything from carbon monoxide emissions to snowfall.
Full-enterprise network lighting controls connect multiple buildings through one central graphical user interface (GUI)/dashboard. This gives facility managers a complete picture of energy usage and centralizes energy management. Full-enterprise controls can also integrate with HVAC, security, refrigeration systems, and consumer analytics for multiple facilities.
Well-designed timeclock lighting controls help facility managers program, set, and adjust the lighting to support optimal operation.
Scheduling uses a time clock to adjust the output of the lighting system based on a specific event. Controlled lights will turn on, off, or dim to support changing space functions and needs. Scheduling is best suited for larger, open spaces that are regularly occupied.
According to the US Department of Energy roughly 30% of lighting energy consumption is used to light areas which are unoccupied. As the name implies, occupancy controls detect occupation within certain indoor areas. Their purpose is not to detect motion, but to detect whether people are present. Most occupancy sensors incorporate a combination of sensors and technologies.
Ultrasonic sensors detect sound, while infrared sensors detect heat and motion. As a result, lights turn on automatically when someone enters a room, and turn off when the space is unoccupied. Occupancy sensors are best suited to smaller, enclosed spaces that are used intermittently, such as private offices, classrooms, conference rooms, copy and break rooms, restrooms, and other spaces. They may be networked for larger spaces. By ensuring the lights are only on while a space is occupied, occupancy sensors can reduce lighting energy costs by 30%.
Motion sensors automatically turn lights on when they detect motion and turn them off a short while later. Motion sensors generally fall into two categories: active/ultrasonic and passive.
Active/ultrasonic sensors use radar that emits radio waves, which reflect off walls or objects from across a space. When movement interrupts this wave, the detector sets off an alarm.
Passive sensors examine infrared heat levels to detect changes in ambient temperature within a confined space. If there is any temperature change, the scanner senses it, and the alarm sounds. This is effective because the human body emits enough infrared energy to alter the temperature. While these devices are most commonly used to alert owners of unauthorized movement in restricted areas, they have many other uses. For example, many grocery chains now outfit their freezer and refrigerated sections with motion sensor lighting to reduce energy costs. Refrigerated doors stay lit for only one minute after motion is detected. Publix has stated that the LED technology, currently in use in more than 650 stores, is reducing energy usage by 50% to 80% over traditional incandescent lamps.
Demand Response Lighting
Demand for electric power in the U.S. has increased almost every year since 1940. At the same time, the cost for adding new generating capacity, especially peak power, is also increasing. Demand Response (DR) and Automated Demand Response (ADR) provide a solution to that problem.
Demand response programs work to balance energy supply and demand by reducing lighting energy consumption—either upon request from the power utility during an emergency event (emergency DR)—or based on the time of day to minimize demand costs (economic DR). DR can lower the cost of electricity in wholesale markets, and as a result, lead to lower retail rates.
Demand response requires the ability to measure lighting load, accept a utility signal to start, stop and measure a load shed event to temporarily reduce energy consumption . While it’s possible to manually shut off non-critical loads, automating the process and incorporating dimming is usually more reliable and less disruptive to occupants. Automated demand response (ADR) technology allows utility suppliers to communicate directly with a participating organization’s building automation system to temporarily reduce energy consumption during demand response events.