Energy Savings Is Only One Benefit of Lighting Controls

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Advanced lighting controls, also known as networked lighting controls, are becoming increasingly important in the energy efficiency world. Lighting controls provide a way to enhance energy savings from lighting and even HVAC and mechanical retrofit projects. But you may not realize that these technologies now offer benefits that are far beyond energy savings and basic control of the lighting system.

In a world driven by increased efficiency, advanced lighting controls are a powerful tool that starts saving money through energy savings gained by data collection and management. Beyond that, lighting controls can provide the data needed for more advanced analytics and optimization of both building and occupant performance.

Saving Energy With LED Lighting

Light-emitting diode technology, referred to more commonly as LED, has become the standard light source for indoor and outdoor lighting systems. Along with that change has come the opportunity to add lighting controls to enhance energy savings. This is done by introducing a wide range of control strategies where there previously may have been only one or none at all.

Strategies for enhanced energy savings include:

  • Occupancy and vacancy sensing
  • Daylight dimming/daylight harvesting
  • High/low-end trimming (task tuning)
  • Time scheduling
  • Demand response and load shedding
  • Manual dimming
  • Energy monitoring and retro-commissioning

Many of these strategies are implemented by mounting sensors on light fixtures or to walls and ceilings inside the facility. Most sensors are capable of collecting multiple types of data, such as occupancy data, light level data, and even temperature or energy use data. Some sensors can track dimming light output based on these criteria or accept manual input from users.

Additional strategies such as time scheduling or demand response are often implemented using a networked controller which stores system programming and then communicates to the individual fixtures and light sources.

A Networked System Enables Communication throughout the Facility

While it’s possible to implement many of these strategies as part of a standalone system where basic sensors on each fixture operate independently or at a circuit level, using more advanced networked controls allows for fixtures to be (often wirelessly) grouped, programmed, commissioned, retro-commissioned, and updated over time. This can be accomplished through mobile applications or web-based user interfaces.

Lighting controls create opportunities for granular control of a building and individual spaces for building users. It also provides a way to program the system to achieve maximum energy savings while still maintaining functionality and comfort for occupants.

Networked lighting control systems offer key distinctions over their standalone counterparts. Aside from having the ability to access the network remotely, individual fixtures and devices can communicate with each other, often wirelessly. They provide an infrastructure for communication throughout an entire facility.

While not every space, particularly in an existing building, may have the infrastructure for communication among building systems, nearly every space has lighting. This new network can reach virtually every space in the building.

Leveraging Data for Energy Savings and Beyond

The data collected by sensors in a networked lighting control system can be used in a variety of ways to help the facility run smoothly in addition to energy savings. This includes:  

  • Using occupancy data collected from sensors to determine the areas most utilized (or under-utilized) in a facility
  • Controlling HVAC and other mechanical systems
  • Identifying the location of building occupants at a given time
  • Allowing occupants to manually control fixtures or dim light levels as needed for specific tasks

Many advanced lighting control systems are scalable. Building owners can expand their control network over time to include additional control strategies, dashboards, user interfaces, and components, all while remaining part of a singular network. Many systems can be integrated with an existing or new energy/building management system, so lighting control can become a part of the interface that’s already responsible for the control of major building systems.

When considering advanced lighting control installation, it’s important to think about how your facility is used and the capabilities required of the system. There are many systems available from a wide range of manufacturers all with unique capabilities, security, limitations, and means of implementation.

How Two Companies Have Benefited From Lighting Controls

While some building owners may be hesitant to implement advanced lighting controls, many are already seeing the benefits of installing these controls alongside lighting retrofit upgrades.

One company upgraded several sites in Massachusetts with advanced lighting controls. The organization is now able to view and monitor its new lighting to fine-tune occupancy and time-based control, quantify energy savings, and even identify possible failures or system problems remotely to save maintenance costs and time.

A second company had previously elected to turn lights off in the evening to cut electricity costs. However, this was at the risk of decreased safety and security at the facility. After installing lighting controls, the company is now able to run lights from dusk to dawn by dimming the fixtures during the night. This strategy provides energy savings while keeping the facility safe in the evenings.

Lighting Controls Prove Long-Term Value  

While the energy savings from the installation of advanced or networked lighting controls are easily quantifiable, it’s often the added benefits that prove to be the most valuable over time.

Decreased maintenance costs because of troubleshooting capabilities, the ability to integrate with other building systems for additional energy savings, utilizing occupancy data to monitor and optimize the use of a building, and granular visibility into the operation of a building’s lighting system are valuable assets to a building owner or operator.

The opportunity to upgrade a building’s lighting to LED provides the perfect platform for installing these systems. And currently, utility rebates are making this even more possible. As buildings become more and more efficient, advanced lighting control systems are going to become an increasingly important way of both saving energy and improving building performance.

Contributed by Wendy Simmons, President and CEO, and Matt Jayne, Lighting Design and Project Management Team Leader, at Prism Energy Services.

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The opinions expressed in this piece are solely Prism Energy Services's. They do not necessarily represent WESCO’s views.