Efficient, environmentally-friendly and exceedingly cost-effective, smart lighting has emerged as a crucial component for smart buildings and cities alike. Smart light bulbs and smart light sockets have abilities that go far beyond merely responding to lighting needs. They can also create a layer of sensors across an entire facility that will let collect data and ultimately drive better experiences for the building’s occupants. The traditional large office buildings in which light switches are “hidden” are probably a thing of the past. The current trend to individually controlled lights, with the ability for each individual user to select their preferred lighting levels, is potentially a significant power saver and the use of more modern lighting technologies also reduces the amount of heat generated by more efficient luminaires.
Energy efficiency and big savings
A combination of lower costs of entry and increased savings makes implementing a smart building as tempting as ever.
Commercial buildings could save up to $60 billion between 2014 and 2030 with a “comprehensive building labeling and benchmarking program. Intelligent efficiency measures applied to just 35% of eligible commercial floor area in buildings with 50,000 or more square feet could save upwards of 50 TWh by 2030, assuming a conservative savings estimate of 20% – more than 1% of U.S. projected energy use by that year.
Lighting controls have come a long way in the past decade, producing a range of solutions. The biggest drivers in development are energy codes, falling cost, miniaturization of sensors and network integration hardware, advances in wireless technology, and rapidly growing demand for highly controllable LED lighting. Here is a list of the top eight most important types of lighting controls.
1. Traditional controls — Traditional lighting controls include standalone devices (e.g., switches) for control of local loads and centralized panels for control of large loads.
2. Luminaire- and room-based control systems — based systems embed or integrate sensors within luminaires, enabling them to respond individually for greater flexibility and energy savings. Room-based control systems package lighting controllers and input devices for autonomous, plug-and-play, preprogrammed room lighting control. In both cases, the lighting controllers may be networked, which allows programming.
3. Building- and enterprise-based control systems — In this system, lighting controllers are networked across a building or multiple buildings. Facility managers can then program all lighting control using operating software and potentially pull performance and other data to a central server or the cloud.
The most suitable choice depends on the application and the operator’s skill level. What is particularly interesting for facility managers is that the need for a premium dimming ballast no longer limits dimming used to increase energy savings in occupied spaces. LED lighting is highly controllable, and the majority of LED luminaires feature dimming standard or as a standard option. Introducing more-advanced lighting control options in existing buildings is similarly also no longer limited by running low-voltage wiring between devices, as wireless connectivity eliminates that need.
Trends shaping the future of control.
Embedded controls — The lighting industry is increasingly offering luminaires packaged with embedded sensors and, in some cases, lighting controllers. This simplifies installation while increasing flexibility of control response.
Wireless control — Many manufacturers offer lighting and control solutions that enable control points to communicate wirelessly, such as using radio waves. This eliminates the need for dedicated low-voltage wiring, a major benefit for controls installation in existing buildings. This potentially reduces the installed cost of lighting controls in existing buildings while making the upgrade simpler and less disruptive. In some solutions, the control points may be networked within a programmable, scalable system that generates useful data.
Networked control — An increasing number of lighting control solutions network all control points, assigning them unique addresses for individual or group programming. The solution may operate autonomously or integrate with other building systems. This approach offers numerous advantages, including detailed control zoning, distributed intelligence, zoning using software, programmability, data generation, and more. Coupled with wireless communication, it can be suitable in many lighting upgrade projects.
Energy efficiency organizations and utilities are now looking to get behind networked lighting controls in a big way. Estimating that one-third of all LED-based energy savings may be derived from connected lighting and controls by 2035, the Department of Energy is promoting the technology and working with industry to enhance it. The DesignLights Consortium recently developed a specification and Qualified Products List for networked lighting controls, which utilities are now using to develop rebate programs promoting the technology.
Data generation — Some lighting control systems allow data collection from control points connected via a digital wired or wireless network. The system may directly measure or estimate energy consumption or monitor operating parameters. Additional sensors embedded in the luminaire may collect data such as occupancy and temperature. In some outdoor lighting control systems, other sensors may be added that collect data on everything from carbon monoxide to snowfall.
Data is fed to a server or to the cloud for retrieval and use via software. Energy consumption data may be analyzed and shared for a variety of purposes. Monitored conditions may prompt alarms for maintenance response.
Color tuning — With LEDs, it is relatively economical to provide users the ability to adjust lighting correlated color temperature (CCT), or shade of white light. With tunable-white LED lighting, users can adjust light source CCT with separately dimming arrays of warm- and cool-white LEDs. Other colors may be added to enhance the available color spectrum and ensure good color rendering. Two other approaches are dim-to-warm (LED products that dim to a very warm white similar to incandescent dimming) and full color tuning (separately dimmable red, green and blue LEDs plus amber or white and potentially other colors).