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The costly installation mistake most contractors make

While LED lighting upended the way many in the industry think about, work with and design lighting and controls, the installation of these low-voltage (less than 60VDC) lighting systems still eerily mirrors the installation of their line-voltage (120-277VAC) predecessors.

This mismatch between the infrastructure power run to the fixtures and the power required by the low-voltage LEDs, sensors, and wallstations has a material impact on both the man-hours and total installed cost of a lighting project. But a new solution in power distribution now enables installers to more effectively tailor the power provided throughout a lighting system and save a considerable amount of time and money in the process.

The power mismatch

Consider a commercial office space or a K-12 school. Not too long ago, when fluorescent troffers were the standard lighting fixture found in these buildings, an expansive infrastructure of line-voltage (Class 1) wiring was pulled from fixture to fixture, in conduit, throughout the space. These long runs of line voltage power organized the fixtures and controls into hardwired branch circuits. Once installed, the lighting could only be controlled in the configuration in which it was wired. There was no way to reorganize how the lights were grouped or controlled without physically rewiring them.

Today, LED lighting and control systems (occupancy sensors, daylight sensors, wallstations, etc.) have evolved into low-voltage solutions that typically require low-voltage (Class 2) power wiring. The industry has addressed the new low-voltage power needs of the lighting and controls system with a kind of worst-of-both-worlds, Band-Aid approach. Contractors still pull line voltage to the low-voltage fixtures, which often contain AC-DC drivers that allow them to operate on a line-voltage circuit. Then, they overlay separate low-voltage controls wiring, so the lighting system satisfies applicable energy codes and green building criteria.

Unfortunately, this practice creates lighting systems that showcase the least desirable traits of Class 1 and Class 2 wiring, minimizing any potential benefits. The pitfalls of this approach include:

  • Maximizing material and labor-intensive Class 1 runs throughout a space
  • Establishing a rigid and hardwired lighting system structure
  • Restricting the more flexible low-voltage wiring to control system communications
  • Separating lighting and controls wiring, although both could be low-voltage

The solution: distributed low-voltage power (DLVP)

The distributed low-voltage power (DLVP) system from Eaton offers a new approach to power distribution that more closely matches the needs of an energy code-compliant LED lighting and controls system. The system minimizes the amount of line voltage pulled into the space and expands the low-voltage system to include both LED lighting fixtures and controls.

With DLVP, line voltage is pulled to low-voltage power modules distributed throughout the project. The low-voltage power module, available in 300W and 600W models, provides low-voltage circuits for on/off and dimming control of addressable low-voltage LED lighting fixtures. It also coordinates the connected wallstations, daylight sensors, occupancy sensors and controlled receptacles. This revolutionary DLVP architecture enables contractors to pull line voltage only to areas where the low-voltage power modules are located and then create 300W or 600W low-voltage lighting systems using error-free, pre-terminated control cables.

The benefits of a better match

This new power solution offers impressive benefits to the contractors designing, bidding on and installing these LED lighting and controls systems. Replacing Class 1 architectures (pipe and wire) with pre-terminated Class 2 cables reduces installation time by up to 40 percent. This means a project that would have taken 200 man-hours with the traditional installation method can now be completed in 120 hours.

Contractors can get on and off jobs faster and leave clients with a more flexible lighting and controls solution, because DLVP systems are addressable. If the configuration of the space changes, maintenance and facility teams can easily reconfigure the DLVP system with simple switches or a wireless remote control. This is another important distinction between DLVP and the traditional line-voltage approach, the latter of which can only be reconfigured by physically going back into the ceiling and rewiring the system.  Ultimately, the total installed cost of this more flexible, low-voltage system architecture is up to 20 percent lower than the installed cost of a comparable line-voltage system.

Finally, the industry has a power solution that addresses the poor fit between the traditional line-voltage circuit structure and the needs of low-voltage LED lighting systems. Built to feature the benefits of both AC and DC wiring, DLVP offers a lighting system solution that is:

  • Faster and easier to install
  • Maintains electrical efficiency
  • Offers more flexibility
  • Is more cost effective

DLVP is the best-of-both-worlds solution for LED lighting power distribution.