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Four things to know about integrated lighting controls

Integrated lighting control systems offer significant resource gains, cost savings, design flexibility and direct user benefits. Many of today’s integrated lighting control systems are simple and easy to use, without the need for advanced controls.

The advantages of these systems are so substantial that every builder should strongly consider an integrated lighting controls strategy early on in new construction or retrofit projects. Sensors, in particular, are transforming the lighting industry at a rapid pace.

We talked with Joe Bokelman, Metalux marketing manager for Eaton’s lighting division, who emphasized four things to know about controls technology and its impact on the lighting industry.

1. Almost everyone is familiar with the dimming switch. What else is out there?

The dimming switch made the first splash. Early efforts to control lighting gave individual users direct control over available light in a specific environment. Other basic controls include manual, personal and room control.

But the introduction of sensors greatly expanded the potential for lighting controls. The two most common types are ceiling sensors and wall sensors. While located in different areas, each serves a similar purpose, and both provide significant energy savings.

Ceiling sensors, capable of “seeing” both occupants and daylight, provide the best coverage and are used for occupancy detection and daylight harvesting.

Wall mount sensors can also detect occupants and light levels. While effective in some applications, wall mount sensors are not as effective for daylight harvesting.

2. What are the benefits of integrated lighting controls?

Integrated controls simplify lighting. They increase control, improve design and reduce energy costs for the owner, and they eliminate extra work for the specifier.

Integrated lighting controls offer a single installation, meaning less wiring during installation and fewer devices for a clean look. Sensors are easy to configure and allow for personal control. Plus, because everything is incorporated into the light source, owners get a single warranty, with one number to call and a one-stop shop for warranty repairs.

Getting coverage that matches the space without having to compromise has made a critical difference for Eaton’s customers.

In addition, changes in code compliance mean that many states now require daylight and occupancy sensors. Having the ability to meet code requirements and light the space in one shot is a huge benefit.

3. How do changes in code compliance come into play?

Increasingly stringent code compliance requirements and a growing interest in lighting design versatility are key factors driving demand for integrated lighting controls. In fact, all jurisdictions in the U.S. are required to comply with the minimum requirements set forth in the ASHRAE 90.1-2010 building standard or a superior state energy code. California’s Title 24 is perhaps the most rigorous of all state codes; the current version went into effect in July 2014.

California has led the way with its adoption of new code compliance requirements, and that’s reflected in the amount of demand Eaton is seeing for these products there. Other states across the country are following suit.

Among conditions outlined in ASHRAE 90.1-2010 include automatic shutoff, which requires methods to achieve automatic shutoff in most spaces. Typically, shutoff must occur within 30 minutes of vacancy. Daylighting strategies are also emphasized, and mandatory control provisions are set for spaces with primary and secondary sidelighting (large windows) and/or toplighting (skylights). Many of the code changes address specific controls, such as auto shutoff and daylighting, for task-oriented spaces ranging from conference rooms to fitting rooms.

4. How has LED technology accelerated the adoption rate?

LED prices are falling – a trend that has driven the adoption rate of LED luminaires and, in turn, the adoption of lighting controls. As a higher efficacy light source offering more lumens per watt per square foot, LEDs reduce overall lighting power consumption while greatly improving illumination design flexibility and aesthetics.

LED technology has made it possible to implement integrated sensors in a cost-effective nature. Fluorescent fixtures could have handled dimming, but because the dimming ballast was so expensive, it was cost-prohibitive. Now, LEDs have lowered the cost of dimming so dramatically that the feature is included in every fixture.

LED design is also better suited to sensors, because it isn’t constrained by tubes and ballasts. In addition, LEDs are more energy-efficient, last longer and offer more colors than alternatives.

With its increasing potential and complexity, lighting design is transforming into a field that is part art, part science. At the same time, intelligent and intuitive lighting control has become a key strategic investment for the commercial sector. As LED prices continue to fall, control options and energy savings will only continue to grow.