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Is control the future of lighting?

18 March 2014

Companies are continually searching for ways to not only save on their energy bills but they are also mindful of their responsibility to reduce their carbon footprint. And it is with this in mind that manufacturers of LED drivers and products for the lighting industry are continually striving to come up with innovative ways to help those businesses currently using inefficient, traditional light source technology.

Wireless central management systems currently used successfully around the world to control and monitor street lighting could now be set to revolutionise the much larger and more lucrative indoor lighting market.

The benefits of lighting control systems have proved their worth in outdoor applications across the world and local authorities and cities have taken advantage of these systems designed to control street lighting.

Local authority street lighting typically accounts for around 40 per cent of a city’s energy budget and with the introduction of tough targets set out in the Climate Change Act, in which large organisations are required to reduce 80 per cent of their CO2 emissions by 2050, the benefits of installing lighting control systems cannot be underestimated. These systems have allowed local authorities to make radical savings on their energy costs; the benefits of saving 100kg of carbon per street light per year translates into significant reductions of up to £46 per light annually.

These outdoor systems offer further benefits such as reduced light pollution without any detrimental impact on community safety, thanks to their reduced light-dimming capacity, which can be employed to tailor lighting to an individual area’s requirements. For example, light intensity can be reduced in residential areas in the early hours of the morning while at the same time intensity can be retained at major road junctions. And lights can also be brought back to full intensity at the mere touch of a button. It is due to this remote monitoring of all individual street lights that engineers are able to spend less time on the road, night-scouting for failed units, also helping to save additional costs.

These benefits and reduced energy consumption costs are undoubtedly impressive. However the savings and benefits achieved in the outdoor market are set to pale in comparison when the potential for savings and improvements in the indoor lighting market are realised.

Historically, controlling indoor lighting systems and getting the best from them economically and from an environmentally-friendly stance has been problematic. Many business and warehouse facilities operate from buildings which are more than 20 years old; and were built at a time when energy efficiency was not seen as a main consideration. Typical warehouses and industrial facilities often have hundreds or even thousands of lighting fixtures which means that more often than not, the plant is over-lit. This is why controllable indoor lighting is one area which is ripe for energy conservation.

To date, traditional light source technology, as used in many plants, warehouses and industrial environments, has been either inherently inefficient or difficult to control. The early generation lighting control systems such as DALI and Analogue 1-10V, although effective in reducing energy costs, have still been prohibitive for many businesses, simply because of the associated expense of having to employ specialists to programme the hardware. In addition, the level of improved efficiency has been difficult to evaluate because post-installation monitoring has been non-existent making the case for re-commissioning, often necessary to maximise efficiency, problematic.

The key issues for developers have been to look at control and flexibility. This will be particularly good news to mixed-used developments where offices, residential, retail and hospitality share the same location. In the past it has been difficult for such mixed-use developments to predict and manage energy demand, including lighting. With lights required to match different requirements at different times, the pre-set early generation systems currently on the market just don’t suit the needs for these ever-changing environments.

LED lighting with its intrinsic control and flexibility offers opportunities for energy savings as well as an enhanced role for new generation lighting control systems. Because it is easy to dim and it is completely switchable, LED lighting is seen as the system of choice to replace older generation halogen, fluorescent and metal halide lighting. But until recently, the cost of re-wiring plus the inconvenience and disruption to trade, was understandably seen as a negative by businesses.

However many of these challenges can now be overcome thanks to the development of wireless networked control systems. Harvard Engineering has developed a new wireless based lighting control system - EyeNut - which can be easily installed to control lighting whether in new of retrofit installations. It provides for easy wireless commissioning and comes with an intuitive dashboard which offers the user full lighting control via a handheld device, such as an iPad.

EyeNut is able to monitor energy, provide group and individual dimming controls and offers a sophisticated energy ‘heating map’ giving the user a clear view of their energy consumption and therefore much greater control of their energy usage.

New generation systems like EyeNut have been designed in order to eliminate the need for re-wiring in a retrofit installation, and allow for planned upgrades to LED technology in order to incorporate a compatible wireless control system. Engineers will be able to identify individual luminaires remotely, over the internet using a computer, laptop, tablet or smartphone, without having to investigate the wiring infrastructure.

The adoption of open protocols also offers the exciting possibility of multi-site or multiple building control from a single hub – perfect for the management of multi-site estates, such as retail stores or corporate offices. By implementing multiples strategies to maximise energy efficiencies, including daylight harvesting, dimming, time scheduling, load shedding and scene setting, the new generation indoor control systems offer users a sophisticated, multi-faceted solution that can be adapted to any situation.

Operators will be able to monitor energy outputs, typically at 30 minute intervals, in order to determine not only energy consumption but the presence of faults and the percentage of dimming, to ensure the best optimisation of the system.

All in all this adds up to a completely customisable solution for the user. New generation lighting and monitoring systems have already made their mark on the outdoor market but the potential for energy savings in the indoor lighting market with new speedy, simple and wireless systems with their fingertip control, is set to make an even greater impression.

www.harvardeng.com



 
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