James Provost

The switch may have finally been thrown on the golden age of lighting controls. Enthusiasm for a particular category of products is one means of verifying a statement as sweeping as this, and we saw the realization of that enthusiasm at Lightfair. More than a dozen manufacturers of lighting control systems and products had throngs of fairgoers crowded, three-deep at times, around their Plexiglas-covered switching panels.

To be sure, when the technical parlance once reserved for the back rooms of electrical engineering firms enters the vocabularies of designers previously focused on aesthetics, that likely means that energy codes are forcing people to engage. California's Title 24-2008 and the 2009 Washington State Energy Code lead the way in the comprehensiveness of their requirements, but both ANSI/ASHRAE/IES Standard 90.1 and ANSI/ASHRAE/USGBC/IES Standard 189.1-2009 are also raising the bar.

“Codes are based on a societal mandate,” says Eric Lind, sales vice president, global specifications, for Lutron Electronics. “The momentum behind it is that people ultimately want to do the right thing by the environment.” In addition to that goal, building owners and operators can expect to see significantly reduced operating expenses. “Lighting represents at least one-third of the total energy costs in commercial buildings,” Lind says, “and control systems can reduce these costs by 40 to 60 percent. No other building system can have that kind of immediate impact toward reducing energy use.”

    “Architects are designing large areas of glass that are clear and let in more light. But there can also be too much of a good thing. If you don't manage that excess glare with automated shading you have to turn your lights up higher to compensate for the brightness on the window wall. It's counterintuitive but the use of daylight is just causing more energy to be wasted.”

    8888888Jan Berman, MechoSystems

Occupancy and vacancy sensors, multilevel switching, dimming, and timers that manage on-off cycles for lighting have been used for years. James Benya, principal of Benya Lighting Design says that tuning is another important area for energy savings, but it does require a control system and dimmable ballasts. “We always put too many lights in a room, to make them look good for balance, aesthetics, and fit. Tuning dims the light back to the amount that you would have put in had you put in the exact number.” Tuning is typically done during commissioning, and the reduced lighting levels cannot be changed by users who are usually unaware that the lights have been dimmed. “In practice, I consistently reduce lighting loads by 20 percent before most projects open just by tuning,” Benya says.
Daylight Harvesting as a Control Option But, Benya says, “the fact of the matter is that daylight harvesting is by itself the number one most important lighting control technology, period.” Daylight harvesting is not new either, but in the past it was not easy to determine when a room was required by code to be daylit. “It was complicated to figure out, and people weren't doing it,” he says. “One study of spaces equipped with daylighting controls showed that over half of the lighting controls that weren't functioning had been intentionally disabled,” he says, referring to a 2005 study done by the Heschong Mahone Group. Benya believes that future codes will simply say that if there is a window or toplighting in a room, daylight harvesting will be required.

Jan Berman, president of MechoSystems, believes that owners do not get the most out of photosensor-activated controls for daylight harvesting unless the devices are coupled with window shades. “Architects are designing large areas of glass that are clear and let in more light. But there can also be too much of a good thing. If you don't manage that excess glare with automated shading you have to turn your lights up higher to compensate for the brightness on the window wall. It's counterintuitive, but the use of daylight is just causing more energy to be wasted.”

Smart Metering and Demand-Response Smart metering, which allows building managers to submeter the energy consumption of the building's lighting systems and store this data to provide user feedback, is now required by some energy codes. Shana Bramley, director of lighting control marketing for Crestron Electronics says, “Seattle's energy code actually has specific things you need to do, and one is to have separate metering for HVAC and lighting. Codes are going to require submetering. Whether you want it or not, its not going to be an option.” Submetering and data collection capability is already available in many of Crestron's products. “Its integrated into some of our products as standard,” Bramley says.

The Lighting Controls Association (LCA)This association serves the North American lighting community, administered by the National Electrical Manufacturers Association (NEMA), and is located at NEMA's headquarters in Rosslyn, Va. It is organized to educate the professional building design, construction, and management communities about the benefits and operation of automatic switching and dimming controls. To date, there are 20 LCA members, representing thought leaders in the manufacture of advanced controls and dimming ballasts. A full array of news items, product information, videos, and educational materials are available at LCA's website: lightingcontrolsassociation.org.

Demand-response systems are one of the most important components of smart grid electric utility networks, in which power producers and their customers can communicate and respond to each other. Many companies that make lighting control systems are already building equipment that is capable of reducing energy consumption automatically when its power provider sends a demand-response request over the Web. “When you have intelligent, bidirectional communication between your building system and its administrator and an energy provider, that enables all kinds of activities like real-time pricing and all its advantages such as load shedding in periods of peak demand,” says Rita Renner, director of marketing communications for WattStopper. “Demand-response is mandated in Title 24 for very select applications, but it's going to be expanded in California, and it's likely that other jurisdictions will be adopting similar kinds of programs.”