Traditional lighting control devices, such as wall switch sensors and relay panels, can be employed to control lighting energy costs – but they fall short of truly addressing the ongoing needs of facility managers to stay on top of changing conditions, inside and outside of the building. A networked lighting control system provides the most flexible platform for managing facility lighting that is also future proof to changing usage needs inside the building and changing energy costs and regulations outside of the building.
While not all networked lighting control systems available today provide the same level of capabilities and functionalities, they do generally share significant improvements over traditional systems in granularity of control, monitoring and reporting capabilities, scalability, advanced control strategies, smart grid connectivity, and futureproofing.
Networked lighting control systems that provide granular control, capable of individually addressing a light fixture, offer the greatest flexibility to deal with dynamic needs because the control is not constrained to the electrical circuit wiring. A networked ballast or a networked light controller is capable of being programmed to respond to a specific wall switch, schedule event, or other control inputs. When a wall or furniture is moved, the system can be re-programmed or re-commissioned without modifying the electrical wiring. This type of technology is also well suited for retrofitting a lighting system that was not originally designed to provide individual office room controls, because the granular controls do not require special circuiting.
Two-way communication in networked control systems means that the system can be used for both control and monitoring. Control devices on a two-way network might be capable of reporting their programming configuration, device status and maintenance faults, even the actual energy use of the lighting system, back to a central management interface. Additionally, schedules can be managed through the network rather than through panel circuitry wiring. Once every component in the system is part of a central network, the facility manager finally has access to a complete management tool to oversee lighting across the entire facility. Traditional lighting control devices cannot meet these needs.
Traditional control devices offer a simple solution for a room, a circuit, or a floor, but they become burdensome to manage as they are deployed across an entire building. Managing changes to a schedule on a standard electronic timer means deploying a technician to the exact electrical panel with that timer so that they can key in the changes – then they must go to every other electrical panel to update the schedules appropriate to the areas that need updating.
A networked control system can provide a single management interface for scheduling, updating control settings, system monitoring, and more, for an entire building, all from the facility manager’s office. Some advanced networked systems even support control of multiple facilities across a campus or across multiple sites in the enterprise portfolio. The most advanced systems support enterprise-wide management of the control system from a web interface, allowing facility directors to manage multiple buildings on the fly without being tied to a specific computer terminal or IT network.
Networked control systems form a flexible platform to support advanced control strategies, so that the same base system can be configured to support occupancy sensing in one area, scheduling in another area, daylight harvesting in yet another area, and a combination of these control strategies in other areas. This is especially important when considering the latest energy conservation codes and green building best practices that require multiple control strategies to be employed differently in different parts of the building. Private offices require manually turned on lights that are automatically turned off by occupancy sensors (also known as vacancy sensing), whereas the best practice for a large daylit breakroom requires a combination of fully automatic daylighting controls and fully automatic occupancy controls.
In a networked control system, the necessary sensors and switches can be added to individual areas, connecting to the wired or wireless lighting control network, to allow the lighting in a particular room or space to operate as needed. Standalone control products, such as daylight harvesting controllers, wall switch sensors, and relay panels, do not effectively combine control strategies because the individual devices cannot communicate with each other; when one device is doing its job, the other devices cannot really be used. For example, a wall switch sensor switch wired in series with a daylight controller will appear to be broken if the daylight controller is detecting daylight and keeping the lights off – the occupant cannot use the button on the occupancy sensor to override the lights back if they are needed for a specific task. Networked lighting control systems allow control strategies can be easily and effectively combined to provide deep energy savings, code compliance, and occupant comfort.
Connecting your building to the Smart Grid will allow some of the systems in the building to respond appropriately to changing electrical supply and demand conditions. The lighting system can play a large role in connecting to the Smart Grid by automatically reducing lighting energy use during periods of critical demand shortages or high demand costs.
New technology allows some networked lighting control systems to automatically provide demand response (AutoDR) load shedding by dimming or turning off lights in response to utility or third-party price signals and critical demand signals. The networked lighting controls can be configured to provide the appropriate response, dimming and switching lights where appropriate and according to the level of severity, instantaneously, or through automated scheduling.
What will your building look like 10 years from now? Will the systems installed today still be relevant and adaptable enough to meet your evolving needs or will they be antiquated and require a sizable equipment upgrade? The needs of a building, energy costs, energy conservation codes, and green building standards are constantly undergoing change. Building usage needs can change on a daily basis as spaces are reconfigured for churn, consolidation, relocation, temporary projects and hires, etc. Energy costs have historically risen and low-cost renewable power is still not here. Energy codes and green building standards have been trending toward more granularity of control, more sensing, more adjustability of light levels, and even demand response capabilities.
Networked control systems allow adaptability of the building to meet these changing needs, especially those systems that have built-in upgradability to support future functionality.Why Wireless Lighting Controls? Why Lighting Controls?