Green energy technology has a big positive effect on the bottom line

Lighting control is among the strategies that improve economic and environmental performance. Such systems can curb lighting energy costs by more than 50%, defer lamp replacement costs by cutting burn hours and encourage predictive maintenance practices, says Sheila Kennedy in her latest Technology Toolbox column.

By Sheila Kennedy

Green energy advocates like the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC) and the Alliance for Sustainable Built Environments (ASBE) now can refer to specific technologies and initiatives that have a direct and positive effect on the bottom line.

Lighting control is among the strategies that improve economic and environmental performance. Such systems can curb lighting energy costs by more than 50%, defer lamp replacement costs by cutting burn hours and encourage predictive maintenance practices.
Further financial incentives are found in the federal Energy Policy Act of 2005, which rewards taxpayers for investing in energy-efficient building systems.

Lighting control systems: Replacing lamps with more efficient alternatives provides savings, but if a light remains on while the space is vacant, it’s wasting energy. Lighting control systems manage lighting levels automatically by turning the lights on, off, up or down under specified conditions.

Advanced lighting control systems allow ballasts, controls, occupancy sensors and photosensors to communicate. They offer control facility-wide and down to the individual fixture level from any location. Some permit centralized monitoring and control across factories, warehouses and industrial offices.

Flexible configuration: Early lighting control systems required specific ballasts. Newer models, like Encelium Technologies’ Energy Control System (ECS), operate with any ballast, lamp or sensor. Its GreenBus technology uses a standard communication cable with click-and-go connectors.

Lighting configurations are changed on the fly from a computer screen, and no wiring is required at the switch. Once you click on a fixture’s icon and drag it to a wall switch icon, the switch controls the fixture. The same holds true for occupancy and photo sensors.

Lighting profiles and time schedules are managed within the software. ECS allows six lighting control strategies to work together based on priority, including daylight harvesting through photosensors, task tuning by fixture, occupancy sensors, time scheduling, demand response load shedding, and personal lighting control from a user’s desktop computer.

One client discovered that users, when given personal control over their environment, tended to further reduce already task-tuned light levels.

Proactive energy management: The new Square D Powerlink G3 3000 from Schneider Electric allows lighting system management from a standard Web browser. The user is presented with a graphical floorplan and light status that indicates whether and where lights are operating.

Powerlink’s branch-level lighting control allows switching off lights when an area isn’t occupied or a production line is idle. Programs define the schedule configuration for each branch circuit and track accumulated hours on each circuit.

When a threshold runtime is reached, its embedded Web server sends e-mail so a crew can be scheduled for group lamp replacement. It also expedites emergency maintenance.

If a breaker trips, an e-mail alarm specifies which panel and breaker needs immediate attention.

The future of lighting control: "There are several opportunities for lighting control systems to play a more strategic role in energy management," says Don Millstein, president and COO of Encelium. "Among them is wireless connectivity in lighting control systems using standards such as Zigbee. This will reduce the initial installation time and prove particularly beneficial for retrofits."

Watch for wireless connectivity in lighting control systems using standards such as Zigbee.

This will reduce the initial installation time and prove particularly beneficial for retrofits.

Building automation systems, once largely focused on HVAC systems, are now being integrated with lighting control systems. This will increase to 2/3 the fraction of the energy the building automation systems manage.

Lighting control providers will increasingly report energy consumption by fixture and by strategy to support the measurement and verification associated with performance contracts and LEED certification. Lighting control system suppliers are working with demand response providers (intermediaries between the independent system operators and end-use customers) to improve the ability to shed loads on an aggregated basis for groups of buildings at the same time versus a building-by-building approach.

Because of the financial and environmental benefits, regulatory bodies are increasingly incorporating the use of individual lighting controls into building codes. Even if they’re not legislated, it makes good sense to incorporate lighting controls in your energy management program.

E-mail Contributing Editor Sheila Kennedy, managing director of Additive Communications, at Sheila@addcomm.com.

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