Making Light Work For You

jon theisWhen it comes to lighting control solutions there’s greater choice than ever before. Jon Theis, managing director at TheisCraft, examines some of the technology on offer and the key points to consider when specifying and installing lighting controls.

Managing energy consumption does not simply rely on installing low energy products and systems – it also requires them to be properly controlled. Therefore, in order to comply with existing and future energy reduction legislation, companies in all vertical sectors should be utilising lighting control technology to better manage when and where lighting is used.

Light work
Like any other lighting related issue, choosing the right system for the application is vital and commercial, architectural, residential, educational and industrial based projects will all have specific requirements. Lighting control covers a variety of different technologies and the most basic is the manual dimmer switch, while for offices and other commercial spaces occupancy sensors keep lights on when someone is present in the space but turn them off when it is vacated. These are particularly useful in toilets, cupboards and meeting rooms and are relatively inexpensive to install.

Furthermore, photoelectric lighting sensors turn lighting on at dusk and off at dawn, by sensing the amount of natural light in the space and make the most of daylight harvesting, which uses daylight to offset the amount of electric lighting needed to properly light an area. Their use can also enhance comfort conditions, by controlling the colour and intensity of white light to reflect changes in daylight levels.

Smart thinking
At the higher end of the spectrum, intelligent lighting control systems utilise the digital addressable lighting interface (DALI) protocol, as set out set out in IEC 62386. Throughout the last decade it has cemented its position as the foremost standard in this field, with its ability to interoperate with a range of system components.

A DALI lighting control system assigns an address to each luminaire, allowing management of each individual device, and can be as simple as a single luminaire containing a driver and a sensor. Intelligent systems can also create specific moods and simulate the natural daylight cycle to make it fully in tune with the circadian rhythms of occupants. This, in turn, can help improve productivity and reduce instances of eyestrain, migraines and headaches.

The type of wiring infrastructure used with a lighting control system is also a major consideration. Although a hardwired solution, using either metal or soft skin cable, is ideal for those areas not usually associated with the main part of the lighting control system, modular wiring systems provide significant improvements. Designed and produced off-site in a quality controlled environment, modular systems are supplied pre-assembled and fully tested, eliminating the need for on-site electrical connections and thereby reducing installation times by up to 70 per cent.

Caveat emptor
Although important, it is wise not to make a lighting control purchase based on price alone. Buying from a reputable manufacturer is the best way to avoid problems but in the event that a product does fail, knowing that a replacement can be sourced, delivered and installed as quickly as possible offers valuable peace of mind. Unfortunately, if something goes wrong with a cheap imported product, the cost of sending it overseas is likely to be prohibitive, while a product that is manufactured and sold under warranty in the UK will lead to a swifter resolution.

That’s not the end of the story though, as not all warranties are the same. For instance, a return to base warranty means that should a fault develop within the warranty period, the end user will have to send the product back to a service centre, where it will be analysed and repaired before being sent back. If it can’t be repaired, a new product will be delivered. The obvious issue here is that the entire process can take a matter of weeks to resolve.

Under the terms of an advance replacement warranty, the manufacturer immediately delivers a replacement product in the event of a problem. The defective unit is then sent to the manufacturer within a specified timeframe, upon which it is tested and repaired if necessary. The upshot is that the time spent without a complete lighting control system is vastly reduced.

Need to know
A lighting control solution can only provide genuine value if it directly addresses the unique needs of the building and its occupants. Therefore, understanding usage and occupation patterns, and integrating lighting control with appropriate luminaires, is the best way to achieve the highest Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED), Building Research Establishment Environmental Assessment Method (BREEAM) and Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (RICS) SKA ratings. Finally, working with a single company that can effectively fulfil as many lighting equipment needs as possible is also advisable in order to increase value, lower pricing due to consolidation of all requirements, ensure consistent quality and reduce purchasing workload.


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