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The way forward with advances in lighting

May 2016 Lighting, Smart Homes | Comments Off on The way forward with advances in lighting
The way forward with advances in lighting

Taking control of domestic and commercial lighting via wireless devices, coupled with advances in energy efficiency, should be a no-brainer for decision-makers, says BEG UK sales manager Paul Jones

Over the past few years, factors including political, economic, technological and environmental have affected research, development and manufacture within the UK and Ireland lighting industry.

Major political influence came in 2009, when the European Union began the phase-out of light bulbs for general lighting in favour of more energy-efficient lighting alternatives. The UK Government had already announced in 2007 that incandescent bulbs would be phased out completely by 2011 and the US Government was actively encouraging manufacturers to develop efficient lighting solutions, which saw the introduction
of LEDs.

Added to this, the interest in and application of wireless connected devices has become commonplace due largely to the rapid adoption of smartphones and tablet PCs, with many facilities managers now wanting to control lighting of buildings and offices in this way.

Installation of smart lighting control systems has continued to grow, offering commercial, domestic and government consumers a means to operate lighting in the most efficient way, by making the best use of natural light and only lighting rooms that are occupied.

Smart lighting control systems

In commercial buildings, lighting accounts for up to 40% of total energy cost. Reducing this energy consumption has become a major goal for building owners, governments, utilities and many other stakeholders. It is no secret that replacing existing lights with more energy-efficient lighting sources (such as LEDs) is one of the ways to reduce this massive pool of energy use – but efficiency is only the start.

In recent years, businesses in Scotland and Ireland have been exploring ways of using smart lighting controls to maximise the use of natural daylight with dimming ballasts, for example, installed within light fittings. This clever technology uses occupancy sensors to measure the amount of available natural light, compared with the pre-determined light level and automatically turns the fitting on to the required level.

BEG sensors are available in the UK, including Scotland and Ireland, that can set four different lighting bands/zones for the same area using a simple DALI pair. For example, schools require different light levels for children’s desks and the teacher’s presentation area.

The lights are controlled by occupancy control but you can also have switches to provide automatic and semi-automatic function, both near the entrance and next to the presentation area and different light levels to ensure an overall balance.

Another key development has been controlling the lights and heating/ventilation with one sensor that has two channels, thereby reducing wasted light but also only having the extractor fans on in a washroom when occupied. The run-on times can be set individually and you can also reduce the fan costs by not needing timer controlled models.

For more sophisticated building management systems, you can use sensors that have built-in thermostats. This system reliably detects the three most important values of a room: the room temperature; the light level on the ceiling, which transmits the measured values to two 0-10V interfaces; and the sensor, which detects movement and reports this via a switch contact. This information then can be used for closed (proprietary) bus-systems (eg LON or SPS) and DALI systems.

The real advantage of using a lighting control system compared with a stand-alone lighting control or traditional manual switches is being able to control individual lights or groups of lights from a single user interface device. This technology enables several light sources to be controlled from one user device and create complex lighting environments.

Various scenes can be pre-set in particular rooms, based on what they are used for. A major advantage of using a lighting control system such as this is it can result in a huge reduction in energy consumption. The individual lamps will also have a longer shelf-life if dimmers are used and lights go off when not being used.

Wireless lighting control systems offer even more benefits including the reduction of installation costs and more flexibility over where switches and sensors can be placed.

In summary, automatic lighting control systems can save energy and money by being time-dependent, for example, lights off during breaks and weekends; daylight-dependent, for busy working conditions; and presence-dependent, for corridors, staircases and rooms that are seldom used.

LEDs leading the way

The significantly increased energy efficiency of LED products has seen their popularity soar in a world where energy and resources are growing scarcer and more costly.

Although LEDs have been around in one way or another since the early 1960s, it is only in the past decade that the technology has developed to a point where it has become both practical and economical to use in a wide variety of applications.

As LEDs have evolved and improved, they have become the lighting solution of choice due to their energy efficiency, long-lasting nature, flexibility and good colour quality. LEDs use almost 75% less energy and last 25 times longer than incandescent lighting.

The advent of LED technology also brings with it the opportunity to experience exciting new functionality such as colour. Using wireless lighting controls, users will be able to switch, dim, change colour, make group colour settings and more.

The future looks bright

As energy prices continue to increase, coupled with ongoing concerns about the environment, organisations across the nation are investing millions to replace out-of-date lighting systems.

Private-sector interest in these advances has been reinforced by public policy, including more stringent energy policies in the UK and Ireland and beyond.

However, the UK and Irish Governments could do more to increase uptake. In Denmark, it is mandatory for all Government buildings to be fitted with controls, so why can’t the same be done in the UK and Ireland?

While LEDs play a role in reducing energy consumption across the globe, lighting control systems serve to provide the correct amount of light precisely where and exactly when it is needed.

For example, some schools are already experimenting with changing the colour and light levels in the afternoon to counter circadian rhythms to keep the children more alert, which could also be applied to workplaces.

Already described as the low-hanging fruit of energy-saving by more than one green expert, future technologies, products and systems in the lighting industry will create new opportunities to help the environment, end-users and make significant cost savings.