A bright future for indoor lighting control

Author : Harvard Engineering

31 January 2014

Harvard's new generation lighting solutions offer unrivalled control of indoor lighting systems throughout buildings and across multiple sites.

New generation lighting solutions offer unrivalled control of indoor lighting systems throughout buildings and across multiple sites. With the installation of these new solutions designers, manufacturers and installers will ensure the managers of building systems have the technology at their fingertips to deliver significant energy savings, substantial reductions in CO2 emissions and remote control over every light on their site.

The benefits of indoor lighting control solutions which are completely customisable to user requirements are endless. In the outdoor market, wireless technology has been developed to offer such a system.  However before this technology can be transferred to the much larger indoor lighting market a number of challenges need to be overcome, including the difficulties associated with commissioning a system and monitoring its performance. Through the development of similar wireless systems to those offered in the exterior market, that use the open protocol ZigBee mesh network, a new generation of indoor lighting monitoring and control solutions has been developed which address these concerns.

Intelligent new generation controls give users the opportunity to monitor and control all aspects of their lighting system from a remote base through wireless technology. Individual lights and groups of lights can be easily configured into the system and then monitored for energy consumption, dim status and potential lamp failure. With data from this detailed monitoring the new generation solutions can then create a ‘heat map’ of energy usage across the site at different times allowing for energy saving strategies to be designed and implemented.

Lighting control systems have had a significant impact on the outdoor market, where they are widely deployed in boroughs and cities across the world. As street lighting typically accounts for 40% of a local authority’s energy bill the installation of these intelligent systems can help local authorities to substantially reduce energy costs and boost their green credentials, as well as allowing maintenance engineers to implement more effective maintenance schedules.

Local authorities are faced with rising energy prices; more stringent legislation on carbon emissions, including that enforced through the Climate Change Act that requires them to reduce 80% of their carbon emissions by 2050; and increasing budget restraints. In this climate, a cost-effective solution, such as Harvard Engineering’s LeafNut, that can deliver proven savings of £46 per street light per year, an annual carbon saving of 100kg per light is a powerful tool for any organisation wishing to seize control of its energy consumption.

Easy to install into new street lights or retrofit to existing ones LeafNut gives managers the ability to remotely control the light intensity of individual lamps or groups of lamps in different areas. For example lights may be dimmed during the night in residential areas whilst at the same time kept at full intensity at busy road junctions. This helps to reduce energy consumption and maintain residents’ safety. All lights can be brought back to full intensity in any part of the borough at the touch of a button.

Costs can also be reduced through the ability to assess the status of each light on the system remotely, eliminating the need for time-consuming night scouting expeditions, and enabling the most time-effective maintenance schedules. And the substantial energy savings, reductions in CO2 emissions and lower maintenance costs can now be transferred to the much larger indoor lighting market through the evolution in new generation control and monitoring systems.

Of all the controllable light sold in Europe today 75% are not being controlled by anything other than an on/off switch. The potential to make savings is undeniable when considering the fact that the highest single contributor to commercial electricity consumption in the UK is lighting, which accounts for 41% of all electricity used. Taking control of light, especially in the increasing number of mixed-use developments, in which retail, offices and residential space are controlled through the same system, requires an intelligent, flexible solution.

The change from traditional light sources, such as the inefficient incandescent or tungsten halogen lights or difficult to control fluorescent lights, to LEDs can help save energy. When a control system is added to the installation though, LEDs are able to deliver optimum energy savings and controllability. However the early generation control systems, such as DALI and Analogue 1-10V, encountered a number of issues that needed to be addressed – challenges which new generation systems overcome.

Configuring a DALI or Analogue control system can be extremely complex and time consuming taking several days to complete. The costs of this can become prohibitive when the daily fees, of between £600 and £1,000, commanded by specialist DALI engineers, are taken into consideration. In new builds configuration may be carried out before the exact occupancy patterns are known. Based on assumptions prior to occupation energy saving strategies employed will not be tailored to the specific needs of users and therefore the energy efficiency will be far from optimised.

Once the system is operational and the building in full use the early generation systems did not have the capability to monitor their own performance. Without this data the most energy efficient operating levels could not be ascertained and the argument for re-commissioning, which would enable a more efficient strategy, could not be made.

The new generation indoor lighting control and monitoring systems address these issues in a number of ways, namely by employing the latest technology in wireless networked control systems, software user interfaces and data monitoring and analysis.

By using wireless technology the need for re-wiring an existing building is eliminated, thus making it a cost-effective option for retrofitting into existing sites as part of an upgrade to LED technology. Wireless technology also enables engineers to check the status of individual lights remotely from a computer, laptop or tablet, without visiting the site to investigate the wiring infrastructure therefore eliminating many of the re-commissioning issues associated with wired systems.

The open protocol ZigBee mesh network offers robust protection against communication breakdown between two devices on the network. The adoption of such a system addresses the security concerns that may have caused nervousness with earlier wireless systems. Further network security concerns can be alleviated with the adoption of remote server hosting, for example with the provider of the control system. In addition, by using the wireless protocol these new systems create the exciting possibility of controlling multi-sites or multiple buildings from a single hub.

The recognition and addressing of individual lights within a scheme is one of the most time-consuming tasks associated with commissioning existing lighting control systems. The new generation controls overcome this challenge through the use of RFID functionality which can be used to scan-in each luminaire using a RFID scanner or an App on a tablet or smartphone. The user-friendly Graphic User Interface (GUI) then has the ability to map each light within the system.

Once installed, a new generation system offers unparalleled control and monitoring capabilities. By gathering data on dim status, potential lamp failure and energy usage the system can then create a ‘heat map’ of energy consumption, by individual light and groups of lights. This allows managers to adjust the light intensity at the touch of a button to suit requirements. Small reductions will be undetectable by the human eye but capable of delivering substantial savings over time or lights may be dimmed further when an area is not in use. Alongside dimming, the systems use a number of further energy efficiency strategies, often simultaneously, such as daylight harvesting, occupancy, time scheduling, scene setting and load shedding to save energy and offer dynamic control to managers.

Harvard Engineering has taken the wireless technology employed in the LeafNut system, which has been installed by over 100 users across the world and adapted it for the indoor lighting market. The recently launched EyeNut wireless indoor lighting control and monitoring solution is now set to revolutionise the indoor lighting market just as the LeafNut system has in the outdoor lighting market.

EyeNut adapts the wireless technology used in LeafNut to meet the specific requirements of the indoor market to overcome the challenges faced by the early generation lighting controls, including the difficulties in commissioning due to the prohibitive costs of specialised consultants and re-wiring. Its ingenious open protocol ZigBee mesh network not only addresses the system security concerns but also allows for the exciting possibility of multi-site or multiple building control from a single remote hub. And its intuitive GUI offers users a completely customisable system with which to monitor and then control their energy consumption whilst at the same time offering creative and dynamic control over their lit environment.

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