> FOCUS MORE THAN PHOTONS
Addressable systems also allow end-users
to repurpose their space and program system
operation to support new arrangements of
furniture, office locations or employee illumination preferences.
These software-based lighting systems
with advanced lighting control capabilities
need standards-based, bidirectional application programming interfaces (APIs) that
enable them to share data or take application
calls from third-party systems.
The two communication protocols typically used to integrate advanced lighting
control within building systems are BACnet
and Lon Works.
“Although there are less sophisticated models available, the
use of these protocols remain the preferred method,” Cash said.
Kless said these systems are an investment in a property.
“Intelligent lighting systems with advanced controls integrated into every fixture are proven to deliver a payback period
of one to three years,” Kless said.
Factors that influence that timeframe include energy rate,
previous lighting technology, facility operating hours and facility occupancy.
Of course, a system could leverage elements of both
advanced and conventional controls, but Kless said piecing
together a control system with disparate legacy technology
would be a complex challenge for any electrical contractor.
Beyond controls, however, combining advanced lighting
systems with cutting-edge lighting technologies, such as light-emitting diodes (LEDs), can achieve drastic energy savings.
“LEDs can save about 50 percent of energy usage from just
their wattage reduction,” Kless said. “With the addition of an
advanced control system, users can gain another 40 percent
In many ways, LEDs may be the only way to satisfy a code
or user demand.
“Non-LED fixtures cannot be controlled with intelligent
controls to the level of granularity that provides high levels of
energy efficiency,” Kless said.
New technologies have the potential to simplify installation and
reduce its time and costs, but each product and manufacturer
is different. It is important to develop expertise on the specific
equipment being installed, and advanced lighting controls have a
higher demand for data installations that use Cat 5 or fiber optic
cabling and often involve installing equipment in a server room.
“This is, however, a great opportunity for electrical contractors to add more value by becoming experts in data-system
installation,” Kless said.
By using and understanding more digitally oriented systems,
contractors may be able to attract a more diverse workforce
composed of people already versed in the technology.
A big challenge for contractors in
this area is that, even though they need
to understand and install more advanced
systems, budgets are not increasing. As
with any attempt to break into a new
market, there is a risk, but Cash said
contractors could mitigate the financial
danger by training employees on networked controls and local area networks.
Seeking out training to better understand advanced lighting control systems
would increase contractors’ installation
efficiency and improve success rates. In
addition, if contractors understand the
programming aspect, they can offer post-installation service contracts.
“That could be a very profitable opportunity and enable
contractors to increase their service offerings,” Darville said.
However, to fully leverage these opportunities, contractors
must understand how to communicate with clients and vendors concerning system operation.
“The industry is moving toward communicating in a
‘sequence of operations’ instead of a simple bill of material
because, since system components are programmed to function
in a specific and coordinated way, the vendor and programming technician need this sequence input to properly configure
projects,” Cash said.
Meanwhile, energy codes and end-users increasingly
demand more control zones be built into the system for greater
“Advanced lighting controls, however, actually enable contractors to meet this challenge and manage projects more easily,
rather than needing to keep track of a great number of zones
and installing them separately,” Darville said.
Light on the horizon
It’s hard to predict the future for this market because of its
constant and rapid change. Navigating the LED revolution
can be perilous. Continually changing energy code requirements spark the desire for products that are simple to install
yet scalable. Furthermore, there’s a great need for enhanced
communication and operational efficiency through system
However, every device and system within buildings will
continue to get smarter while control zones get smaller.
“End-users want more control over individual devices and
will continue to drive the development of advanced lighting controls to allow the use of more daylight through either
intelligently controlling shades or the windows’ tint levels,”
BREMER, a freelance writer based in Solomons, Md., contributes
frequently to ELECTRICAL CON TRACTOR. She can be reached at
410.610.7164 and firstname.lastname@example.org.