For the last few years, two technologies have dominated headlines in the world of energy-efficient lighting. LED lighting and smart lighting controls. It’s no wonder. Advances in both technologies have the potential to revolutionize lighting efficiency, quality and maintenance.
LED lighting has helped to take real-world lighting efficiency from around 70 lumens per watt about a decade ago, all the way above 100 lumens per watt today. They’ve also managed to help increase common light source lifespans by tenfold in the same timespan.
Smart lighting controls work on the premise that even the most efficient light sources will never be as efficient as a light that’s turned off. Lighting controls themselves are nothing new, but cost-effective, intelligent, connected smart lighting controls are. These systems combine wireless or wired connections to every fixture with occupancy and light level sensors spread throughout the facility. The result is fine-grained control over every lighting fixture in the facility, supplemented by a local or cloud-based intelligent automation system.
On their own, both LED lighting and smart lighting controls are impressive advances. Combined, they’re even more impressive.
Greater energy savings
When you combine two next-generation lighting technologies that both improve efficiency, the result isn’t hard to predict. Even bigger energy savings.
An average LED lighting retrofit can often cut lighting energy consumption by 40% or more. The savings from intelligent lighting controls can vary, but it’s not uncommon to see the implementation of an intelligent lighting system reduce energy consumption by 30%. By combining the two, it’s possible to reduce lighting energy usage by up to 70%, or even more.
Even in cases where the savings aren’t so dramatic, combining an LED lighting retrofit with intelligent lighting controls will nearly always boost savings when compared to implementing just one of the technologies on its own.
Instant-on at any temperature
One thing that even many lighting professionals might not know is that while LED technology has been rapidly advancing, fluorescent lighting technology has been improving as well. Today, several manufacturers are offering fluorescent lighting solutions that deliver efficiencies of close to 100 lumens per watt, along with lifespans that can reach 80,000 hours. In many cases, there’s good reason to consider these next-generation fluorescent options alongside an LED retrofit.
But one area where LED lighting is a clear winner is in cold-temperature warm-up times. In sub-zero or near-freezing temperatures, fluorescent lighting will take several minutes to warm up to reach full brightness.
Now, imagine a cold storage area of a warehouse with an intelligent controls system that uses occupancy sensors. Most cold storage areas aren’t constantly occupied; instead, workers might enter for a few minutes to retrieve or store something, then leave the area unoccupied for a while. The intelligent controls system would turn the area’s lighting on when a worker enters, and switch it off when the worker leaves.
The problem is that with fluorescent lighting, the lighting might not even have time to reach full brightness before the worker leaves the area. This would mean that the worker would be in less than ideal lighting conditions the whole time they are in the cold storage area.
A smart lighting controls system combined with LED lighting is the perfect solution for this scenario. Unlike fluorescent lighting, LED lighting will come on instantly at full brightness, no matter how cold an area gets. This means that in cold storage areas, or in outdoor or unheated spaces in the winter, building owners and managers can realize the savings of an intelligent controls system without inconveniencing workers.
Regulatory & utility incentives
Nearly every commercial or industrial energy-efficient lighting retrofit performed in the United States benefits from some sort of incentive or rebate, and every lighting retrofit is subject to building codes and regulations. Increasingly, both these incentives and regulations target specific technologies.
Many utilities offer rebates and incentives that only apply to retrofits that use LED lighting technology. There are many cases where these rebates can help to offset the often higher initial cost of LED lighting, compared to fluorescent or other technologies.
What’s brand new this year are regulations and building codes that require intelligent lighting systems.
LED-specific rebates and incentives have been in place for several years. What’s brand-new this year are regulations and building codes that require intelligent lighting systems. Starting 1 January, 2014, California’s Title 24 building standards introduce requirements for photosensors, occupancy sensors and multi-level lighting controls in many types of California buildings. ASHRAE’s 90.1-2010–Part 2 standards also include requirements for automatic lighting controls.
Today, many incentves are in place to encourage energy-efficient lighting retrofits and new construction that incorporates intelligent lighting controls with LED lighting.
A compelling combo
Independently, both LED lighting and automatic lighting controls are worth considering for the vast majority of energy-efficient lighting retrofits. With their combined benefits, they offer such a compelling case that it would be hard to ignore.
Written by Andrew Hoehn, a writer for Precision-Paragon [P2] who frequently covers energy-efficient lighting strategies, techniques and trends.