New concepts in lighting efficiency

LonMark International, an organization trying to make LonWorks control networks easy to integrate and install, has been making progress in the area of energy efficiency. Overall, businesses and facility owners have been looking at alternate ways to save operating costs, while the continued increase of energy costs has many wondering just how high they could go.

The group is seeing stellar results in key areas. “There are some exciting projects happening now. I think energy savings is the key. Lighting systems are one of the biggest consumers of wasted energy, so maybe we can focus on ‘smart’ lighting systems and how LonWorks can help shed loads,” said Ron Bernstein, executive director of LonMark.

Street lighting

Street lighting is becoming more energy efficient, which is important since it is the largest energy consumer for most municipalities.

Bernstein described an innovative project in Oslo, Norway, that not only reduces energy costs but also improves safety for drivers. Some of the controllable features include the ability to dim lights so that drivers slow down, to turn up lights when there are accidents and to adjust lighting according to weather conditions.

This type of system, Bernstein explained, is a full LonWorks system. “It is the monitoring of traffic flow and lighting as it relates to energy consumption.”

Though many may not equate traffic patterns with energy efficiency, alternate ways of thinking can help shed loads and translate into an energy-cost savings.

A marriage of sorts

Not all electrical contractors have embraced LonWorks. The main source of contention is that such controls generally fall under the parameters of the heating, ventilating and air conditioning (HVAC), and that puts mechanical and electrical contractors at odds with each other.

Electrical contractors not fully educated and trained in the convergence of integrated systems, such as LonWorks, may be missing out on some prime opportunities.

Bernstein said that electrical contractors can get on board by making sure that their employees have the appropriate training, thus taking their offerings to the next level of system design.

“Most electrical contractors are not control network guys. They need to learn that controls go beyond lighting controls,” he said.

Bernstein said that master system integrators help ensure that all subcontracts and subsystems seamlessly work together in this new converged control market. This is a key function since, according to Bernstein, “individual systems are not designed to talk to each other, but now the move is towards having them all work together.”

LonWorks ensures that the devices from various manufacturers and in the various subsystems will all be able to work together in one environment, using a common control infrastructure. Manufacturers who follow the design guidelines are guaranteed that their components will interoperate with essentially any other device following the same protocol.

The master integrator can then develop much more efficient control strategies and energy-cost savings strategies across the myriad control points in a system, including lighting, power monitoring, elevators, HVAC, security, access, metering and more.

In a typical setting, one would not usually see electrical contractors working directly with HVAC. However, through LonWorks and the like, those contractors must be a part of all systems, because they communicate with one another to achieve the true benefits of an integrated building. Understanding LonWorks takes some time, especially to those accustomed to working in proprietary systems, where most contractors comfortably reside. But the industry has responded with the technical training handbooks for integrators and even through training at the journeyman level through the National Joint Apprenticeship and Training Committee (NJATC).

This means that some electrical contractors will need to increase their overall knowledge of the control market, even into areas that they would not typically deal with. LonMark International, Bernstein said, is in the process of creating an integrator testing certification program that should be made available by year’s end. This program will help give contractors the extra skill set required to work in this type of control environment and provide the marketplace with a team of qualified and trusted industry professionals that can deliver on the value of open systems.

Open control systems remain a bit of a mystery to some, but with enhanced efforts in getting the message out through organizations such as LonMark and increased training options such as those offered by NJATC, it seems that the time has finally arrived for the playing field to be leveled in the open control market. Electrical contractors now have more opportunities, which allows them to get trained, educated, poised and ready to actively compete (and win) in this market.         EC

STONG-MICHAS, a freelance writer, lives in central Pennsylvania. She can be reached via e-mail at JenLeahS@msn.com.