Although the construction market is down, manufacturers are going full steam, developing new labor-saving lighting technologies. Savvy electrical contractors can broaden their capabilities during the slump by expanding their new technological knowledge and embracing economic and ecological advantages over traditional lighting sources. Winter is a good time to get up to speed for when residential and industrial construction rebound.

Color my future

In the future, new homes likely will have some areas with controlled color lighting. Renaissance Lighting, Herndon, Va., and other manufacturers already produce downlights to “wash” walls and furniture with color to create moods in home theaters, upscale baths, master bedrooms and more. Homeowners can have color kinetics options formerly available for commercial applications or to the very wealthy.

“You can use a standard 4-inch downlight with rotary controllers, computer programs, Bluetooth-enabled laptops or DMX consoles to create mood lighting. You do not have to attend classes or be certified,” said Jay Stotesbery, sales manager, Renaissance Lighting.

Stotesbery said as more research is done, Renaissance will learn how color affects attitudes. Chromo therapy already is used to calm patients with ADHD and Alzheimer’s disease.

LED considerations/cautions

Solid-state light-emitting diodes (LEDs) have charged to the forefront. LED demand in building applications is projected to rise to 21 percent annually through 2011, according to Barry Weinbaum, Renaissance Lighting’s CEO. This rise is attributed to continued product innovation coupled with environmental and energy concerns.

In addition, LEDs reduce labor costs, provide a safer working environment and avoid disposal issues for contractors, which could also contribute to future growth.

As the LED industry approaches 100,000-hour rated devices, experts say specifiers will include lumens per watt in their selection process as more energy requirements are legislated.

The higher initial cost for LEDs will be offset by lower ownership cost (luminaire price + energy + maintenance + disposal) over the life of the luminaire, said Michael Neary, LED product line manager at Cooper Crouse-Hinds, Syracuse, N.Y.

“LED chip efficiencies and brightness increase at roughly six month intervals ... . The price premium today likely will fall as market acceptance drives higher volumes,” Neary said.

Not all LEDs are created equal. Lighting experts agree replacement lamp and fixture product claims may be overstated. Some retrofit lamps cannot be used in some fixtures, according to Jeff Dross, senior product manager at Kichler Lighting, Independence, Ohio.

“There will be some confusion and misuse if instructions are not carefully followed and warnings heeded. Carefully review the photometric information; check the Energy Star and DOE research on vendor claims; read fine print carefully. Failure to do so will result in unsatisfactory job.”

David Simon, president of Ilumisys Inc., Troy, Mich., said LEDs must be specified properly.

“Insist on seeing independent testing data. Ensure proper color temperatures and color rendering indexes are met and efficiency claims are substantiated at the total luminaire level versus using laboratory numbers from isolated LEDs not operating as part of a total system. See www.energy.gov,” Simon said.

Simon said understanding the high noise-to-signal ratio and what is or is not a good product is essential.

“A very small percentage of LED manufacturers back up their products with independent lab testing, but they still talk about efficiencies, lumen outputs and photometric data,” he said.

Neary agrees. A poorly designed fixture may have exceptionally high brightness but short life due to inadequate thermal management. Neary cautioned watching for false or misleading performance statistics.

“Claims of energy savings or low-wattage LED lamps only tell part of the story. LED products should be judged on lumen performance, energy and the life rating at the expected operating temperature,” he said. “LED technology requires innovative engineering designs optimizing the thermal management needs of the LED with the lumen (light output) requirements for the application. LED life is a measurement of its lumen depreciation and is directly related to how well the system manages heat in the operating environment.”

LEDs work well for applications subjected to frequent vibration, Neary said.

“LEDs are solid-state devices containing no filaments or glass components that could break from vibration or shock, greatly reducing the risk of premature failure,” he said.

However, LEDs are not a good simple screw-based solution, Neary said.

Trim labor costs

Many newer technologies are designed to save labor costs. FlatWire received approval for standard 120V AC electrical wiring applications in the 2008 National Electrical Code. Flexible, paper-thin FlatWire can be folded up to 180 degrees. Homeowners like the fact that cutting into walls to run cable is unnecessary and they can paint or wallpaper over it. With its hidden aspect and safety shorting features, FlatWire is safer than traditional round wiring.

Verve Living System uses an innovative wireless, battery-less technology developed by EnOcean, a Siemens Corp. spinoff. Turning a switch on and off generates enough energy to transmit radio signals up to 300 feet, enabling small wireless sensors to harvest tiny amounts of the energy. It can turn on both incandescent and dimmable compact fluorescent lights, dim them, and turn them off without wiring switches to the lighting sources.

Industrial applications

Energy conservation drives the industrial sector, said Rebecca Hadley-Catter, manager, the SOURCE Cooper Lighting Center.

“We will see more use of linear high-bay fluorescent fixtures as building owners integrate daylight and utilize motion and occupancy sensors. Fluorescent systems are now more efficient with longer lamp life,” she said.

Up to 80 percent of industrial lighting is 25 years old, Hadley--Catter said.

“Retrofitting saves energy and enables building owners to get EPAct tax deductions and rebate dollars. Older technologies can be replaced with high output fluorescent systems. Modular wiring systems (MWS) can reduce installation costs. This plug system eliminates pulling multiple wires with the ability to carry an A, B and a control or dimming wire and also allows flexibility and ease in reconfiguring if needed,” she said.

MWS is installed during the finish construction phase in a project when lighting fixtures are installed. This allows flexibility and avoids costly delays or rework when design changes occur.

Lighting control considerations

Energy conservation will drive daylight harvesting and lighting controls, according to Wayne Morrissette, P.E., electrical engineer at Baskervill, an architecture and design firm in Richmond, Va. Sophisticated lighting software makes it easier to project daylight harvesting. He said that virtually every building should have some level of lighting controls.

“These could be motion sensors, time clocks, photocells, local controls or full building systems. Grouped controls may be cost effective for rooms with four or more switch legs. In some cases, shade controls and A/V device controls could be included in a master remote control for home theaters, presentation rooms and conference rooms. Addressable ballasts allow for more individualized control,” Morrissette said.

Energy codes require automatic shutoff for industrial facilities. Time clocks work well because switching HID and fluorescent sources on/off reduces lifespan. Morrissette points out some factors to consider. His blanket advice: “For all applications, be aware of the limitations of the device being installed.”

TIME CLOCKS—Twenty-four-hour time clocks only look at one day. Seven-day time clocks can be set up for a normal work week—some have holiday overrides. Astronomical time clocks adjust the “on” time for sunset and “off” time for sunrise, based on the season. Because the government changed the start and end dates of daylight savings time in 2007, older programmable time clocks do not display the correct time during the period between the old and new dates.

MOTION SENSORS—Many motion sensors require separate power packs for power. Not all motion sensors have the same range of detection or the use the same type of detection (passive IR vs. ultrasonic vs. dual technology).

PHOTOCELLS—Most photocells have a single threshold level to switch on lighting. Multiple level threshold devices are available to trigger different lighting control sequences for various lighting levels. The location and angle of the photocell significantly contribute to its success as an input device.

LOCAL CONTROLS—All controls are designated to control only specific types of lighting sources. Whether individual or grouped, all controls have wattage limitations. When heat fins are removed from local controls for ganging purposes, wattage limitation is re duced, sometimes significantly. Know the specific type of lighting source to be controlled and the wattage of the switch leg. With this information, virtually any lighting load can be properly and successfully controlled.

SYSTEM LIGHTING CONTROLS—Understand whether dimmers and addressing are distributed (local dimmers that talk to a system), remote (dimmers combined into cabinets in a central location), or a combination of the two. Study the system’s communication requirements (carrier frequency vs. communications/data lines vs. wireless) and how the devices and user interfaces are powered. Morrissette said there should be a system override for processor failure. Devices with individual switch legs can be dimmed, but still come on full brightness for egress when utility power is lost. Lighting control systems should be accessible over the Internet.

Lighting is changing. Can you?

WOODS writes for many consumer and trade publications. She can be reached at patwoods123@hotmail.com.