As energy demand continues to soar and supply levels remain static, manufacturers are developing innovative solutions to conserve energy.

Thomas Edison couldn’t have known in 1879 that his improvement to electric lighting—the invention of a practical, long-lasting incandescent bulb—would spark a growing industry of modern lighting controls designed to make the technology energy efficient.

While lighting controls in general are not a new idea for improving occupant comfort, productivity or even integration with standby power systems, they are still the most obvious place to look for energy conservation solutions, with good reason. Commercial buildings currently consume one-third of the country’s total energy and two-thirds of supplied electricity.

New CII lighting control technologies are entering the marketplace almost daily as manufacturers step up research and development to help consumers conform to federal- and state-mandated energy reductions, yet there is room for more technologies to penetrate the market.

“It’s a technology that is under-utilized. In my experience, the average public building is not being equipped with enough lighting control,” said Mike Piraino, lighting controls market development manager at Pass & Seymour/Legrand.

The Energy Information Administration’s (EIA) most recent Commercial Buildings Energy Consumption Survey, completed in 2003, estimates there is more than 51 billion square feet of lit commercial floor space in the United States. Approximately 9 percent of total lit area is actually operated by lighting controls integrated into an energy management and control system. Only 5 percent of lit floor space has sensors to control daylighting.

Ode to code

Manufacturers unanimously agree that changes in energy codes are driving technological advances. For instance, the key requirement in early versions of energy codes was line-voltage wall switches that evolved into requirements for occupancy sensors. Prospective changes now focus on the incorporation of daylighting technologies.

Thomas Leonard, director, marketing and product management at Leviton Lighting Management Systems, considers code compliance to have the biggest single impact on CII development.

“The adoption of ASHRAE/IES 90.1 as a minimum energy standard across the nation has had a significant impact in bringing controls to spaces 5,000 square feet or greater, previously left to the discretion of the owner. Now that automatic lighting control is a requirement, we are seeing more creative and effective applications of controls than ever before,” Leonard said.

With the advent of environmental activities like the Leadership in Energy & Environmental Design (LEED) program, administered by the U.S. Green Building Council, the necessity to integrate lighting control with a building management system becomes even more critical in order to achieve energy savings beyond what the energy codes are stipulating, said Scott Jordan, product marketing manager for Square D.

“Accruing LEED credits is especially difficult without an integrated system, but when the lighting control system becomes part of the building system, energy cost savings really begin to add up,” Jordan said.

“Secondly, emergent lighting control systems not only control lighting, they allow users to monitor their lighting systems. Smart systems today allow building operators to monitor the run time on their lamps and ballasts and even receive e-mails when it is time to schedule a relamping project or know when a ballast has failed,” Jordan said.

According to Denise Fong, lighting designer at Seattle-based Candela, the need to integrate remote monitoring capabilities from a single place is increasing for retailers, school districts and other entities with several satellite locations.

“There are now control systems to monitor use at multiple locations and provide feedback on maintenance requirements, as well as provide load-shedding capabilities to reduce peak electricity demand,” Fong said.

The aspect of commissioning, calibration and ongoing maintenance of these systems also is opening up new business avenues for electrical contractors. As demands on a building change over time, control systems need to be adjusted. Contractors, especially those with design/build skills, have a greater opportunity to increase profit by incorporating CII lighting control services and creating ongoing programs that will keep buildings operating at maximum efficiency.

According to the 2006 study, Electrical Contractors: Their Key and Evolving Role in Design/Build//Design Assist Projects, firms that work on a design/build or design/assist basis derive a higher percentage of revenue from CII work compared to contractors who don’t perform design services.

Couple that with the fact that Section 1331 of the Energy Policy Act of 2005 is providing building owners with a financial incentive through the Energy Efficient Commercial Buildings Deduction. Advocated by the National Electrical Manufacturers Association and the Natural Resources Defense Council, it provides for deductions up to the entire cost of energy-efficient interior lighting from the owner’s taxes in the year the lighting is placed in service.

The incentive for public and private buildings is capped at $0.60/square foot if the new lighting’s power meets certain requirements, including the reduction of lighting power density below the maximum allowable lighting power densities listed in ASHRAE/IES Standard 90.1-2001.

Designers also are increasingly tasked with implementing energy-saving strategies within the scope of green trends, Fong said.

“The interest in creating a more sustainable environment is driving energy-saving strategies both in new lamp technologies and in controls. Some of this will be driven by legislative controls in making energy codes more stringent. Some will be driven by market desire,” Fong said.

New developments, new opportunities

Occupancy sensors: Occupancy sensors have been hailed by many as the single most effective control that has entered the modern market due to their simplicity and ability to turn lights off when a room is not occupied. Most market entries are stand-alone devices, however, new technological advancements are providing integration into whole-building lighting control systems. Due to the fact that industrial facility lighting, in particular warehouse lighting, can be controlled by occupancy sensors, significant energy-consumption dollars can be saved.

Fulfilling the latest demands in industrial facility lighting is moving at the speed of fork trucks through facilities. Officials at Westinghouse Lighting Solutions indicate that, even with “instant-on” fluorescent fixtures, full light output isn’t reached until after the occupant is past the lighting fixture.

“Occupancy-sensing dimming fixtures can be so valuable in these situations. These fixtures instantly reach full light output upon sensing occupancy then dim down to 10 percent when they are not needed. Therefore, they still provide light and lower energy costs, while preventing a pitch-black facility and a general feeling of being ‘unsafe’ in the dark,” said Jay Goodman, managing director, Westinghouse Lighting Solutions.

Expanding the occupancy concept, high bay fluorescent lighting is creating a long-awaited opportunity to control industrial lighting with the installation of fixture-mounted occupancy sensors.

Fluorescent dimmers: Measurable strides in energy conservation are being made in building real-time mastering, but some of the largest leaps are in the areas of fluorescent dimming controls. Said Candela’s Fong, “The advancements in CII lighting controls having the greatest effect on energy conservation are in reliable fluorescent dimming. We’re also seeing some metal halide dimming, but it’s less well developed than with fluorescent lighting.”

In addition to advances in dimming interior fluorescent lighting, outdoor lighting is a focus. “For offices, schools and retail buildings especially, the bulk of lighting is going to be found in those two areas, and the ability to dim them will enhance energy savings. Fluorescent dimming ballasts will emerge as a mainstream product much like the electronic ballast did over the past 15 years,” said Square D’s Jordan.

Distributed topology: Another key technological development in CII, as well as residential lighting, is distributed lighting control topology, recently introduced by Square D. Because the platform isn’t central-processor dependent, it allows more flexibility in design and on-site installation of a lighting control system.

“In a distributed topology, control functionality is built into each input and output device itself, eliminating the need for a centralized controller,” Jordan said.

Daylighting systems: As with LEED guidelines, the U.S. General Services Administration (GSA) is emphasizing the relationship between electrical lighting and daylighting, which could have a future impact on the type and quantity of lighting systems.

“The direction we’re headed is better-quality lighting and lighting systems that work with daylight. For energy efficiency, when you’re not turning lights on, you’re saving money,” said Don Horn, GSA’s director of sustainable design.

A recent Department of Energy-sponsored study of approximately 20 climate-responsive new buildings showed daylighting reduced lighting energy usage by 55 percent.

Leviton Lighting Management Systems is concentrating some of its CII resources on developing daylight harvesting options that integrate photocell and occupancy sensor inputs into a simple, single system.

“It’s all about getting to the next level of efficiency by using light sources as shrewdly as possible, and making full use of free, available light,” Leviton’s Leonard said.

“These can be active systems that dim luminaires at different levels based on their proximity to the available natural light source or straightforward switching systems that engage sets of lamps or rows of fixtures based on natural light levels,” Leonard said.

Just the beginning

All the technological enhancements are funneling down to the contractor, whose toughest job is staying current on the new systems and devices—many of which are proprietary.

Jordan said innovative manufacturers now are trying to do what the electronics industry did when home theater systems became popular. Due to consumer frustration with the installation of multiple individual components, the industry developed the home theater in a box.

“Likewise, we are now beginning to see this packaging concept applied to lighting control systems. Such systems are being designed with the installer in mind, with preconfigured solutions that allow installers to quickly complete an installation with a minimum of fuss,” Jordan said.

Despite the evolution of technologies, contractors are in a unique position to offer value-added services to facility owners and managers and leveraging expertise to offer tangible energy savings and financial rebates to customers.

“Even though controls are advancing, this is merely the beginning. Lighting control will follow the same footsteps as HVAC, with control being a common and expected, as well as mandated, element of lighting systems,” Leonard said. EC

MCCLUNG, owner of Woodland Communications, is a construction writer from Iowa. She can be reached at mcclung@lisco.com.