In April, ELECTRICAL CONTRACTOR was at Lightfair, the biggest convention of lighting companies and innovators. Lighting is a dynamic industry, and the way in which it is integrating with building systems and technologies indicates a greater trend. In this way, we can look to lighting as a trailblazer for other systems in the electrical market at large.
We sat down with Brian Donlon, Sales Vice President—North America, Lutron Electronics Co. Inc., to ask some questions about wireless lighting and controls, where that market is heading and how its future affects electrical contractors. According to Donlon, the lighting market is shifting to meet contractor and end-user needs, but he also indicated contractors could view wireless controls and systems as allies, not enemies.
Read some select questions and answers from our interview below.
How are the trends of wireless lighting and controls as well as the shortage of electrical contractors affecting the industry from a manufacturing and product development standpoint?
Manufacturing is not specifically affected by a fluctuation in the EC profession, but innovative manufacturers will always look for ways to make lighting control easier to design, install, program and upgrade, including simpler control protocols and tools that make the contractor’s job easier and less time consuming.
Interesting. So product developers like Lutron see what's happening in the electrical construction industry and react to it in a way that supports contractors. How do you see this relationship evolving in the coming years?
The Internet of Things and connected control systems are changing what customers expect in terms of lighting management, energy use data, and increasing employee comfort/productivity. And that changes what the contractor has to provide to their customers.
Wireless controls deliver unprecedented flexibility. Because you don’t have to rewire a system to expand capability, wireless lighting control often creates greater, ongoing opportunity for retrofit installation and even system expansion as budgets allow, or as a building’s requirements change over time.
Speaking directly to wireless, from an electrical contractor's standpoint, wireless systems are often a source of apprehension, because they eliminate the EC's traditional bread and butter: cabling. Can you offer any insight to allay fears that wireless will suck up EC-oriented work? After all, building owners still need ECs as installers and integrated technology experts, correct?
As long as lighting is being driven by a 120/277-volt power source, the electrical contractor will always be essential to the controls installation! Wireless lighting control solutions will ultimately work to create more work for contractors, not less. In retrofit situations, for example, where a wired system might be cost prohibitive, a wireless system can be the ideal solution. Wireless lighting control options empower the contractor to provide more flexible solutions and expand the number of controls that can be installed in any home or office.
As long as lighting is being driven by a 120/277-volt power source, the electrical contractor will always be essential to the controls installation.
And, as electrical contractors become better-versed on integration between lighting, HVAC, shading and temperature control, the more valuable they will bring to their clients who count on them for system design, installation, programming and upgrades.
(Editor's note: Be sure to check out our upcoming 2016 Profile of the Electrical Contractor, available mid-July. As a sneak peak, our research shows more ECs are doing more of this kind of work.)
Lutron's at the forefront of lighting trends with products like the Vive lighting control system. When it comes to lighting and controls, what environments or uses do you think are best for ECs to specify and install such a holistic solution?
The most important aspect of Lutron’s new Vive scalable, wireless lighting control system is that it offers a solution for every space in a commercial building environment. A customer can start by controlling one light in one space and can scale up to meet the control and energy monitoring needs of an entire floor or building.
Vive offers an innovative, scalable solution with no limits on capacity or function. In new and retrofit installations, Vive offers the right lighting control solution, at the right time, and at the right budget. These are the kinds of innovative solutions Lutron is committed to providing to our customers, making lighting control available for every project.
Thanks to Brian for his time. Be on the lookout for more coverage of emerging markets and lighting in ELECTRICAL CONTRACTOR's issues later this year. Of course, our next issue will contain our biannual Profile of the Electrical Contractor, which covers more on this trend and others. And don't forget our September issue coverage of the NECA Show, where we will be speaking to more product development experts.