Connect to Savings with Networked Lighting Systems

Lighting controls have been in use for decades, but networked lighting control systems really connect the dots. In these systems, individual components can exchange digital data to optimize energy savings and lighting performance. One study showed that these control systems can provide an average energy savings of 49%, and possibly more, depending on building type.

How networked lighting control works

Although networked lighting control systems vary somewhat by manufacturer, they generally contain the following elements:

  • Connectivity. Individual fixtures and control devices are capable of exchanging data with other devices within the system, as well as a central controller.
  • Sensors measure occupancy and light levels, as well as other indoor environmental conditions, such as temperature and humidity.
  • Information processing. Inputs from sensors are combined with programmed information (such as operating schedules) to identify and implement control settings to optimize lighting.
  • User interface. Generally online or through an accompanying app, this allows system users to review information, configure control settings or control individual fixtures.

Controls form the heart of networked lighting systems and provide the savings. Most systems have the following control capabilities:

  • Occupancy sensing. Turning lights or off based on the presence or absence of people in a space.
  • Daylight harvesting. Increasing or reducing light levels based on the amount of natural light in an area.
  • High-end trim. The ability to set the highest light level for a space or group of fixtures.
  • Scheduling. Automatically controlling lighting equipment based on time of day, week or year.
  • Personal control. Individuals have the ability to adjust light levels for a fixture or group of fixtures in a space.

Some systems also have luminaire level lighting control, in which each fixture contains an occupancy or daylight embedded within the fixture itself.

Savings with networked light controls

According to a study by the Northwest Energy Efficiency Alliance and the DesignLights Consortium, networked lighting controls can provide average energy savings of 49%. Although all building types realized energy savings, warehouses (68%), offices (64%) and restaurants (59%) had the highest levels of savings.

A number of factors can impact energy savings in networked lighting control systems. These include building characteristics and occupancy patterns, as well as control strategies and settings used.

Although there is some similarity between different building types, individual building characteristics do play a role in how much energy savings can be achieved through networked lighting controls. Buildings with long operating hours and varying occupancy patterns can generally realize the greatest savings.

Savings are also dependent upon the control strategies and settings chosen. For example, implementing high-end trim can have a significant impact on energy savings. Shorter occupancy timeouts can also deliver greater savings.

Layering multiple control strategies can provide additional savings. Proper installation, programming and commissioning are also critical to optimizing savings.

Lighting controls provide healthy savings for hospital

Toronto General Hospital installed a networked lighting control system in its non-patient common areas. The system detected daylight and occupancy for lighting controls. Additional capabilities included tuning light to specific tasks, load shedding (distributing demand for electrical power across multiple power sources) and personal control. Annual energy costs were reduced by $47,000. Staff cell phones were linked to the lighting system to evaluate occupant movement patterns. This approach improved patient locating and transport scheduling.

As the hospital case study shows, networked lighting controls can also be integrated for use in other applications, such as asset tracking and wayfinding, that can save money and improve operations. If your lighting system is older and in need of an upgrade, consider getting it connected. Your local electric cooperative even offers Power Moves® rebates for qualifying energy efficient lighting upgrades. Contact your co-op’s energy advisor to start the conversation.