Automate and Save

In today's economy, energy-saving measures have become more important than ever as the price of electricity per kilowatt-hour has steadily increased. Lighting systems in commercial and institutional facilities can take up a much higher portion of a facility's total energy consumption than many people realize, explains Scott Jordan of Square D/Schneider Electric.

04/01/2003


In today's economy, energy-saving measures have become more important than ever as the price of electricity per kilowatt-hour has steadily increased.

Lighting systems in commercial and institutional facilities can take up a much higher portion of a facility's total energy consumption than many people realize, explains Scott Jordan of Square D/Schneider Electric. "We've gone into a lot of industrial facilities and found that they leave their lights on 24/7," he says. "They never turn them off, and they've never thought about what it costs to leave their lights on all the time. In fact, in most buildings, the cost of lighting is going to be about 30% of your whole electrical bill."

In addition to rising energy costs and the strain lighting can place on a building's power load, federal initiatives are now in place and driving the need to reduce energy consumption. These initiatives have created new state and federal laws requiring facility managers to reduce electrical loads in both new and renovated buildings.

One of the simplest things a facility can do to decrease the amount of energy consumed by lighting, as well as for the facility as a whole, is to reduce lighting use during non-occupied or peak rate periods. One of the best ways to do this is to automate lighting control. And by using an Ethernet-based system, automation can become a much less painful process. Automated lighting control has caught up to the digital age, thank goodness.

The Ethernet answer

For years, facilities have been linking their office systems with Ethernet. Ethernet has become so widely used that it's wired into most existing facilities and is built into all new facilities. The fast, cost-effective system is a necessary component of facility computer systems and more recently, has become prevalent in the monitoring and controlling of plant operations, as well as with integrating factory and business systems. According to Jordan, the addition of lighting automation to the list of Ethernet's possible uses is a natural progression. "It follows that the speed and low cost of Ethernet should be considered for automated lighting control," he says. "Since Ethernet is already in use, there's no need for a building owner to incur the cost for pulling dedicated wiring for various automation systems—such as lighting control, HVAC and office systems—as has been the typical practice."

Another plus of using Ethernet is its accessibility. A facility manager can achieve quick access to the system via a desktop computer, laptop or PDA. For example, he can set the system up in such a way that if a breaker trips, he'll be notified via a text message on his PDA.

Speed is yet another benefit. High-speed LAN expedites communication to levels unachievable by proprietary systems; with proprietary network architecture, special gateways are needed to convert information into an Ethernet format, thus slowing down the process. And, lighting controllers in different locations are able to communicate with each other quickly using this system, as they are all peers on the same LAN. This centralized manner of communication facilitates an environment where one switch can control one, some or all of the lighting in an entire facility.

Additionally, Ethernet is relatively inexpensive to purchase and maintain. Unlike proprietary lighting control equipment, Ethernet components are available over-the-counter, incur lower training costs, and cater to a wider range of skill level due to ease of use. Jordan points out that in many older lighting automation systems, a facility would utilize its own, "home brewed" system that perhaps just one person would know how to operate. This sort of scenario created problems during transitional periods; if the operator left, for whatever reason, how would the new guy know how to use the system?

"Clearly, low cost of off-the-shelf technology is beneficial to end users," Jordan says. "But the benefits of using Ethernet extend to savings in time and labor. Not only does Ethernet use existing facility infrastructure, it also can be maintained by existing IT staff and does not require that someone on the team be knowledgeable about proprietary lighting control networks."



Benefits of Ethernet-enabled lighting control automation:

Uses standard communications system

Provides easy access via PCs

Expedites communication

Promotes energy efficiency and cost savings



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