Meeting regulatory requirements via wireless lighting controls

Wireless lighting controls bring a decisive change to the marketplace.


Government initiatives for energy-efficient buildings make intelligent lighting controls much more than just an optional benefit of energy-saving lighting systems. While strict, these eco-friendly codes and standards promote energy sustainability for buildings and the environment.

Figure 1: In a wireless system, the intelligent control can be provided by a dedicated external control device whose output is connected either via the digital addressable lighting interface (DALI) or 1 to 10 V bus to the LED driver. Thus, multiple lights can be controlled simultaneously. Courtesy: EnOcean Inc.

California Title 24, for example, demands that buildings have five dimming levels, automatic lighting shut-off controls on every floor, rooms equipped with occupancy and manual shut-off controls, occupancy sensors and controls in corridors, warehouse aisles and open areas automatically set to reduce lighting by 50% when unoccupied, and demand-response automatic lighting controls. Overall, the implementation of such a system reduces energy consumption by at least 15%.

High-efficiency control at low cost

With older wired technologies, these regulations conflict with building owners’ interests of keeping labor and installation costs low when retrofitting their facilities with automation capabilities. Furthermore, a fast return on investment can be achieved only if intelligent control systems can be installed easily. This is where the key advantages of wireless control come into play, as no new control wiring is needed to upgrade a building’s existing lighting control system or expanding it at any time.

The wireless industry is crowded with competing wireless standards using batteries. Systems that rely on batteries require future maintenance with swapping out the dead batteries. This is both costly and time-consuming when considering the thousands of sensors and switches deployed throughout large-scale buildings.

Standard-based communication

Based on standardized application profiles, energy-harvesting wireless devices from different vendors can seamlessly communicate with each other. This approach of open connectivity and interoperability offers a complete solution of integrated wireless LED controls, including 1 to 10 V LED controllers (added to the LED driver, solar-powered occupancy and light level sensors, kinetic-powered light switches, and a remote commissioning software tool). With the wireless operation, the sensors and switches can be optimally positioned in a room, even on glass walls or furniture, without reconstruction. The controller receives wireless telegrams from all linked self-powered wireless switches and sensors, and adjusts its outputs accordingly.

Such a system can cover a wireless daylight-harvesting application, for example, by automatically adapting the light level to the amount of available natural light in a room, measured by light level sensors. In a typical commercial building, it is possible to save 20% to 30% of energy with such an automated control system.

Similarly, room occupancy sensors, which automatically switch off the lights after a preconfigured period of time when the room is left unoccupied, are part of another energy-saving application. Lighting automatically turns back on once occupancy is again detected. Additionally, the occupancy sensor can be used to switch between a high and a low illumination.

Access over the air

More advanced settings, such as thresholds, dimming levels, ramp speeds, or timers, can be changed wirelessly via a remote commissioning interface. Employing a Windows-based laptop computer equipped with a remote commissioning tool, an installer can locate wireless devices throughout the facility, logically connect the controller to switches and sensors, and configure settings in the controller over the air—completely without physical access, saving time and costs. It also is possible to link the LED controller via a central unit or a gateway to supervisory building automation systems.

Jim O’Callaghan, EnOcean Inc., Cottonwood Heights, Utah

Wireless standards offer valuable benefits to LED control. They allow users to easily install, retrofit, move, and commission LED lighting control even in complex systems, achieving large economies of scale while also adhering to strict governmental regulations.

Jim O'Callaghan is president of EnOcean Inc. and has spent his career building brands, customers, and value for a host of innovative technology companies, both public and private. In 2005, he joined EnOcean to establish a North American presence.

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