Part 1 - Common Types of Lighting Control
Michael Heinsdorf, P.E., LEED AP, CDT
MasterSpec Engineering Specification Writer
Lighting control is an effective way to save energy beyond using energy efficient lighting sources and manual or sensor operated switches. A lighting control system controls multiple luminaires at one central point or it may be modular. This type of system allows local control or communicates with building automation systems, and employs energy conservation measures such as daylight harvesting and occupancy sensing. With modern digital communications, the possibilities are essentially limitless, and the integration, operation, and coordination of these systems can become quite complex.
An engineer can use MasterSpec to specify one of four lighting control methods in a commercial or industrial project:
- Lighting control panelboards
- Central or modular dimming controls
- Addressable luminaire controls
- Relay controlled circuits
Note that these four don't cover every single type of lighting control, but they are the most common types of lighting control specified in the United States.
The following is a breakdown of how each of the four types of lighting control works.
The following are some advantages and disadvantages for each lighting control system.
It should be noted that these four methods all can use similar time, light sensing, or computer control to control lighting. These systems can generate control signals internally by using occupancy schedules or responding to alarms. They can also accept external inputs from manual overrides, daylight harvesting sensors, or the building automation system that can trigger action on part of the lighting control system and send information to related control systems, such as power demand control, tenant billing, or the building automation system.
Choosing the proper lighting control system will depend on many different factors, some of which include the owner's desire for flexibility, energy savings, individual or group control, sensor or building automation system integration, reporting, ease of use, and maintenance. The pros and cons of each type of system should be discussed between the engineer and the design team during programming or design development. The results of that discussion can help the engineer make the appropriate choice of lighting control system and coordinate the information on the drawings and in the specifications.