What do You Mean by Smart Lighting?

Commercial Light Controls

How I found out about Smart Lighting

“Smart lighting can be obtained through a system of controls and the use of high quality LED lights.” The first time I had ever gone to a Green Drinks event I spoke with a very interesting electrical engineer who kept throwing around the word controls and the term smart lighting. Being very new to the green community and not really understanding the conversation I had gotten myself into I had to ask, “What the heck are controls and what do you mean by smart lighting?” The question created a smirk on my newly found friend, but he was kind and passionately began to give me a detailed explanation of what a lighting control system is. He told me a few interesting points that I want to share with you as you begin to understand what smart lighting is. First, if used along-side LED and HVAC technology a lighting control system can reduce energy consumption in a very considerable way. Second, most businesses, regardless of size, would benefit from smart lighting. Lastly, he proceeded to say that smart lighting would help businesses more fully understand where they are using their energy and in what places they could reduce it.

So, What is Smart Lighting?

Before you get into the fun, but a little geeky side of smart lighting, let’s begin first with a little background on what a commercial lighting control system is and what it might look like. If you have spent a significant amount of time in a LEED certified building or have been taken through a tour of a LEED building in your area you may have noticed a few things about their lighting (the UofU Spencer Fox Eccles Business Building shown above is seeking LEED Silver certification). As you entered the building’s foyer you may have noticed it didn’t take long for your eyes to adjust from the noon-day light outside. When you entered an unoccupied room the light may have turned on by itself. Spending a considerable amount of time in the room you entered you noticed there was a lot of natural light from windows and as it started to get dark outside you saw the ceiling lights begin to rise in intensity. These are all examples of automated lighting controls. Having lighting controls in a building doesn’t necessarily label it as smart lighting. Otherwise the solar lights on the front of my house would be just as technologically sophisticated as LEED building you visited or will visit. There is a difference to be made between lighting controls and a lighting control system. Lighting control systems bring the individual automated controls together to make one or more intelligent networked systems. Data can be collected on each control and that data is used to make decisions on how you want the lighting to respond in certain situations.

Energy Savings from Smart Lighting

The biggest advantage to smart lighting is the energy savings possibilities: Reduce over-usage by specifying the amount of illumination needed at a particular time or in a particular area, get rid of wasted energy use when areas are unoccupied, and take full advantage of natural light sources by determining if or how much auxiliary light is needed. You can gain the knowledge of your lighting needs and effectively apply what you need and nothing more with a lighting control system. To put the energy savings into perspective, it’s estimated that around 20 to 50 percent of all energy use is from lighting. A significant amount of that can be reduced by switching to more efficient LED lighting technology (LEDs are roughly 80% more efficient than incandescent technology) and then when combined with a control system, waste and misuse of light can be almost entirely be eliminated altogether, seeing an additional 30% in energy reduction according to modern studies. If you think practically eliminating your lighting costs is awesome just wait till you apply these same control systems to your HVAC. For the sake of conversation we won’t get into the energy saving there, but in much the same way you can apply the same system you are using for your lights to your heating and air-conditioning.

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