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Does your business have control of its lights?

Kevin Stubbs FSLL
November 15, 2017

During a team meeting, Joe Jannetta (Managing Director at Llumarlite) and our team wondered: how many buildings and their owner/occupiers would have the initiative and be able to take control of their lights, either by automatic presence/absence control, or by reprogramming them to ensure they switch off during the WWF Earth Hour event. 

Earth Hour is an ideal opportunity to check that a building has all the relevant Operation &Maintenance (O&M) manuals, installation/update records and capabilities within the building and with the energy manager and FM team.

Having first made sure we had control of our own building, we chose to spend our Saturday evening out and about in Central London to see what happened, in real time, during Earth Hour.  Did you have control of your lights on that night?  If not, you may be wasting precious resources and your company’s money; and not just for Earth Hour!

The basics needed to ensure you have control are:

  • A passion for minimising use of the worlds’ energy resources, “demand side reduction”.  A by-product of which is:  you, your company or client saving money.
  • Reliable lighting control system that is serviceable, fully functioning and regularly maintained.
  • Control philosophies updated to suit the changing demands of your building’s occupants.
  • Dimming capability should be specified to maximise savings by daylight harvesting, Illuminance adjustment to suit users’ tasks and preferences, and facility to adapt output through life - constant Illuminance.
  • O&M manuals should guide the FM team to the original settings i.e. how to maintain the system correctly, obtain spares, replace and recommission faulty equipment.
  • Training the FM team to ensure the incumbent team know when and what they should do to maintain the system and how to update, reconfigure and recommission to suit the current occupancy and use.
  • Regular re-assessment of needs being part of maintenance by the FM team or via a partner/supplier in the form of a maintenance contract.
  • Ensuring that if the lighting control is linked to other systems they never “override on” (a classic old BMS system mistake), and that any integration links (such as load shedding, occupancy information sharing for air-conditioning etc.) are still set up correctly, fully functioning and indeed need to remain in use – whether centralised  or at local level.

Did you have control of your lights on that night?

It is not the control system’s protocol, type of dimming system or the aesthetics that save the most energy.  However, keeping everything as simple, understandable and flexible as it can be means:

  • People using or maintaining the lighting system will understand it, so it will not be overridden.
  • Explaining the lighting system to them will help them buy into it, not try to override it or fight it.
  • Ensure that short term fixes do not drag your system down.  Often a person may demand “Will you fix that light that keeps going off in the corner before my important meeting?” and before you know it - someone has re-programmed the entire floor or system to not switch off.
  • Performance check and review regularly. If your system can do what is wanted of it, you could re-set the system and save over 50% of your energy costs.
  • Adding extra detectors and components to ensure the lighting system can keep up with what you need is a small cost, assuming of course that your system has been properly designed with 25-50% spare capacity.  I might add, that respectfully training people at all levels what the control system aims to do for them, can also mean a     greater level of tolerance from such users.
  • Switch on lighting only when it is needed. Switch it off automatically when it is not (absence control).
  • The cost of a few switches (absence control) is often considered too much at the time of installation; however, allowing the occupant to set their preferred lighting levels means they are empowered and happy, and you are probably saving money as well (it’s most likely they will be dimming down) whilst also benefitting from ever more productive employees.

With respect to “smart systems” – it’s you that needs to be smart. Make sure that you have the features and functions you need, to ensure that you have control of your lights.  Buzzwords won’t help - the control system needs only to be “smart enough” to give the functionality and savings you need.

Should you want help making the most of your lighting system Llumarlite will be happy to share our experience on either controls or upcycling your lighting, to help reduce energy consumption by demand side reduction.