LCA: How would you characterize current and future demand for lighting controls in existing commercial buildings?
It is fragmented. While I travel around the country for work, I live in the Bay Area, so I’ve got a very California-based viewpoint of the situation. The new provisions in California’s Title 24 requires more controls in most every building space, but building owners and occupants often aren’t aware of the new mandates. Trying to navigate the path between what the code requires and what occupants and owners desire is not always easy.
LCA: What opportunities for lighting controls do retrofits involving LED luminaires make readily available compared to conventional lamp-ballast retrofits?
Knuffke: There are huge new opportunities tied to the LED luminaries. Most all manufactures of commercial LED products have an option to include a 0-10V dimming interface (if it’s not the standard in the device) which makes them readily able to be connected to energy saving devices. This opens up options for Partial On, Partial Off, Daylighting and Demand Response in addition to significantly higher personal control of the lighting.
LCA: A majority of LED luminaires are dimmable standard or as a standard option. What control opportunities does this create, and how does it affect the economics of these control options?
Knuffke: Same as I said before regarding opportunities. The economics are very positive, and because of that we’re seeing an almost wholesale movement away from fluorescent fixtures for general lighting in offices in California.
LCA: What controls are essential in a retrofit, and what become problematic to justify in terms of value, when LED lighting presents such a smaller load and therefore lower dollar energy cost savings?
Knuffke: Personal control of lighting levels is essential to avoid occupant issues in the space. Occupancy sensors of all different kinds – Vacancy, Partial On, and Partial Off – will continue to make sense for the long term. I do believe that Daylighting will be called into question more in small spaces since an individual will often set an appropriate level for their comfort when the fixtures are dimmable which challenges the savings potential for a daylighting system.
LCA: What new control opportunities do LED luminaire retrofits make available, such as color tuning?
Knuffke: Color tuning, or Human Centric Lighting, will provide significant new control opportunities as long as it meets the key requirements of being simple to set up and allow for an easy way for individuals to adjust when desired. The major obstacle right now is the lack of a standard controls protocol for color tuning fixtures. Think a lot of folks are hoping a standard becomes the clear choice quickly so as to eliminate the risk of installing these fixtures.
LCA: What are the major differences in how controls are applied to an LED luminaire retrofit, and what do distributors need to know to ensure a successful sale and installation?
Knuffke: The most important thing is understanding what the control method is for the dimmable fixtures, and also taking into account any unintended consequences of a retrofit. If an LED has a low running wattage but a significant inrush, that needs to be taken into account when determining the control devices wattage rating.
LCA: What is typically the role of onboard sensors and controllers versus external sensors and controllers in LED luminaire retrofits? What are the pros and cons of each?
Knuffke: Industry is still seesawing back and forth on this – some applications onboard sensors make a lot of sense, but in others they are overkill and a zone approach has a much better return on investment. I hear companies tout the reconfiguration capabilities with individually controlled fixtures, but if they’re going into spaces without dedicated and well trained facility engineers, who will have the technical acumen to use the software needed to reconfigure the space, it’s not a very compelling argument.
I think the winners will be companies that can offer both, because there’s no one size fits all solution.
LCA: LED luminaires have been touted as a platform for the Internet of Things because they can incorporate onboard sensors that measure temperature, occupancy, etc. What is the potential for lighting control software to be a platform for measuring and reporting these inputs?
Knuffke: I don’t think it’s a question of technology, but of user ability – who will be trained well enough to use these systems. Whenever I hear about the capability of embedded sensors I believe the speaker is thinking of Class A buildings and owner occupied sites, but what about all the small single story locations where there’s no facility engineer? What about your favorite local restaurant – do we think the data they can generate is actually so valuable to them that they’ll learn to use the system?
It’s a really interesting question, because on the mechanical side there’s a host of companies that take care of building HVAC systems. And they make a significant amount of their income based on service contracts. So the question is, will Lighting Companies try to do the same thing? Or will there be another group like local integrators who are much better at data analysis and providing custom solutions for building owners take over this responsibility?
On the other hand I’ve wondered why local utilities aren’t attempting to change their models and become more service oriented. They have relationships with everyone using power in their territories, and you’ve got to ask yourself what will the role of the utility be when zero net energy is no longer a dream but a reality for all new buildings.
LCA: What impact is the proliferation of LED products having on electrical distribution business practices and the world of controls in general?
Knuffke: It’s an amazing dichotomy – there are things that the ED channel sells that haven’t really changed in a generation or two, yet on the other shelves you’ve got solid state lighting products which are undergoing an unbelievable amount of change. Trying to stay up on the technology and the companies is a full time job. As a result you can’t be a little involved in lighting and do a good job – you’ve got to be fully immersed and willing to be open to new companies and products than ever before.
LCA: If you could tell the entire electrical industry just one thing about the role of lighting controls in LED luminaire-based retrofits, what would it be?
Knuffke: It’s not just a good idea, it’s the law. Energy codes have always been concerned with new construction, but the newer versions include very strict requirements for alterations and modifications-in-place. Concerning construction in California, I’ve said there’s no such thing as a small Tenant Improvement – the codes are looking at every chance to reduce lighting power usage in existing building stock.
LCA: Is there anything else you’d like to add about this topic?
Knuffke: I would only add one thing, which is the concern I’ve heard from building owners about the sizable changes going on in lighting and controls. While we’ve become conditioned to buying a new phone or computer every couple of years, buildings are huge investments for a lot of folks, and they don’t want to worry about having to replace systems they’ve installed just a few years ago because a newer and better system is now available.
To assuage the worry they have about the amount of change going on, we should be looking on how we can standardize the lighting elements, protocols and devices we provide, which hopefully they would see as reduced risk for future investments.