Guest post by Steve Mesh
Unless you’ve been living under a rock for the past 3-5 years, then you know that “networked lighting control systems” are all the rage for effective and efficient control of luminaires in commercial, institutional and industrial buildings. There has been an explosion of growth in this sector of the industry. Why?
1. Lighting has become increasingly “digital” in recent years. This means that luminaire controllers for networked systems have discrete addresses so that the luminaires they control can be identified – in exactly the same way that a computer network can see uniquely identifiable computers and peripherals. (Note that in some cases, LED drivers may digital and therefore have their own addresses. Otherwise, the controller is the “digital” device that controls a “dumb” driver.)
2. There has been a proliferation of very specific lighting controls requirements in the latest versions of the major energy codes (i.e., ASHRAE 90.1, IECC, Title 24). For many projects, you would need lots of different “unit” equipment in order to meet every single code requirement (i.e., photosensors, occupancy sensors, switches, time clocks, I/O devices
3. Networked lighting control systems allow the user to program a complex set of operational values and behavior (if desired!). Just as one possible example – in many systems currently available, you can set a different timeout variable for the same occupancy sensors at different times of the day. You might want a longer timeout value during normal business hours and a very short timeout value at night, when you don’t expect workers to be in the space. This ability to program simple or more complex behavior of the different components leverages the value of installing a networked lighting control system.
These are only a few of the reasons why these systems are quickly becoming the norm for lighting control in spaces, entire buildings, or even installed on an enterprise-wide basis (i.e., an entire campus). The Lighting Controls Association recently posted a Generic Troubleshooting Guide for Networked Lighting Control Systems (v1.0). There is a fair amount of similarity between various systems offered today. For example, most LED luminaires installed today use 0-10V dimming drivers. Correspondingly, most networked lighting control systems have luminaire controllers that are designed to switch and dim these 0-10V drivers. As such, there are a variety of fairly typical issues that may crop up when using these drivers and controllers. This new troubleshooting guide is a compilation of many common issues based on knowledge of many of the currently available control systems.
In case you didn’t already guess (!!!) – each system has its own methods of commissioning, programming, controlling component behavior, etc. Each system’s software is different, and the onus is on the user or specifier (you!) to select a system that meets the needs of the project. As a result, a generic troubleshooting guide couldn’t possibly cover every potential issue that might arise with a given system. This guide isn’t meant to supplant manuals or troubleshooting guides provided by the control system manufacturer. However, you may find a solution to a common problem by skimming through this guide before getting into the meat of a much more substantial system-specific manual.
This generic guide is in the form of an Excel spreadsheet and is organized as follows. Common problems are addressed for a variety of categories, such as:
• LED Light Source Issues
• Wall Switches/Dimmers
o Battery-powered, wireless
• Occupancy Sensors
o Battery-powered, wireless
o Battery-powered, wireless, with integral photosensor
• Luminaire Controllers
For each line item in a given category, you follow along from left to right to identify the issue, then search for a possible solution. Each row contains the following – and an example copied and pasted from the guide is also shown below:
If you are new to networked lighting control systems, don’t fret. There are lots of concise explanations in the “Notes/Additional Information” cells that describe problems or solutions. This makes the guide even more valuable if this is equipment that you haven’t previously specified or installed.
Keep in mind that this is only version 1.0 – comments (and/or questions) about this version are welcome. It’s also important to realize that controls are changing very rapidly. IoT and PoE are just some of the things that are changing the offerings of networked lighting control systems. As time goes on, the guide may be revised to reflect any of these developments in the market as well as comments from users.