Guest post by Paul Rudalavage, Synergy Electrical Sales
Investing in a carefully thought out lighting control system can help you create a great building. A lighting control system can make a building look great, make it easier to use, and save energy. Depending on the size of the building and the functionality of the system, a lighting control system can cost anywhere from $10,000 to $100,000+. With significant dollars on the line, it makes sense to get lighting control right. Working with an experienced lighting control professional and a proper needs analysis ensures a successful project. Here is a summary of what I have found to be the 5 key areas to understand and explore when purchasing a lighting control system. They can be covered in any ordered based on what is most important to the customer.
1. User Interface
User interface is the buttons that are pushed to turn lights on and off. This is what the user is going to see every time they enter a room. Are basic control stations appropriate considering the users of the space? Would an engraved (permanently labeled) keypad or backlighted keypad suit the space better? This is a good time to initially discuss if the customer wants to have dimming or scene control (preset lighting) for the space. Having samples on-hand for the user interface discussion is very helpful.
The equipment discussion would be most likely be handled by the Electrical Engineer or Electrical Contractor. Some key points to discuss would be, does the customer want a “centralized panel system” with “home runs” back to an electrical closet? Or would a distributed system analogous to a “powerpack and occupancy sensor system” be more appropriate where every room has some type of control module in it? It is important to review the type of lighting used in the space during this discussion. An office with troffers may be a candidate for a “powerpack and occupancy sensor” based system. On the other hand, a phase control dimming panel would be more appropriate in a restaurant or ballroom. Does the customer want a robust system with wired components or are they interested in a modern system that utilizes wireless technology and can be more flexible?
Does the customer have strict energy-saving goals that they want to achieve with this building or are they satisfied with being code compliant? What code is the building being designed to? There are many strategies to save energy with a lighting control system including occupancy sensing, daylight harvesting, tuning (reducing light levels for energy savings), and individual control for lighting. Which strategies does the customer want to implement?
4. Central Control
This is the one of the areas where an experienced lighting control professional should clearly communicate the system functionality and how multiple components work together to create the lighting a customer desires. A lighting control system can be implemented room by room with no connection between rooms. Or a lighting control system can connect everything back to a central computer which turns lights on and off based on sensor and switch inputs. This is where a customer should clearly understand what they are getting and how it works. There are benefits and drawbacks to each. The benefit of a central computer system is that everything can be controlled, adjusted and monitored from one location. The drawback is that a centralized system requires a time investment from the building staff to learn how the system works and maintenance will usually require both a hardware replacement as well as a software programming of the system. A room by room system will generally have less functionality but will be easier to maintain.
5. Service and Warranty
A modern lighting control system has many devices to make the system work properly. Here, the end customer should make it clear who is going to maintain the system. A service plan can be a great idea for a new system. A service plan can hold lighting control vendors accountable by clearly defining a response time for handling issues with the system. This should be decided before the system is purchased. If the end user is going to maintain the system without a service plan, that may influence what type of system is purchased. The lighting control salesperson’s key responsibility is to teach the customer that every lighting control system has components beyond a simple toggle switch, and that plans should be made to get the most out of the system. Does the customer want an extended warranty for the system as well?
In summary, ask good questions during a consultation with an experienced lighting control salesperson, and you are on your way to a great building.