Craig DiLouie recently had the opportunity to interview Craig Casey, Building Science Leader at Lutron Electronics, about luminaire-level lighting controls (LLLC) for an upcoming article for tED Magazine, the official publication of the NAED. Transcript follows.
DiLouie: How would you define luminaire-level lighting controls (LLLC)?
Casey: From an industry standpoint, LLLCs are physical lighting control devices integrated into a lighting fixture, typically by the fixture manufacturer.
LLLCs use wireless communication to enable individual fixture control, and the LLLC-equipped fixtures can also be grouped together to create lighting zones within the lighting control system. These devices may also incorporate sensors that record and communicate occupancy or daylighting data to further enhance system intelligence.
Lutron offers LLLC devices that include RF occupancy sensors and ambient light sensors which can be manufactured into a luminaire by the OEM or provided with a retrofit kit by the fixture manufacturer.
DiLouie: What are the benefits of LLLC for electrical distributors, contractors, and owners?
Casey: For the contractor, using a digital solution – LLLC devices or digital drivers – simplifies the wiring and installation of controls and fixtures because power wiring can be run independently of control wiring. Zones can be determined even after the installation is complete. With analog drivers, contractors must know exactly how the fixture will be zoned while they are wiring the job. Any rezoning will require rewiring. In addition, LLLCs typically come preinstalled in the fixture and do not require a control wire – which is necessary in other wired applications.
The contractor has the flexibility to program the system – including grouping fixtures together – later, even after wiring is complete. By reducing wiring and expanding set up options, LLLCs can save time, lower operating costs, and deliver a more future-proof install, allowing the contractor to be very efficient with their time.
For building owners, LLLCs can provide more flexibility. LLLC-equipped fixtures can be controlled individually, or grouped digitally together, and those groupings can be easily adjusted over time as space needs change using just software – no need for rewiring. When the sensor option is used, LLLCs can also provide data to support advanced energy savings and other business decisions. For example, daylighting sensors can be programmed to dim each fixture when daylight is sufficient, optimizing natural lighting in the space, and occupancy sensor data can offer insights into how spaces are being utilized at the fixture level to inform space layout.
Because these devices are installed in the fixture by the OEM, driver compatibility is resolved before the fixture is shipped. Distributors don’t have to worry about compatibility and can be confident they are selling the contractor a system that will result in an easy installation and setup with limited callbacks.
DiLouie: Understanding that there may be many product options, what are basic, common configurations? How do they typically install, configure for sequences of operation, intelligence inside or outside the luminaire, operate independently or group, and how is control operation managed after installation?
Casey: There are a few things to consider when it comes to LLLC application and configuration. Because these devices provide individual fixture control, and offer digital programming, there are a range of ways in which fixtures – or fixture groups – can be controlled.
Moreover, there are LLLC models that have additional sensing capability. The RF and sensor models can be mixed and matched within a system so that you only use the technology that matters in that space. For example, an open office space with lots of daylight may benefit from daylighting capabilities, but a conference room may be more functional with uniform lighting and not require the sensor.
Finally, these LLLCs are typically part of a larger system that can provide a range of flexible control options. You may be able to mix LLLCs in some spaces with more centralized zone-control fixture configurations in others. LLLCs are another tool in your toolkit, and it is important to design and deploy that right solution in the right space.
With a Lutron control system, the facility manager can make programming changes right from an app without even having to be in the space. Settings can be adjusted, lighting can be rezoned, or fixtures can be easily adjusted for a special event right from an app on a phone or tablet.
DiLouie: Where do you see LLLC fitting into the future of lighting and lighting control?
Casey: LLLCs represent an additional strategy for controlling fixtures but are just one of many available solutions. LLLCs continue to enhance the specifier’s ability to provide their customers with the best lighting control designs for each project’s performance needs, budget, and timeframe.
LLLCs and their associated benefits will continue to improve overtime, and its important to look for manufacturers with a proven track record who are committed to providing ongoing technology upgrades, service, and training for enhanced system performance over time.
DiLouie: Do any special design factors need to be learned or addressed? Is there anything different about LLLC that requires special training or changes in traditional design and installation practices?
Casey: Wireless systems and LLLC will continue to simplify lighting control design and specification because you don’t have to have all the project details up front. Contractors don’t have to be worried about wired zones, or zone configuration, just the power to the fixture. Because of the tremendous opportunity for enhanced lighting performance, the lighting designer has a broader palette than ever, and can enjoy greater freedom to design lighting that meets the individual needs of every job.