Category: Craig’s Lighting Articles

Lighting Control Takes on Plug Loads

My contribution to the October 2021 issue of tED Magazine covered growing demand for plug load control in new buildings, a need that can be handled by lighting control systems.

My contribution to the October 2021 issue of tED Magazine covered growing demand for plug load control in new buildings, a need that can be handled by lighting control systems. Reprinted with permission.

In the past 15 years, commercial building energy codes increasingly incorporated automatic control of lighting loads. While the combination of LED lighting and detailed control strategies dramatically curbed lighting’s share of building energy consumption, code makers started to address plug loads, a substantial load and the fastest-growing type. Again, lighting controls can help by integrating plug load control.

The problem

Plug loads include any devices that plug into standard electrical receptacles, such as task lighting, computer printers, photocopiers, cell phone chargers, personal fans/heaters, and appliances like coffeemakers. Many applications feature plug loads, though office buildings are quite intensive.

A great deal of office equipment is used intermittently during operating hours and not at all overnight. Equipment with enabled standby mode will go idle but still draw power. Even equipment that powers to Off may continue to draw a small amount of power as long as it’s connected to a socket, so as to be able to restart quickly; this is called a vampire, phantom, or parasitic load.

Plug and process loads accounted for 40 percent of commercial building energy consumption in 2017, according to the Department of Energy. A study estimated plug loads ranging from 25 percent in an overall less-efficient building to 50 percent in an overall high-efficiency building.

A solution

Image courtesy of Leviton

By automatically removing these devices from power when they’re not being used, significant energy savings can result, ranging from 20 to 50 percent. A 2012 General Services Administration office building study found that even with standby mode enabled, automatic receptacle control captured significant energy savings ranging from 26 percent in workstations to nearly 50 percent in kitchens and printer rooms, with highest savings for 24/7 devices such as printers, copiers, and kitchen appliances.

The energy savings were compelling enough to convince code makers to adopt the strategy. California’s Title 24, Part 6 and codes based on ANSI/ASHRAE/IES 90.1 (2010 and later) and the 2021 version of the International Energy Conservation Code (IECC) require automatic receptacle control. Specifically, a significant portion of receptacles in certain spaces be automatically controlled by scheduling, occupancy sensing, and/or automatic signal from another building system. The lighting control system offers these inherent control capabilities that can accommodate plug load control. Hotel and motel guest rooms have separate but similar requirements.

“Integrating plug loads with the lighting controls makes sense because it reduces the number of devices that need to be installed and therefore the cost and complexity of the total system,” said Charles Knuffke, Systems Evangelist, Wattstopper/Legrand (www.Wattstopper.com). “Instead of having separate timeclocks or occupancy sensors for the lighting and plug load controls, a single input device can communicate to both lighting and plug load controllers.”

He added that one set of inputs makes it easier for the owner to understand and manage their operations. If a networked control system is installed, the sensors can serve lighting, plug load, and HVAC control.

Options

When enacted by the lighting control system, a plug load control solution uses scheduling, occupancy sensing, or a combination of the two (e.g., scheduling during day, sensing at night), depending on the system.

Scheduling is relatively simple and well suited to larger, open applications with predictable occupancy and loads that must remain On during business hours even when they’re not being used. A manual switch on the receptacle or nearby wall provides user override up to two hours.

Occupancy sensing is based on detected rather than predicted occupancy, which can generate higher energy savings. This approach is ideal for smaller, enclosed spaces where occupancy is intermittent and unpredictable. If the sensor is auto-On, it can function as its own override.

The controlled load is the receptacle, able to respond to a control signal or fed power by a branch circuit that can respond to the signal. Some wirelessly controlled receptacles also feature onboard power metering. In a duplex receptacle, both outlets can be controlled or just one, allowing the uncontrolled outlet to operate loads that must remain On. Energy codes require controlled receptacles be permanently marked to distinguish them as controlled; starting in 2014, the National Electrical Code produced standardized markings for use.

“Contractors and facility managers will want to ensure a balance between efficiency and convenience, installing well-marked, controllable receptacles in locations that are reserved for loads like task lighting, small appliances, and small electronics such as heaters and monitors not designed for 24/7 use,” said Devis Mulunda, Product Manager – Vive Wireless, Lutron Electronics (www.Lutron.com).

Image courtesy of Lutron Electronics

These automatic receptacles can operate independently, as in the case of onboard timer/timeclock functionality for scheduling, or be controlled as just another load by the otherwise installed lighting control system: controllable circuit breaker panelboard, lighting control relay panel, or a relay in a dedicated powerpack. The system may be wired or wireless. If the overall control system is networked, power metering can be achieved and there is potential for more sophisticated dashboard control. Plug-in advanced power strips can be effective for retrofit but are not code-compliant for a new build.

“The implementation strategy varies based on what type of technology you are deploying in the room,” said David Buerer, Director of Product Management, Leviton Manufacturing Co., Inc. (www.Leviton.com). “If your solution is wallbox sensors, then it can be as simple as adding a second wallbox sensor control receptacle. If ceiling sensors and power packs, then adding a second power pack in auto-On mode. If more of a system, then you’ll be adding a wireless controlled receptacle, smart pack, wireless powerpack, or the like to gain receptacle control.”

Buerer added that after installation, it’s important that users be educated about the purpose and operation of the controls and how to identify which outlets are controlled, which will help ensure acceptance.

Final word

“Since plug load control is required by energy codes, the electrical distributor’s customers will be looking to the distributor to define what the code’s requirements are, offer products to meet the code, and explain the many features and benefits of the methods that can provide plug load control,” Knuffke said. “Look for manufacturers that can provide a range of solutions: relay panels, plug load powerpacks for simple component solutions, plug load controllers for intelligent systems, and controllable outlets. Ask if controls are available that use wired and/or wireless communication.”

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NLB Program Identifies Trustworthy Warranties

My most recent contribution to ELECTRICAL CONTRACTOR talks about the Trusted Warranty Evaluation Program, a program recently introduced by the National Lighting Bureau to provide greater confidence and transparency with LED product warranties.

My most recent contribution to ELECTRICAL CONTRACTOR talks about the Trusted Warranty Evaluation Program, a program recently introduced by the National Lighting Bureau to provide greater confidence and transparency with LED product warranties.

The Trusted Warranty Evaluation Program is designed to audit manufacturer warranties and verify they satisfy certain public criteria. Warranties are evaluated using a system with a maximum score of 11, of which at least eight are required to achieve a trusted warranty certificate.

Click here to check it out.

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DOE Releases Initial 2018 Commercial Buildings Energy Consumption Survey Results

Newly released data tables from the Energy Information Administration’s 2018 Commercial Buildings Energy Consumption Survey (CBECS) provide building characteristics information for the estimated 5.9 million U.S. commercial buildings in 2018.

Newly released data tables from the Energy Information Administration’s 2018 Commercial Buildings Energy Consumption Survey (CBECS) provide building characteristics information for the estimated 5.9 million U.S. commercial buildings in 2018.

Building characteristics data tables include number of workers, ownership and occupancy, structural characteristics, energy sources and uses, energy related building features, and more.

In the lighting side, it shows us that adoption of LED lighting and occupancy sensors have increased considerably in terms of lighted commercial floorspace, with all traditional sources declining, notably linear fluorescent.

I wrote up a detailed look at the salient building and lighting data available in this most recent version of the CBECS for the Lighting Controls Association. Check it out here.

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Trusted Warranties

My contribution to the October issue of ELECTRICAL CONTRACTOR talks about LED product warranties and the National Lighting Bureau’s recently launched Trusted Warranty Program.

My contribution to the October issue of ELECTRICAL CONTRACTOR talks about LED product warranties and the National Lighting Bureau’s recently launched Trusted Warranty Program.

The program audits manufacturer warranties and rates them against public criteria, with high ratings earning a Trusted Warranty designation.

Criteria cover accessibility, internal support, clarity, relation of terms to reliability testing, warranty insurance based on length of warranty compared to years in business, and general responsiveness to claims.

This program has the potential to deliver significant benefits to the industry. Check out the article here.

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ELECTRICAL CONTRACTOR: Get to Know NLCs

In my most recent contribution to ELECTRICAL CONTRACTOR, industry consultant Steve Mesh makes the case for ECs to get to know networked lighting control systems.

In my most recent contribution to ELECTRICAL CONTRACTOR, industry consultant Steve Mesh makes the case for ECs to get to know networked lighting control systems.

“Are networked controls more complex than line-voltage devices cut into switch legs?” Mesh said. “Of course. But it doesn’t take much to develop proficiency in these systems. Of course, it takes some extra effort and training. Is it worth it? That depends on how badly you want new sources of revenue. If I were an EC, I wouldn’t hesitate.”

Check it out here.

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Introduction to Acoustic Luminaires

Building owners and managers have a number of options to address acoustic comfort, from vinyl or cork flooring to noise-reducing shades or soundproof blinds to sound-absorbing panels. Lighting manufacturers developed their own solution: acoustic luminaires.

Below is my contribution to the August 2021 issue of tED Magazine, the official publication of the NAED. Reprinted with permission.

Nearby, co-workers are talking. A phone rings. A printer busily churns out paper. Somebody walks past. Another co-worker laughs at a joke.

In the COVID era, many people missed the social aspects of working in an office but probably not the noise and distraction. When trying to concentrate, noise not only produces stress and irritation but can impair productivity.

According to a Center for the Built Environment post-occupancy evaluation of 142 buildings involving more than 23,000 respondents, office workers are most dissatisfied with noise from nearby conversations and lack of sound privacy; more than half believe acoustics interfere with their ability to get their job done.

As such, acoustic comfort is an important consideration in interior design. Building design rating systems such as Leadership in Energy & Environmental Design (LEED), WELL, and Collaborative for High-Performance Schools (CHPS) now address it. Acoustic comfort’s importance is only growing as the last decade produced an open office trend, with a majority of office space having low or no partitions. Further, an aesthetic trend toward open ceilings has become more popular, resulting in traditional acoustic ceilings disappearing.

Building owners and managers have a number of options to address acoustic comfort, from vinyl or cork flooring to noise-reducing shades or soundproof blinds to sound-absorbing panels. Lighting manufacturers developed their own solution: acoustic luminaires.

These luminaires produce general illumination while incorporating some type of sound-absorbing material into their design to reduce environmental noise. While they are not a panacea, typically impose a cost premium, and require know-how for evaluation and application, they can serve as an effective contributor to a building’s acoustic comfort strategy.

“Over the past several years, there has been a dramatic increase in market demand for sound-absorbing luminaires,” said Michael McCoy, Director, Architectural Systems, Focal Point. “Acoustical lighting was considered a niche market where only small players were active but is now in the early stages of growth, with many major lighting manufacturers trying to find their place.”

Image courtesy of Focal Point.

Acoustic luminaires

Similar to light rays, sound can be reflected, transmitted, and absorbed. Acoustic management therefore uses an “ABC” approach to reduce noise: absorb, block, or cover up. For absorption, the foremost goal is to reduce reverberation time, or the continuation of sound after the source of the sound has stopped.

Acoustic luminaires incorporate various soft and/or porous materials that absorb sound. While foam or natural materials such as wool may be used, typically felt is either attached as panels, serves as the luminaire housing or shade, or wraps around the luminaire frame. Available in multiple colors, felt readily coordinates with specialty felt acoustic ceilings, which may be available from the same manufacturer, and can otherwise offer a highly distinctive aesthetic and support the desired space appearance.

Sound absorption depends not only on the material but its thickness and surface area. Additionally, the luminaire may feature attributes such a lack of interior aluminum, which allows any sound that is not absorbed to pass through an open-air gap to the other side, where it is likely absorbed.

“The beauty of putting sound-absorbing features into lighting fixtures is they are at once out of the line of sight and still can provide effective acoustic control,” said Dirk Zylstra, VP Design, Acuity Brands – Architectural Specialty. “Fixtures close to ceiling surfaces can multiply the effect of capturing sound by absorbing not only direct but also reflected and refracted sound waves.”

Open offices are naturally a major application for this product, though it is applicable anywhere acoustic comfort is important: schools, meeting spaces, gymnasiums, studios, cafeterias, libraries, courtrooms, performance spaces, and others.

Image courtesy of Focal Point.

Evaluation and application

Acoustic luminaires could be regarded as lighting fixtures with an added feature. As such, they should first and foremost be evaluated based on their ability to perform their primary function of providing general illumination.

For the luminaire’s sound absorption effectiveness, a number of metrics are used. A common metric for two-dimensional surfaces like partitions and carpeting is Noise Reduction Coefficient (NRC). Because lighting can be three-dimensional, however, a different metric may be required: Sabins, which is a measure of sound absorption per square foot of material.

It starts with reverberation time (RT60), which is the amount of time it takes for a sound to decay by 60 decibels. (Both LEED and WELL focus on reducing RT60 to a desired level based on application.) RT60 is independently tested and used to calculate Sabins, with the resulting information published in an ASTM C423 report.

The report is then used to optimize acoustic comfort in a given space. (As such, distributors should expect the manufacturer to produce it.) Application can be challenging, as luminaire quantity, mounting height, and spacing can have a big impact on sound-absorbing properties. Again, the distributor should expect the manufacturer to provide layout and calculation support, and they should ensure any substitutions provide the same performance.

“As we can see, this is not a simple endeavor, so the distributor should rely on the manufacturer or an acoustician to provide support to validate the effectiveness of the product in the space,” McCoy said.

After lighting and acoustic performance, aesthetics will be a significant factor in evaluating solutions, so application may require some coordination with the designer to approve the acoustic material and ensure proper color matching. Because of color matching and other aesthetic considerations, it may be advisable to avoid mixing manufacturers, at least in the same space.

“Given their acoustic impact and differentiated aesthetic, distributors may need to reach further upstream in the interior architectural design process,” McCoy added. “Developing relationships with key decision makers including architects, interior designers, acousticians, and ceiling contractors—and acquiring a basis of knowledge around acoustic materials and sound management—will help distributors gain a stronger market presence and help hold projects downstream.”

Image courtesy of Focal Point.

Final word

“Acoustic fixtures are a great opportunity to differentiate from the crowd, and early adoption and understanding can put the distributor in a position of leadership and expertise,” Zylstra said. “A little like LED in the early days, this is a trend that is here to stay, and wellness and human health are even more in focus following the pandemic.”

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ELECTRICAL CONTRACTOR Covers IECC 2021

My most recent contribution to ELECTRICAL CONTRACTOR breaks down the major lighting changes in the 2021 version of the International Energy Conservation Code (IECC).

My most recent contribution to ELECTRICAL CONTRACTOR breaks down the major lighting changes in the 2021 version of the International Energy Conservation Code (IECC).

Regarding lighting, the 2021 version of the IECC reduces lighting power allowances, expands mandatory controls requirements and issues clarifications. The most significant changes from the 2018 IECC are tighter interior lighting power allowances and the addition of daylight-responsive control for secondary daylight zones, plug load controls and parking garage control requirements. Let’s take a look at some of the other big changes.

Click here to check it out.

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ELECTRICAL CONTRACTOR Covers Luminaire-Level Lighting Controls

Luminaire-level lighting control (LLLC) has attracted significant interest among building owners and utilities as a simple path to maximize energy cost-savings from LED lighting installation. A study conducted by the University of Oregon in Eugene on behalf of the Northwest Energy Efficiency Alliance (NEEA), Portland, Ore., demonstrated that LLLC produced similarly substantial energy savings as a networked lighting control system, but at a lower cost.

Luminaire-level lighting control (LLLC) has attracted significant interest among building owners and utilities as a simple path to maximize energy cost-savings from LED lighting installation. A study conducted by the University of Oregon in Eugene on behalf of the Northwest Energy Efficiency Alliance (NEEA), Portland, Ore., demonstrated that LLLC produced similarly substantial energy savings as a networked lighting control system, but at a lower cost.

The researchers discovered that all these systems produced substantial energy savings compared to the baseline. The LLLC systems generated 50%–74% energy savings for the control element alone, while the NLC redesign demonstrated 67% energy savings. Admittedly, the space was very well suited to LLLC compared to the NLC solution.

Click here to check out my contribution to the April issue of ELECTRICAL CONTRACTOR, which covers the technology and the study.

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Another Promising Year for Lighting Rebates

Offered by many utilities and energy efficiency organizations, commercial lighting rebates are a longstanding driver in demand for energy-efficient lighting and controls in existing buildings. The rebate outlook for 2021 looks very positive for distributors who rely on them to sweeten upgrade proposals.

Below is my contribution to the May issue of tED Magazine, the official publication of the NAED. Reprinted with permission.

 

Offered by many utilities and energy efficiency organizations, commercial lighting rebates are a longstanding driver in demand for energy-efficient lighting and controls in existing buildings. The rebate outlook for 2021 looks very positive for distributors who rely on them to sweeten upgrade proposals.

In review, many utilities offer rebates as an incentive to consume less energy, which helps them avoid the higher cost of building new power plants. While custom rebates are available, the majority are prescriptive, with a cash amount awarded per installed qualifying product and with the rebate capped at a maximum percentage of its cost.

According to BriteSwitch, a rebate fulfillment firm that analyzes rebate trends, rebates vary in impact by typically covering anywhere from 10 to 70 percent of the product cost, with an average 20 to 25 percent payback improvement. Increasingly, rebate programs have structured away from offering “free rides” to ensure the owner shoulders part of the cost. With weak demand in 2020 due to the COVID pandemic, however, a significant number of utilities offered temporary bonus rebates to boost participation.

In 2021, three-fourths of the United States remains covered by a lighting rebate program, fairly consistent from 2020 with a notable exception: Ohio. With the passage of the state’s controversial Bill 6 in late 2019, Ohio’s major investor-owned utilities discontinued their energy efficiency programs at the end of 2020.

LED products

In LED lighting, the most popular rebates continue to target LED replacement lamps, downlights, high-bays, parking garage luminaires, troffers/linear panels, and outdoor, as shown in Table 1. In short, a wide variety of lamp and luminaires covering a majority of applications.

“In 2021, the rebate amounts for LEDs are relatively flat from 2020,” said Leendert Jan Enthoven, President, BriteSwitch (www.BriteSwitch.com). “This in itself is quite remarkable because for the past 10 years, they have dropped 10 to 20 percent each year. Usually, the decrease we’d see was to match the dropping prices of LED, but a weak market and leveling out of prices meant they didn’t have to adjust much for 2021.”

A majority of rebate programs qualify products by requiring listing on the DesignLights Consortium’s (DLC) Qualified Products List. In 2020, Version 5.0 of the DLC technical requirements was to take effect, which DLC pushed to February 2021 due to the pandemic. Version 5.0 raised the minimum required efficacy for LED products while requiring reporting of dimming capability; DLC Premium products generally must be dimmable.

On December 31, 2021, Version 5.1 listing becomes required to qualify for rebates. Version 5.1 expands reporting of various lighting quality attributes while requiring dimming for a broad range of products, with continuous dimming required for most indoor luminaires and retrofit kits.

“With Version 5.0, solutions installed in the marketplace now are more efficient than they were before,” said Enthoven. “It presents some complexity for distributors as their older products in stock may no longer qualify for rebates once delisted from the current DLC list.”

Version 5.0 may also be impacting the availability of rebate programs promoting DLC Premium products. Some programs rebated only these higher-efficacy products or incentivized it with a bonus rebate. Enthoven said the number of these rebates dropped in 2021, possibly due to the higher efficacy required for standard listed products.

Lighting controls

The 2021 rebate picture for lighting controls looks much the same as it did in 2020, with fairly consistent, substantial rebates available for remote-mounted, wallbox, and luminaire-mounted occupancy sensors; photocells; and daylight dimming systems, as shown in Table 2.

“Lighting control rebates have historically been very stable, changing little over the past 12 years,” Enthoven said. “In 2021, control rebates are similar to previous years. For standalone sensors, the rebates are still relatively high compared to the cost, making it an easy add-on for most projects. With DLC Version 5.1 making dimmability more important in many categories at the end of the year, it will be interesting to see how rebate programs adapt in 2022.”

What’s new in lighting control rebates is the recent entry of networked lighting controls into the rebate market. In 2020, the number of programs increased 15 percent to 95; in 2021, however, only three new programs were added, suggesting utilities are still wrestling with how to incentivize the category.

Enthoven said the majority of these rebates offer a per-fixture adder for connecting to a networked lighting control system and require the system be qualified under the DLC’s Qualified Products List for Networked Lighting Controls. The most common luminaire types with additional networked control rebates are troffers, high-bays, and low-bays. Outside of these programs, networked controls may be eligible for rebate under custom programs.

Getting the rebate

Including rebates in project quotes can help obtain customer approval by improving return on investment. Securing rebates, however, requires administration. The rebate must be identified and understood, paperwork must be submitted, and pre-approval must be gained. Enthoven said the rebate process takes an average 12 steps over five months to complete, requiring either in-house resources or outsourcing to a firm like BriteSwitch.

Below are some tips on managing the rebate process:

  • In typical prescriptive product rebate programs, the rebate is paid directly to the customer, though some “midstream” or “instant” lighting rebate programs, typically geared around lamps told for retrofits, involve the distributor providing the rebate at the point of sale. Get to know the program so you understand its requirements, and then follow the program to keep abreast of changes and funding level.
  • Taking the rebate amount off the invoice can be risky, as rebates are not guaranteed or may pay out a lower-than-expected amount. Available funds may tap out during the year. And note that a majority of rebate programs cap the rebate at a percentage of the material or project cost—meaning if a customer is paying $150 for an LED high bay and the rebate is $150 capped at 50 percent of the material cost, the resulting rebate would be $75.
  • Pre-approval is required in a majority of programs before installation, so build that time into the project if needed.
  • The time for rebate pre-approval and final checks to be issued increased considerably in 2020 due to the COVID pandemic; file for pre-approval as soon as possible and ensure the customer understands payment may take time.
  • A majority of programs require the product be listed with ENERGY STAR (lamps) or DLC (lamps and luminaires). Make sure the exact model for a selected product is listed.
  • Some programs require inspection to verify installation. In the COVID era, this may be done remotely using a camera rather than onsite.

Rebate estimates should be included on every quote that you send out to a customer,” said Enthoven. “There is no easier way to take the pressure off of your margin than to show the ‘discount’ from the rebate program. Even if you’re not filing the rebates on the customer’s behalf, your knowledge and expertise on the subject is invaluable to them and make you stand apart from the competition.”

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ELECTRICAL CONTRACTOR: Changes in Lighting

In the past decade, change has become nearly constant in the traditionally staid lighting industry. In this roundup interview published in ELECTRICAL CONTRACTOR, seven industry experts talk about major trends.

In the past decade, change has become nearly constant in the traditionally staid lighting industry. In this roundup interview published in ELECTRICAL CONTRACTOR, seven industry experts talk about major trends. Topics include controls, GUV, standards, rebates, maintenance, and warranties.

Check it out here.

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