Basic Sustainable Lighting Concepts: On Lighting Controls

September 26, 2011 / no comments

Part 4 of an ongoing series outlining design principles for sustainable lighting design: here are a few ideas regarding daylighting, to help navigate the greenwash.


Controls: use them!

It’s really not acceptable to use simple switches and whole-floor relays anymore. Some energy codes may still allow it, but that doesn’t mean it’s good practice. Have you ever walked around a city at night and looked up at the skyscrapers to see entire floors, or even whole buildings, with all the lights on late at night? Chances are there are only a handful of people there, or none at all. Sensor technology has improved a lot over the years and should be applied liberally to take care of all those lights that no one is there to use. It not only saves electricity, but the time, effort, and additional energy it takes to replace lamps that burned out too soon from overuse.

Make sure you use sensors correctly, too. If a sensor is placed behind a bookshelf, it’s doing no good back there. If you put one right in front of a door and the light stays on all the time, how it that helping? There are a few simple tricks that the manufacturers can educate you about to create good sensor design.

And, consolidate your sensors. Most sensors can be used for both lighting control and HVAC control. Instead of two sensors in a space, use one.

K.I.S.S. – keep it simple, stupid!

Lighting controls can be daunting. Even the simplest systems have gadgets, widgets, and enough wiring diagrams to make the savviest engineer’s eyes go crossed. When selecting the system you want to use, make sure that price isn’t your only deciding factor – consider how easy it is to design, install, and program. Making people’s lives easier will result in a higher probability of your controls design being implemented the way you designed it.

Minimize the amount of wiring you need to make your system work correctly. Wiring in any given building can add up to hundreds or even thousands of miles, if you tied it together and stretched it out. Any way to reduce that raw material used (and the energy used to make it) helps. If one system uses 40% less branch wiring than another, consider it.