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Efficiency Exchange Breakout Session 5 - Failure to Launch: A Critical Look at Networked Lighting Controls (NLCs)

Created 5/17/2019 by Phillip Kelsven
Updated 5/30/2019 by Stan Walerczyk
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Lighting controls are supposed to be the next big thing in commercial lighting, however the hype has not lived up to its potential and that was the theme of one of the last sessions at this year’s Efficiency Exchange. “Failure to Launch: A Critical Look at Networked Lighting Controls (NLCs)” was one of the most entertaining sessions I saw at EFX this year, and the session I learned the most new things in. The session was moderated by John Wilson accompanied by his colleague Armando Berdiel from Seattle City Light’s Lighting Design Lab and Sheri Miller from Snohomish County PUD. John started out the session by giving a high level overview of Networked Lighting Controls (formerly known as Advanced Lighting Controls) of which Luminaire Level Lighting Controls is a type of Networked Lighting Controls. John compared the state of this technology to Toy Story’s Buzz Lightyear who was very driven with a lot of potential but had some fatal flaws that side tracked him from success. After we got all of the terms straight John jumped into some details:

  • There are over 45 networked lighting control systems on the market right now
  • 24 of them are considered Luminaire Level Lighting Controls.
  • 48% of the products have controls persistence, meaning they retain their settings after a loss of power
  • 22% of the products have cyber security features
  • 40% of the products have the ability to capture energy consumption monitoring
  • 22% of the products have the ability to tune color temperature
  • 15% of the products have demand response capabilities

The Failure to Launch theme comes from the observation that NLC products are not flying off the shelves in the region. Some reasons commonly cited by trade allies include its too costly, complicated, not right for their customers, and too time consuming to install and commission. In addition, focusing on the energy savings may not be the best way to sell these products. You need to focus on the customer and the non-energy benefits they will get out of NLCs which include comfort, convenience, and security among other benefits. Incentives are not the problem as many utility incentives are very generous. Some strategies that may work to increase uptake include expanding targeted outreach to design allies and the building community by providing training through informational seminars and hands on support when the products are being installed. That’s where Sheri Miller took the torch from John and explained how Snohomish County PUD is doing targeted outreach. Shari and the PUD are sponsoring educational seminars for trade allies, building operators, and utility staff to educate these communities about the benefits of NLCs and also dispel myths about them. Reaching the end using customers can be complicated and those barriers need to be overcome to get them to these seminars. For example, Shari does special trainings for the schools sector which has particular needs and significant savings potential. Talking with the end users not only educates them about the technology but program implementers learn what end user’s particular needs are to help programs improve outreach and uptake. Trade allies have special needs including tools and resources that work such as training locations and utility staff who can lend some hands on help.

The session was rounded out by Armando Berdiel from Seattle City Light’s Lighting Design Lab who focused on the details of the technology and demonstrated a typical install. Armando layed out the three things that NLCs do and what the process of an install looks like. These are:

  • High End Trim or Task Tuning. Getting the lumen levels right, reduce glare, get savings
  • Occupancy or Vacancy Sensing. No they are not the same and there are different types of sensors
  • Daylight Harvesting. Open loop and closed loop

Armando dispelled myths that setting up NLCs can be difficult and time consuming. In fact, the install should take less time than a non NLC lighting system. Armando went on to do a live demonstration of a typical setup which took only a couple of minutes. The process is intuitive and fixtures can be set up in batches to expedite the install.

This session had a little bit of everything, a high energy and engaging moderator, an overview of the technology, strategies and tactics to increase uptake, and a live demonstration of the technology. Duh! This session template is a sure winner and a good way to end EF EX!

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Comments (1)
Stan Walerczyk on 05/30/19 on 12:52 PM (Pacific Time)
Thank you for this article.
Although DLC, manufacturers and various energy codes are pushing controlsto save energy, they are usually not cost effective saving energy with commonly available LED products.
Let's look a typical private office with two troffers that are retrofitted with two 20W 140 LPW troffer kits. Based on average KWH rate of $0.125, 3000 annual hours and 20% savings, an occupancy sensor will only save three bucks per year, which would be very long payback.
Daylight harvesting is often quite bad.
Many of the case studies that I have seen from DLC and others show most of the savings from high-end trimming. If the correct maximum lumen LED products were installed in the first place, high-end trimming would not be a factor.
Over the last year and half you may have noticed that there have been very few new higher LPW LED products, and many manufacturers pushing their controls. Do you think that is because controls would even be less cost effective saving energy with better LEDs?
As I include in many of the seminars and webinars, focus on the various non-energy benefits of advanced controls.

Stan Walerczyk, CLEP, HCLS
Principal of Lighting Wizards and Chair of Human Centric Lighting Society

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Sector: Commercial
Function: Implementation, Emerging Technology
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