By Matthew Slade
By Matthew Slade
May 15, 2019 – In today’s need-it-now market, many electrical contractors are feeling pressure to reduce installation time for lighting projects, while also remaining budget-conscious, especially for commercial clients. Many issues can arise, however, from the time a product is specified to the time it is installed for a project. With the rise of LEDs and ‘smart building’ connectivity, these problems can range from drawings not matching job-site conditions to overly complex installations.
Indeed, the use of connected lighting has become particularly popular in commercial office buildings, where it can integrate with existing building control systems to enable the monitoring and modulation of both light levels and thermostat temperatures to ensure tenants’ comfort when they are present and to save on energy when they are not. To accomplish this, luminaires equipped with sensors collect and exchange data relative to room occupancy, daylight levels and/or temperature.
This new generation of lighting systems translates into added complexity for electrical contractors, who in turn should be aware of resources and services offered by notable lighting organizations and manufacturers, to help reduce the strain of today’s client expectations.
In an ever-changing world of technologies, energy codes, standards and global certifications, contractors need to stay abreast of the latest developments in lighting. There are many excellent resources available to help them better understand advanced lighting systems, determine which will best suit the current and future state of a building and address best practices for the workplace.
One such resource is the DesignLights Consortium (DLC), an internationally recognized non-profit organization. Its mission is to drive improvements in efficiency for lighting by defining quality, facilitating research and delivering information to the market.
According to DLC, for example, 47% of lighting energy savings are currently derived from networked control systems. This finding constitutes a clear confirmation that the ‘digital age’ has arrived and control systems have become a key component of today’s lighting projects.
In 2017, DLC launched its Networked Lighting Controls program, a suite of tools and resources designed to enable the more widespread adoption of such technologies in commercial buildings. Today, many electric utilities offer rebates for using DLC-qualified LED luminaires and controls, which can reduce upfront project costs by 20% to 25%.
Another helpful resource for keeping well-informed of advances in lighting technology is an educational platform called The Continuing Architect. Although it is directed at the construction specifications community, many of its courses—such as Controlled and Connected Luminaires and Design Integration, accredited by the American Institute of Architects (AIA)—are also applicable to electrical contractors, in that they explore components of lighting controls, various associated standards and protocols and options for Internet of Things (IoT) connectivity, along with how they provide savings in energy and operational costs for clients.
The 2018 CE Code, Part 1, also takes into account the emergence of these new technologies, by providing best practices to ensure safer installation and maintenance of lighting and related electrical equipment.
Manufacturers and representatives
Once they have become acquainted with the above resources, the components and use of connected luminaires and the relevant standards and protocols, electrical contractors are well-positioned to familiarize themselves with the manufacturers that can provide the right connected lighting systems, along with the lighting agencies that represent them.
A lighting agency’s sales representative can be an exceptional resource, given they are required to have extensive knowledge in all products from the manufacturers they represent. They also have a direct line of communication with the manufacturers, making them invaluable for answering immediate questions. Some agencies also include specialized teams that focus on networked controls.
Many manufacturers also provide access to product information and related resources through digital platforms, from central repositories of how-to videos to printable installation instructions, which can help contractors save time on the job site. Some manufacturers have their own YouTube channels, for example, to which contractors can subscribe, so they receive notifications whenever a new video is added and, thus, keep up-to-date.
As for post-installation support for new lighting technologies and controls, many manufacturers are expanding their contractor field service operations to help address new situations. These efforts include troubleshooting guides to help identify and resolve issues that may arise at the job site, specialists who can provide prompt answers over the phone and even teams of experts who can arrive at the job site within a few days to provide hands-on assistance.
The value proposition
Networked systems offer a powerful value proposition for today’s lighting systems. They provide more specific control of luminaires, help to conserve energy, reduce a building’s operating costs and increase its occupants’ comfort. These benefits can resonate with many of an electrical contractor’s customers, including facility owners, managers and business operators.
As the trend toward more human-centric environments gains greater traction, especially, there is an opportunity to pitch connected lighting and smart building management as the technologies of the future. Now is the time for contractors to learn from the many resources available, before their role in the digital age becomes even more complex.
Matthew Slade is manager of Focal Point’s field service team, responsible for post-sales and job-site-related inquiries, as well as offering a feedback loop for the company’s new product development and continuous improvements teams. He also has more than 15 years’ experience as a contractor. For more information, visit www.focalpointlights.com.
This article originally appeared in the May 2019 issue of Electrical Business magazine.