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Lighting gets a little smarter

By Bridget
McCrea

 

With a
growing number of organizations and individuals looking for ways to save money
on their energy bills and reduce their carbon footprints, smart lighting
is becoming a viable way to offset high energy consumption and bills. Designed
for energy efficiency, smart lighting ranges from high-efficiency fixtures,
sensors that adjust lighting levels according to a room’s occupancy levels, and
automated controls that factor in levels of available daylight.

Not
surprisingly, California is leading the charge right now to infuse more smart
lighting technology into the state’s residential, commercial, and industrial
buildings. In 2012 the California Energy
Commission
updated its Title 24
Energy Efficiency Standards
, and in doing so increased what “up to code”
means by 25 percent for residential buildings and 30 percent for commercial
buildings.

A
National Movement

According to
Michael Siminovitch, director of the California
Lighting Technology Center
(CLTC) at University of California Davis, the
new standards take effect on January 1, 2014 and include requirements for
photosensors, occupancy sensors, and multi-level lighting controls, both
indoors and out. “The new rules make adaptive lighting the new standard for
California,” says Siminovitch, who expects other states to introduce similar
standards in the near future.

“California
has clearly established a long-term energy efficiency direction with very
specific goals of reducing the need for power plants and addressing greenhouse
gas issues,” Siminovitch explains. “A lot of those activities are then copied,
emulated, and/or adapted in other parts of the U.S.” Right now, for example, he
says areas of the Pacific Northwest – including Washington and Oregon – are
introducing aggressive energy efficiency standards. “We’re seeing a similar
uptick in activity in states like Vermont and New York,” Siminovitch adds.
“People are really interested in this.”

Of
particular significance is adaptive lighting that automatically dims or shuts
off when no one is using it. Siminovitch sees this type of smart lighting as
one of the largest near-term opportunities for energy savings, and says its
inclusion in the California’s revised building code marks vital progress. “The
California Energy Commission projects the non-residential standards alone will
save the state 372  GWh every year,” says Siminovitch. “Hopefully, this will
also pave the way for other states pursuing climate goals.”

Aggressive
Mandates

According to
Siminovitch, the California Public Utilities Commission is calling for a 60 to
80 percent statewide reduction in electrical lighting consumption by 2020 as
part of its Long Term Energy Efficiency Strategic Plan. Other mandates include
making all new residential construction net-zero by 2020, and all commercial
construction net-zero by 2030. “Since lighting currently accounts for nearly 30
percent of California’s electricity use,” says Siminovitch, “the extensive use
of lighting controls is absolutely essential to meeting these net-zero goals.”

For retrofit
projects, Siminovitch says spaces in which less than 10 percent of the lighting
is being changed out, or buildings in which fewer than 40 ballasts are being
replaced are exempt from the new standards. For all other retrofits, he says
all new lighting must meet not only the lighting power density (LPD)
requirements, but also most of the controls requirements (including dimming).

Siminovitch,
who has seen a “broad national interest” in the smart lighting revolution, says
significant opportunity exists for electrical distributors who get involved in
this growing sector. “Until now, energy efficiency has been based on ‘turning
things off’ instead of making smarter products,” says Siminovitch. “That mindset
is changing as more states look at smart, adaptive lighting as a tool for
reducing energy consumption.”

Opportunities
Abound for Distributors

Calling
California’s January 2014 deadline a “fairly bold code change” that will impact
both interior and exterior lighting, Siminovitch says distributors that can
help customers meet the standards will be able to “tap into a broad pallet of
opportunity.” Lighting manufacturers will see their own fair share of
opportunities as technology continues to evolve and as more, innovative smart
lighting products are brought to market.

“The new
standards in California – and the additional standards that are introduced
nationwide – will definitely help the business opportunity food chain,” says
Siminovitch, who expects lighting experts and/or distributors to play a broader
role not only in new construction projects, but also in renovations and
retrofits. A large school district that decides to change out its lighting
fixtures and bulbs in order to bring its facilities up to the new smart
lighting standards, for example, will need support, services, and products in
order to reach its goals.

“Next year, all
renovations and serious retrofits will be subject to these new compliance
requirements,” says Siminovitch. “This will open doors for companies that can
help customers meet those requirements, gain energy savings, and reduce overall
demand for power.”

McCrea is a Florida-based writer who covers business, industrial, and
educational topics for a variety of magazines and journals. You can reach her
at bridgetmc@earthlink.net or
visit her website at www.expertghostwriter.net.

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