Q&A: A Light in the Dark – Navigating Outdoor Lighting and Controls

David Sypes, Acuity Brands Vice President, Outdoor Product Market, deep dives into the trends and future direction of outdoor lighting and controls integration.  

  1.  What’s new in outdoor area lighting? 

LED is “the new normal” for outdoor area lighting. Fewer than 10 years ago, LED made up less than 5% of outdoor area lighting sales. Now LED comprises more than 95% of ​sales within this category, with HID only seldomly being used in “match existing” situations. Today’s LED area lighting luminaires provide 70+% energy savings as compared with HID and are virtually maintenance-free – avoiding the multiple lamp changes associated with HID lighting. Best yet, the optical control that is made possible by LEDs results in superior illumination – great uniformity without a hot spot under the luminaire or a spill light behind it! 

  1.  So if LED is the “new normal” in outdoor lighting, what is “the next new normal”?

The “next new normal” is embedded networked wireless controls. Energy savings of 70% by switching from HID to LED is good, but the customer is losing out on an additional 2X savings if embedded networked wireless controls are omitted. Given the low occupancy of parking lots in the late-night hours, it just does not make sense to burn the luminaires at full power from dusk to dawn. Embedded networked wireless controls enable an additional 50% energy saving by simply dimming the luminaires to 30% when motion is not detected.  Since they are networked, the luminaires can also be grouped into zones.  This means that all the luminaires in that group go to full power if one luminaire detects motion – illuminating the entire area surrounding the occupant. This ensures energy savings without negative impact to the visual environment.

  1.  Are networked wireless outdoor controls expensive?

Today’s networked wireless controls typically cost a little more than a standard motion sensor. However, the low initial cost and the high potential energy savings of embedded wireless networked controls results in typical payback periods of 2-3 years on the cost of the added controls.

  1.  Are embedded wireless controls difficult to install and commission?

Because they are embedded in the luminaire, embedded networked wireless controls install the same way a regular luminaire is installed. No extra wiring is required. The sensor comes pre-programmed with default settings that provide dusk-to-dawn operation (on-board photocell) and basic motion sensor functionality (dimming to 30% during periods of non-occupancy). Further commissioning is performed from the ground using a free app on a smart phone or tablet. Here the luminaires can be “trimmed” to meet the needs of the site (and saving more energy), grouped into zones and programmed in terms of the “low” setting and dwell time.

  1.  Are there Code implications?

Yes, IECC 2015 and 2018 both require the functionality delivered by embedded networked wireless controls. California Title 24 2019 demands this functionality as well. The good news is that complying is both easy and affordable. Just specify the luminaire with the part number nomenclature for the embedded networked wireless controls and you are done!

  1.  As a leader, would you rather be loved or feared?

        “I want people to be afraid of how much they love me.” – Michael Scott

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