Archive for the ‘Lighting control’ Category

DMX – Whats that?

Friday, June 12th, 2009

DMX512-A is an EIA-485 based communications protocol that is most commonly used to control stage lighting and effects and LED lighting control.

Developed by the Engineering Commission of USITT, the standard started in 1986, with subsequent revisions in 1990 leading to USITT DMX512/1990. In 1998 ESTA began a revision process to develop the standard as an ANSI standard, including a Public Review process. The revised standard, known officially as “Entertainment Technology — USITT DMX512–A — Asynchronous Serial Digital Data Transmission Standard for Controlling Lighting Equipment and Accessories”, was approved by ANSI in November 2004. This current standard is also known as “E1.11, USITT DMX512–A”, or just “DMX512-A”, and is maintained by ESTA.

DMX512 was originally intended as a ‘lowest common denominator’ protocol for use between interfaces supporting proprietary protocols. However, it soon became the primary method for linking not only controllers and dimmers, but also more advanced fixtures and special effects devices such as fog machines and moving lights. DMX512 is unidirectional and does not include automatic error checking and correction, so it is not safe to use for applications involving life safety, such as controlling pyrotechnics or laser lighting display where audience or performer safety is involved. MIDI is sometimes used for this task.

What is DALI ?

Wednesday, June 10th, 2009

DALI stands for Digital Addressable Lighting Interface and is a protocol set out in the technical standard IEC 60929.

DALI is a bi-directional, digital protocol developed by lighting manufacturers for the control of light source levels. The initial application is for control of fluorescent lamps, both linear and compact to be followed by control of additional light sources such as HID, LED, incandescent, etc.

The DALI protocol has been added to IEC60929, and will be incorporated into an ANSI C82 standard. In addition, both IEC and ANSI are working on extending the DALI system to include other products such as occupant sensors and daylight sensors,

Using DALI, a digital standard in lighting control, it is possible to combine easy installation using the existing 1-10 V interface with the comfort of intelligent lighting control. This means that DALI closes the gap between previous 1-10 V technology and expensive bus systems.

DALI is an interface for Electronic Control Gear (ECG). DALI makes it possible to control the ECG digitally and enjoy all the functionality as required. This means that an ECG designed to conform to this standard is able to carry out the commands issued by a control device. DALI has been designed primarily for use with lighting systems. The functionality of every DALI ECG within a lighting system exceeds by far any previous analog 1-10 V interfaces.

DALI was developed by all the leading ECG manufacturers who came together to define the functions of a DALI-ECG and a load conforming to DALI within a lighting system.

DALI was created in the form of an industry standard in order to satisfy all the demands placed on modern lighting controls. Above all, it includes a facility for receiving feedback from the ECGs concerning their current state and also for storing certain scenario values in an ECG. Every DALI-ECG configuration is able to store 16 group constellations and 16 scenarios.

DALI product features:-
· Control via DALI interface (Digital Addressable Lighting Interface)
· Switchable via DALI control wire
· Addressable
· Dimmable from 100 % to 1 % luminous flux
· Power stabilization in the event of mains voltage fluctuations
· Suitable for emergency lighting
· The control input for the DALI interface is robust with respect to over voltage and reversal

More information is available at

The DALI AG, part of ZVEI of Germany, created the openDigital Addressable Lighting Interface standard, and is laid down in the global IEC document 60929

Problems Addressed/Issues

Luminaires and ballasts are supplied by a great variety of suppliers and are connected in various forms:
– independent
– in clusters
– in conjunction with building management systems with many different protocols.

For all these applications the DALI protocol can be used DALI AG is an open digital protocol for lighting ballasts


The DALI-protocol is nowadays well accepted in the lighting market for fluorescent- and High Intensity Discharge lamp-applications and Solid State LightingAdditional standardization documents containing protocol-extensions for emergency lighting, HID and low voltage lamp- applications are currently in specification status.


DALI for Lighting Control

Apart from regular lighting applications (switching, dimming, scene-setting), the DALI protocol also enables users to realise all kinds of lighting-group-clustering, scene-settings, dynamic- and passive-color variation-settings in combination with external digital activators.
Even status-feedback of devices can be monitored.

Building Management Systems
With help of widespread digital-to-digital conversion devices, DALI-driven lighting networks can easily be connected to Building Management Systems.

Plug & Play applications
DALI technology is also massively applied in smaller lighting installations Recently many DALI-based “plug & play” applications have been introduced, for which installers do not need any dedicated training. With these plug & play solutions give a rapid further acceleration of the growth of DALI-driven applications used.


Full compatibility of all ballast and luminaire manufacturer with the DALI protocol

Interchangeability of ballasts and luminaires in existing installations.

16 individual groups can be formed out of the 64 addresses
16 light scenes can be defined individually

DALI is specified for 64 single addresses per cluster
For larger groups, beyond 64 addresses, multiplication of groups via a building management system is required.

Communications media

Fiber-optic cabling, bi-directional single-strand;
Powerline, spread-spectrum, 9-95kHz, 100-450kHz;
Powerline, narrow-band, 125-140kHz (BPSK);
TCP/IP, tunneling;
Twisted-pair wiring, bus;
Twisted-pair wiring, free-topology (powered or un-powered);
(some of the above are ANSI/EIA/CEA or EIA/TIA)

Other non-standardized media include:
Radio Frequency
Communications rate
OSI layer(s)

System Description
Main DALI features and benefits compared to 1-10V analogue control systems
•    Individual control of fittings: each unit in the DALI network has it´s own individual address, therefore it is possible to communicate directly to the components in the fittings
•    Multichannelling use: through only one pair of control cable it is possible with DALI to control several different groups of fittings
•    No mains switching needed: the lights can be switched off by commands coming directly from the DALI control system making the mains switch unnecessary
•    Back-channelling: the information flow is bidirectional with the DALI system. Instead of only giving commands about the light level to the fitting DALI system enables also information feedback on the condition of the fittings. the fitting can transmit information about:-
o    whether the light is switched on or off,
o    the pre-set light level
o    the ballast condition
•    simple DALI wiring: the cabling consists of a simple two wire cable, independent of any building topology between the units in the system
•    Easy system re-configuration: once the system is installed and configured it is very easy to change the functioning of the system, changing of scenes and functions of lighting is only a matter of programming and needs no hardware changes anymore
•    easy to add new components: when the lighting system needs to be enlargened new components can be added anywhere in the DALI system, no wiring configuration rules apply on the DALI line in this aspect.
Main differences between DALI and building automation buses
•    DALI has a limited system size (64 addresses).
•    DALI is meant only for communication in lighting systems as BMS includes other functionality as well (HVAC, alarm systems…)
•    A BMS system commonly has unlimited expansion possibilities, which DALI does not have
•    DALI is not competing against BMS systems, it is only complementing them through an interface

System Guidelines

Functional compatibility
Compatibility of ballasts is guaranteed by the standard. For other units, like sensors and controllers the compatibility ensurance is in process and the and a standardization will be achieved. Compatibility has always to be ensured when a system is being designed.

System size
The maximum number of individual addresses available in the DALI standard is 64. The maximum DALI supply current is stated as 250mA maximum.

Maximum ballasts in a system
Up to 64 individual ballasts can be connected in a DALI line without exceeding the system node or power supply current limits. This, of course, does not allow for any DALI control devices to be connected to the system.

Ballasts and control units in a system
If control units using the DALI protocol are to be used in a system then the system size will be limited to either 64 nodes or 250mA total system current (whichever value is reached first). When a DALI system is to be constructed containing both ballasts and control units it should be ensured that these limits are not exceeded. If the system size exceeds the limitations there will be problems due to reduced signal integrity ? some devices may fail to communicate or respond to commands and the system operation will become unstable.

The maximum voltage drop on the DALI line may not exceed 2V, resulting in a maximum line length of 300 m, between the DALI components furthest apart.

Good practice
For the above mentioned reasons it is the task of the system planner to consider the power consumption of each component used and to plan the system in such a way that the system limitations are not exceeded.

Electrical Guidelines
Voltages and currents

In the DALI standard all values are specified at the control pins of the ballast. For the full system the situation is slightly different. In general the control line voltage in a DALI system is normally 16 V (between 22,4 and 9,5 volts) when there is no communication (idle state). This voltage is supplied from an internal DALI power supply. The digital signal becomes low when the voltage level in the DALI system becomes zero (-6,5V – 6,5V)

Supplying the system
In a DALI system the maximum system current is limited to 250mA, which is supplied from additional power supplies. This is to keep the energy consumption low and to ensure digital signal integrity throughout the system. The smallest possible system, one light fitting and a controller consunes a line current of maximum 2 mA for the digital dimmable ballast and the current required by the control equipment. Thus the power consumed is small. Since in practice the impedance of different DALI units are not identical, the selection of the correct system power supply not necessarily straight forward. Good practice is to allow sufficient margins for the supply current. This will guarantee reliable system functionality under different conditions and also allow the flexibility for possible system expansion at a later date. On the other hand, selecting an oversized power supply may cause extra distortion control signals Power supplies, which have so called dynamic current limitation, will be suitable for use in almost every size of system.

Requirements for DALI power supplies.
The DALI power supply must limit the supply current to max. 250 mA under all circumstances. In practical installations the current is good to limit to a lower level in order to maintain the flexibility of changing the layout and increasing the system at later stages. If the limit is exceeded instability and starting problems may occure in the system. Since the DALI signal varies between 0V and 16V the polarity is important to maintain also with power supply. There is no limitation to having several power supplies on the same DALI control line as long as the current limit is not exceeded and the supply polarity is taken into account.

(DALI – Digital Addressable Lighting Interface)
The new method involves using DALI-protocol-based technology (i.e. digital control signals) to control electronic ballasts, controllers and sensors belonging to the system. Each system component has its own device-specific address, and this makes it possible to implement individual device control.

History of the DALI protocol
Research work connected to the DALI project began midway through the 1990s. However, the development of commercial applications got under way a little later, in the summer of 1998. At that time, DALI went under the name DBI (Digital Ballast Interface). An interface device (or ballast) is an electronic inductor enabling control of fluorescent lamps. In addition to the work done at Helvar, the DALI standard has been the subject of R&D by other European ballast manufacturers such as Hüco, Philips, Osram, Tridonic, Trilux and Vossloh-Schwabe. The DALI standard will be added to the European electronic ballast standard “EN60929 Annex E”. Different manufacturers´ products can be interconnected provided that the manufacturers adhere to the DALI standard. This standard embodies addressability, i.e. ballasts can be controlled individually when necessary. To date, ballasts connected to an analogue 1-10 VDC low-voltage control bus have been subject to simultaneous control. Another advantage enabled by the DALI standard is communicating the status of ballasts back to the control unit. This is especially useful in extensive installations where the light fixtures are widely distributed. The execution of commands compliant with the DALI standard and obtaining the status data presuppose intelligence on part of the ballast. This is provided by mounting a microprocessor within the ballast; the microprocessor also carries out other control tasks. The first products based on the DALI technology were commercially available from the end of 1999.

The word “digital” is a term which has become familiar to us all in the course of this decade in connection with the control technology built into domestic appliances as well as into industrial processes. Now, digital control is becoming increasingly common in the lighting industry under a new concept bearing the name DALI.

DALI messages comply with the Bi-Phase, or Manchester, coding in which the bit values “1” and “0” are presented as two different voltage levels so that the change-over from the logic level “UNTRUE” to “TRUE” corresponds to bit value “1”, and the change-over from the logic level “TRUE” to “UNTRUE” corresponds to the bit value “0”. The coding includes error detection and enables power supply to the control units also when there are no messages being transmitted or when the same bit value is repeated several times in succession. The bus´s forward frame (from the control unit to the ballast) is comprised of 1 START bit, 8 address bits, 8 data/command bits, and 2 STOP bits. The backward frame (from the ballast to the control unit) is comprised of 1 START bit, 8 data bits and 2 STOP bits. The baud rate is 2400.

DALI messages consist of an address part and a command part. The address part determines which DALI module the message is intended for. All the modules execute commands with “broadcast” addresses. Sixty-four unique addresses are available plus sixteen group addresses. A particular module can belong to more than one group at the one time.
The light level is defined in DALI messages using an 8-bit number. The value “0” (zero) means that the lamp is not lit. The DALI standard determines the light levels so that they comply with the logarithmic regulation curve in which case the human eye observes that the light changes in a linear fashion. All DALI ballasts and controllers adhere to the same logarithmic curve irrespective of their absolute minimum level. The DALI standard determines the light levels over a range of 0.1% to 100%. Level 1 in the DALI standard corresponds to a light level of 0.1%.

Go to light level xx.
Go to minimum level.
Set value xx as regulation speed.
Go to level compliant with situation xx.
Turn lamp off.
Query: What light level are you on?
Query: What is your status ?

The idea concerning the DALI protocol emerged when the leading manufacturers of ballasts for fluorescent lamps collaborated in the development of a protocol with the leading principle of bringing the advantages of digital control to be within the reach of as many users as possible. Furthermore, the purpose was to support the idea of “open architecture” so that any manufacturer´s devices could be interconnected in a system. The precondition to this was for the manufacturers to commit themselves to the DALI standard.

In addition to control, the digital protocol enables feedback information to be obtained from the lighting fixture as to its adjustment level and the condition of the lamp and its ballast.

Examples of typical applications for the new system are office and conference facilities, classrooms and facilities requiring flexibility in lighting adjustment. The lighting-control segment based on DALI technology consists of maximum 64 individual addresses which are interconnected by a paired cable. DALI technology enables cost-effective implementation of lighting control of both smart individual lighting fixtures as well as of numerous segments connected to the automation bus of a building.

To understand the function of a simple light switch is something that everybody can do. It turns on and off the light. To get a more complicated lighting control system to be easy to control, without problem for the user, is now possible. The challenge facing new control systems is for them to be able to offer a flexible and easy-to-use means of lighting control with respect to the demands of both users as well as the facility. All the components of the DIGIDIM system can be controlled either independently or in a group. This being the case, DIGIDIM enables the flexible use of lighting control to different situations. The creation of variable lighting situations is especially important in conference rooms, offices, restaurants and other such multiple-use facilities. A soft transition from one lighting situation to another is possible thanks to programmable adjustment speeds. The system can be flexibly reprogrammed as the need arises, e.g. when using partitions. Also, the system enables the control of different combinations of light sources, e.g. ordinary fluorescent lamps, miniature fluorescent lights, discharge lamps, incandescent lamps and halogen lamps.

In their simplest form, installation and application can be implemented using the devices by connecting only the mains supply cable to the lighting fixtures and the control cables between the various components. DIGIDIM pushbuttons include lighting control levels compliant with the basic programming, and thus the system is ready to be used once the cabling has been completed. Modifications in the lighting levels are easy to perform directly via a pushbutton by adjusting the lighting to a suitable level with the Up/Down buttons and by finally saving the desired lighting level to one of the lighting-level recall pushbuttons. When programming more extensive systems, a PC-based installation program can be used for creating different lighting groups.

In northern parts of Europe, like Scandinavia, the use of cooling air condition systems can be needed to use more then 6 months a year. Part off that energy is for cooling the heath dissipation from luminaries. In buildings provided with gravity-based ventilation, lighting can account for as much as 40% of the energy costs, and in buildings with air conditioning, lighting and ventilation can constitute an even more significant part of the energy costs. Using constant light control and presence detection can ver much reduce these costs. If we take an example: In an office with standard luminaries, the energy consumption for light can be reduced with up to 80% if a solution with new T5 tubes, constant light and presence detection is installed. Also, constant light control adds to the user convenience of the persons in the facility because the system always, and automatically, executes the lighting level desired by the user. Poor lighting has a detrimental effect on people, and it can ultimately cause eyestrain and headaches.

Further information:

Performance Standard: IEC 929 / EN60929 Annex E (Control Interface for Controllable Ballasts)

DALI – Digital Addressable Lighting Interface – brings the benefits of a new industry standard to lighting-control systems. It has been developed specifically with optimum lighting control in mind, both in local room control applications and when interfacing with building management systems. The DALI protocol, based are a draft amendment to IEC 929, has been adopted as a new standard by major ballast manufacturers such as Helvar, Hüco, Philips, Osram, Tridonic, Trilux and Vossloh-Schwabe. As a dedicated communication interface for the control of lighting systems, DALI enables sophisticated lighting control while greatly increasing flexibility and reducing installation costs.

Improve Energy (and Financial) Performance

Friday, May 15th, 2009

Evaluate opportunities for low-cost energy-efficiency improvements that can help you control costs in a down economy.

Having a plan is better than not having one!

”We’ve assisted our clients in looking across there estates portfolio, for opportunities to reduce energy consumption and have found reducing weekend hours to be one of the most cost-effective ways to accomplish this.”

”Utility incentives enable landlords to work proactively with tenants to reduce energy use in buildings with triple-net lease structures, where tenants pay their own utilities.”

In this struggling economy, controlling costs and maintaining competitiveness are paramount, and real estate companies are going back to basics. Leading commercial real estate owners and managers are leveraging energy efficiency as one of the most cost-effective ways to reduce operating expenses and help tenants control costs.

A renewed focus on energy efficiency can support financial goals and maintain asset value while enhancing tenant attraction and retention. Because energy is the largest controllable operating expense for a typical commercial building, reducing energy costs has a significant positive impact on the bottom line. When implemented in a coordinated fashion, you can improve energy performance without spending capital.

Assess Building and Portfolio Energy Performance
“We find that management commitment is essential, and that a vital first step is to assess and benchmark energy performance,” .


Low-Cost Energy-Efficiency Best Practices

  • Educate tenants.
  • Adjust temperature setpoints.
  • Set back temperatures in unoccupied spaces.
  • Lock and calibrate thermostats.
  • Reduce water-heater temperatures.
  • Reduce weekend operating hours.
  • Tweak start-up/power-down times.
  • Add VFDs and VAVs.
  • Delamp.
  • Adjust and/or add lighting controls.
  • Retrofit with 25- or 28-watt T8s, CFLs, and LEDs.
  • Perform lighting sweeps.
  • Ensure that equipment is functioning as designed.
  • Reduce janitorial lighting needs.
  • Enhance preventive-maintenance activities.
  • Enhance building-envelope efficiency.
  • Leverage rebates and incentives.

A helpful benchmarking, which generates energy-performance ratings.

Portfolio benchmarking will help you compare properties to identify cost-effective opportunities. For example, immediate improvements to a lower-performing building will bring greater returns than looking to improve a higher-performing building.

Low Costs, High Returns
After assessing performance and identifying buildings to focus on, identify opportunities and implement changes that make sense for those buildings, such as …

Engaging Tenants. “Tenants control a large portion of your building’s energy consumption, so taking the time to engage them in energy-efficiency efforts right away can really pay off in terms of the building’s operating budget and tenants’ utility costs,”. Start by leveraging a campaign to show tenants how to reduce energy consumption immediately. Provide e-newsletters, pamphlets, and signage, and communicate in person to encourage tenants to take simple actions toward greater energy efficiency.

Operations and Maintenance. Operations staff should regularly walk through buildings, inspecting equipment to ensure that it’s functioning as intended, and checking all control equipment for proper programming. An engineer told can find annual energy-cost savings with no or little investment.

If you’re willing to invest money, take this process to the next level via retro-commissioning or recommissioning. According to the US ENERGY STAR Building Upgrade Manual, commissioning projects for existing buildings have a median cost of $0.27 per square foot, but result in whole-building energy savings of 15 percent, with a simple payback of less than a year.

Janitorial activities typically account for almost one-quarter of a commercial building’s lighting usage. Opportunities to reduce that amount include team cleaning, where staff cleans one floor at a time, and lighting is turned on and off as janitors progress through the building. You can also engage janitors and security staff to turn off lights that were left on by tenants. If tenants are amenable, experiment with cleaning during the day when the lights are already on.

A comprehensive preventive-maintenance program establishes appropriate levels of maintenance to be performed at scheduled intervals. The time investment may be substantial, but the returns will also be large – and with a low upfront dollar investment.

Lighting. In some locations, lighting levels may be too high and can be lowered by delamping and disconnecting unused ballasts. Delamping may be accompanied by adding reflectors and new lenses to the fixtures, enabling the fixture to more effectively distribute light. One property reports that it reduced energy costs by more than $100,000 annually just by delamping.

Periodically check occupancy sensors and photocells; re-examine lighting controls to identify new opportunities. For example, reduce the minutes of inactivity after which motion sensors are programmed to shut lights off, or program parking-garage lights by zone to reduce the amount of lighting on at night.

Consider adding new lighting controls where possible. You may be able to install additional occupancy sensors in restrooms, supply closets, mechanical rooms, elevator cabs, and private offices; case studies from ENERGY STAR show that these devices pay for themselves in less than 2 years. Photosensors and dimmable ballasts can be installed indoors near windows, as well as on exterior lights, to take advantage of available daylight.

Another low-cost opportunity is a full-floor lighting sweep – adjust building lights so they’re not hardwired in the “on” position and can be turned off during EMS-programmed lighting sweeps. Also, periodically drive past the building at night to ensure that the programmed sweep is actually taking place, and that all non-emergency lights are included.

Perform a lighting survey to locate any remaining incandescent bulbs, halogens, or T12 fluorescent tubes. These inefficient lamps can be replaced with CFLs, LEDs, or 25- or 28-watt T8 fluorescents. If you’ve retrofitted with 32-watt T8 fluorescents, these are a big step up from T12s, but consider replacing them with high-lumen 25- or 28-watt tubes. Don’t overlook exit signs, accent lighting, elevator cabs, or other unique lighting applications.

Building Envelope
In many commercial buildings, air passes freely between conditioned and unconditioned spaces where pipes and ductwork penetrate walls and ceilings, underneath doors to the outside, and at dampers. Regularly check for these gaps and seal or weatherstrip them to immediately reduce heating and cooling costs. Also, consider conducting a thermal scan of the envelope to reveal more in-depth opportunities to repair air leaks or areas of thermal transmission.

Thermostats. Thermostats provide numerous opportunities to improve energy performance. Simply tweaking temperatures can reduce whole-building energy savings by 2 to 4 percent per degree by which setpoints are raised or lowered during the cooling and heating seasons. Talk with tenants to see if temperatures are comfortable, and experiment with adjusting temperatures by a few degrees.

Ensure that vacant space temperatures are set back significantly, or that HVAC equipment is turned off, if practical. Set temperatures back at night and on weekends as well – by at least 10 degrees – using your EMS or programmable thermostats, if you have them (or manually, if necessary).

In addition, limit access to thermostats located in tenant spaces, or program your EMS to allow tenants to make adjustments only within a specified range. If tenants can make frequent adjustments, energy costs will fluctuate wildly and systems will work harder. Be sure that building engineers reset temperatures to optimal setpoints each day so that tenant adjustments are only temporary (if the EMS isn’t doing this automatically).

Have operations staff compare thermostat readings with the actual space temperatures (as measured by a handheld temperature gauge). If necessary, recalibrate thermostats so their readings equal the true space temperatures. The EPA estimates that calibrating thermostats can produce whole-building energy savings of up to 3 percent.

Finally, take a closer look at the thermostat on your water heater. The EPA recommends setting water-heater temperatures to 120 degrees F. as opposed to manufacturer-set temperatures of 140 degrees F.

HVAC hours. Evaluate opportunities to reduce or eliminate unneeded HVAC and lighting by conducting a census to determine when tenants actually use the building. For example, though Saturdays may be part of their lease hours, how many tenants are really working? “Clients should look across there complete portfolio for opportunities to reduce energy consumption, accessing reducing weekend hours to be one of the most cost-effective ways to accomplish this. Working with clients to provide weekend hours upon request rather than across the board,”

There may be similar opportunities to scale back hours during the week. At the very least, ensure that, if a tenant requests after-hours air one weeknight, hours are reset to normal the next day. In addition, experiment with starting up HVAC systems later or powering them down earlier. Chances are good that you’ll be able to reduce HVAC operating hours and still maintain comfortable temperatures.

VFDs and VAVs. With varying levels of demand placed on HVAC systems, motors and fans don’t necessarily need to run at full speed all the time. Variable frequency drives (VFDs) and variable air volume (VAV) devices regulate motors and fans as necessary. Some of the earlier practices will further reduce building loads, making it important to match systems with variable speed technologies. The cost of installing these devices can be recouped quickly – in as few as 2 years, by suggested case studies.

What Now?
This is by no means the entire list of opportunities for energy reductions, but they’re some of the simplest, most cost effective to implement. Even better, they’re proven to work, based on the experiences of thousands of building owners and managers.

Look for more opportunities in A Practical Guide to Energy Management: Enhancing the Bottom Line You can also explore additional options by conducting an energy audit and developing an action plan based on the results.

Further, utility incentives and rebates can make equipment upgrades and retrofits even more financially attractive, potentially moving some measures from the “expensive” category to the “low-cost” category. “Utility incentives enable landlords to work proactively with tenants to reduce energy use in buildings with triple-net lease structures, where tenants pay their own utilities. The utility often help convince tenants to pay for the retrofit in cases where the landlord may not pursue a given capital project because the benefit would flow disproportionately to the tenant.

“Strategically staging improvements is important – the early savings from low-cost measures can buy you some leverage to invest in larger improvements,”. “But, by reducing energy loads first, you may reduce the size of the new equipment you need to purchase, further reducing expenses in these tough economic times.”

You will see tangible results – a real drop in energy costs and, along with that, an increase to net operating income, asset value, and tenant attraction and retention. But, there is no true end to this process. Owning or operating an energy-efficient portfolio is a cycle of continual assessment and improvement, and requires an ongoing commitment.

Prevent 17 Common Lighting Mistakes

Friday, May 15th, 2009

Don’t underestimate the importance of an energy audit. It’s the basis for everything from evaluating the project’s financial worth to manufacturing and ordering parts.

Energy-efficient lighting retrofits offer an extraordinary chance to cut operating costs and improve lighting quality. But, along with the opportunity for improvement comes the opportunity for mistakes.

Some of the most inherent dangers in lighting projects are outlined here. If you follow the guidelines here and avoid these 17 slip-ups, you’ll be pleased with your lighting retrofit project.

1. Choosing the Wrong Team
Energy efficiency is more than the pursuit of energy savings. People are your most important and productive asset, so work-environment quality is critical. A gain in energy savings can be offset by a loss in productivity if quality isn’t part of the evaluation.

A good partner is just as much an experienced consultant as a provider of equipment and installation services. Beware of “instant experience” in energy efficiency. If you choose a quality partner, you’ll go a long way toward avoiding the 16 other costly mistakes.

2. Conflicting Chain of Command
Retrofits involve decisions with multiple objectives, and typically impact various departments. The best projects come from exchange of information among members of a project team taking direction from a project manager with the authority to negotiate from start to finish. If the final decision is made by the purchasing department without an understanding of your objectives, the system you want won’t be the system you’ll get.

3. Neglecting Frontline People
Sure, savings are important, but tenants and occupants will work in the new environment for years to come; if they don’t like it, someone’s going to hear about it. The best way to avoid complaints is to involve your associates from the start. Solicit ideas from experts and others who have completed similar projects. Keep maintenance personnel in consideration, think about replacement of wearable parts down the road, and be sure to include ease of maintenance in all specifications.

4. Calling in Experts Too Late
Before committing to a project, call in the experts. View your energy-services vendor as a partner, not just a supplier. Be sure your partner can stand behind every statement and warranty. When it comes to project management, you should expect these things from a true energy-services partner:

  • Establishment of goals for savings and facility comfort and quality.
  • Identification of project requirements.
  • A comprehensive audit (see No. 5).
  • Proposal development and opportunity to redesign.
  • Testing and evaluation.
  • Implementation.
  • Be sure you clearly outline to all prospective vendors that this is what you want, and be sure you get it.

Energy Use in Commercial Buildings: End-Use Breakdown
If you know how energy use breaks out, you’ll be able to identify opportunities to save energy in your buildings. SOURCE: EIA

5. Underestimating the Importance of an Audit
A retrofit isn’t like a new construction project – there’s no set of blueprints to start from, and usually no pressing construction schedule to keep. It’s the building audit or survey that establishes the foundation for all work to be performed. The audit is the basis for everything from evaluating the project’s financial worth to manufacturing and ordering parts.

Where can things go wrong? There’s the potential for mistakes in identifying existing equipment, its location, and the recommended replacement. There’s the potential to transpose numbers and make errors in tabulation of inventory and scheduling. At LIME Energy, factory-trained technicians use hand-held computers to identify fixtures and equipment by building, floor, room, and suite. Special codes spell out everything, including restricted access, time limitations, special working conditions, and other vital information used by project personnel. This becomes the blueprint for equipment selection, installation, verification, and billing.

6. Using the Wrong Approach
Manufacturers want you to buy their products – even if they portray them as “generic” as part of an overall installed solution. The trick is to get lighting, HVAC, motors, drives, and other energy-using equipment to work together. When you use a systems approach, you can achieve maximum savings and improve quality.

First, establish your objectives for light level, temperature, airflow, and hours of operation, and don’t assume that anything you have must stay the same. For example, most overhead lighting creates unacceptable glare on computer screens, and most desk work can be done with task lighting; a redesign of the entire lighting system may save much more energy than simply changing the existing equipment to the most efficient.

The only way you know you’re making the best choices for energy efficiency is to look at the entire building as a system.

7. Buying Based on Price
Energy-saving retrofit projects bought on price alone are usually a false economy. The few pennies saved upfront can cost thousands in lost savings, increased maintenance costs, and losses in worker productivity. Since the energy savings are paying for the project, why not choose higher quality and avoid risky situations, even if it means adding a few months to the payback?

Ask a qualified contractor to quote the steps of analyzing, designing, and installing a retrofit project, and you’ll know the fair market value for these services. Beware of the company that undercuts the going market price; it’s easy for vendors to cut price if they know how. They can:

  • Use untrained labour.
  • Substitute lower-grade material or use less material.
  • Bid unreliable or untested technology.
  • Supply discontinued products from vendors.
  • Use a commodity design instead of a custom product.
  • Cut corners on installation.
  • Skip permits.
  • Fail to pay suppliers.
  • Ignore UL requirements.

To an untrained observer, these tactics may go unnoticed, so establish criteria for product quality, and the quality of the installation work and crews, and communicate this to potential vendors before sending out for quotations.

8. No “What-If” Planning
A retrofit project impacts almost everyone, so consider the “what ifs.” It’s easy to identify and plan for anything if you take advantage of the expertise that a qualified company offers.

Take light-level readings and measure space temperatures before and after throughout your facility without telling anyone. That way, you’re prepared for the occasional troublemaker who insists that he or she can’t work because of unacceptable changes to the way things were before. Nothing resolves a dispute better than facts.

Prepare a project book that documents your work before and after. Senior management can’t help but be proud of you … the new corporate hero who saved them lots of money.

9. Not Testing Thoroughly
The greatest part of a lighting retrofit is that it lends itself to verification. Take readings before and after in the same locations, and gather information over time. Use the same metering equipment and account for cleaning, age, and sunlight location when making comparisons. Gathering information will enable you to verify the potential of a retrofit project every time.

10. Botching Up Installation
After a proposed design has been evaluated, you must develop an installation plan of action. Lacking coordination, installation can become a nightmare. Everyone needs to be informed and ready to cooperate. Communication should be in writing; otherwise, you’ll find yourself arguing with an associate or vendor about who ordered the wrong part or model. (You’ll also argue about who’s going to pay for the mistakes.)

Make sure your contractor has successfully worked in an environment similar to yours. Just as important, your vendor should be willing to provide an installation checklist that spells out every step, from security access and clean-up to special equipment needs.

11. Falling for “Bargain” Products
Ask for a warranty. Then, read between the lines. Does the warranty cover what it would take to replace a product in the event of a failure? Be sure to get a performance warranty that covers material, design, and installation.

Next, check your vendor’s financial net worth. There’s no value in a warranty if the company offering it has no assets. Taking the time to carefully evaluate technologies and vendors will pay handsome dividends in savings and improved building comfort and operations. Regardless of the price, it’s no bargain if it doesn’t work.

12. Failing to Scrutinize Proposals
Go back and look carefully at the proposals you’ve received. Check facts and figures; then, double check.

Most of the information you’ll need to make a decision is contained within the audit report: one more reason you can’t underestimate the value of the comprehensive audit and the complete, clear design proposal.

Another important point: Choosing a company without adequate financial resources can be dangerous. Invariably, there are always some adjustments to be made on a retrofit project. Your energy-services project provider must be able to absorb those costs and deliver as promised. An inability to pay suppliers, limited credit lines, or cash-flow problems can lead to delays and liens. If there are major problems, the customer becomes the natural focus for legal recourse.

13. Celebrating Too Soon
Sometimes, a retrofit test can fool you. The light-level readings you obtain today may not stay within an acceptable range over time. Depending on the lamp selected, different lumen maintenance curves apply. Over time, lamps will lose their brightness, shown on the lamp lumen depreciation curve. Also, dirt and dust accumulation must be factored into the equation. Always evaluate your proposals based on light-level readings that will be maintained over time.

14. Holding Back Too Long
There are two main reasons why companies hold back. One reason is corporate inertia. After all, the building is usually comfortable, and the lights still work; no one is complaining. With constant on-the-job pressures, who has the time for anything but today’s most urgent crisis? The other reason for delay is to wait for a new rate schedule, rebate, or technology.

But, the truth is, the savings you gain from a properly planned lighting retrofit almost always outweigh other considerations. Take advantage of energy savings now. Delaying a decision in anticipation of any future possibility means you’ll miss out on immediate savings.

15. Using “Average” Electricity Rates to Calculate Savings
While your average electricity rates can provide a quick feel for a project’s potential, actual electricity bills should be used to determine your savings. A common mistake is overlooking the rate structure that applies to your business.

Check with your utility to make sure the savings assumptions in the proposal are based on the correct rate structure.

16. Falling in Love with the Hardware
Sometimes, in the excitement of evaluating new technology, we lose sight of original objectives. For example, sophisticated control features can be appealing, but are often difficult to justify in terms of cost. You don’t want to pay for features you won’t use, or that are unnecessary.

It’s one thing to understand how technology works – what’s more important is how it’s applied.

17. Overlooking Opportunities
It’s a big mistake to believe that installing new equipment to save energy is “not in the budget.” That’s like saying you can’t afford to save money. The mere act of paying your electricity bill means there’s cash waiting to work for you.

To begin with, financial programs are available that will create positive cash flow from the start. In turn, a properly designed program virtually guarantees that your monthly savings will exceed your monthly payment.

If you’re a real estate developer or a building owner, make your space more competitive by upgrading to improved air-conditioning with better controls and better-looking light fixtures with appropriate light levels. An attractive, efficient building is one more step toward higher tenant retention.

Mistakes happen. Keep in mind that an energy-efficiency retrofit is more than the sum of component parts. These retrofit projects, by their very nature, require an educated buyer to sort through competing claims and ensure that quality and service are part of the evaluation process.