Today’s lighting control solutions are dynamic with technology tracking at lightening speeds. From simple residential solutions to complex commercial installations, controls are maximizing energy efficiency and increasing space utilization, comfort, entertainment and safety.
Integrated AI lighting solutions now serve the home owner who wants a built-in Alexa system in their lighting to the corporate headquarters who want mapping technology tied to their campus.
But controls are relatively new and with any new technology, education is key. While specifiers are gaining the knowledge of what controls can do, it’s the contractors whose installation will determine the outcome of those plans. That’s why we’re talking to Kevin O’Brien, project manager for Resource Lighting + Controls, on common issues and resolutions with controls.
What common misconceptions do you come across in controls related projects?
Kevin: A lot of people are being oversold. A common misconception is that if I’m replacing an older electrical panel cabinet, it needs to be replaced with another cabinet. That’s not always the case. With wireless power-pack solutions such as the Zūm™ J-Box Load Controller, a wireless node can be added to the circuit allowing for remote monitoring and operation. In cases like these, it’s a good idea to contact your sales person or contact someone from the project services department at email@example.com to find the most effective solution for controls retrofits.
What’s the most common problem you encounter post sale?
Kevin: There are many issues that can arise; that’s why we do pre-construction meetings. A common issue I see often is incompatible controls substitutions. Many projects are put together with a controls package specific to the lighting. Somewhere along the way the switches are removed from the project and replaced with single pole toggle switches. This results in killing the power to the control system.
For a good comprehensive controls solution, you want any interface that turns the lights on and off (switches, fixture integrated and stand-alone sensors) to be part of a comprehensive package instead of pulling the package apart. Controls can do so much more than dimming and these solutions are surprisingly simple to implement especially with free apps like Clairity (designed for use with wireless nlight switches). A few bucks may be saved on the front end, but there could be compatibility issues; you could end up with less functionality and higher cost in the long run.
Another thing to consider is that digital controls are reducing the need for cumbersome multi-gang switches. We can accomplish the same thing in one single gang that would have required a 4-gang switch previously. (example: Crestron Cameo Wireless Dimmer) This reduces the amount of material that EC’s need for a similar installation producing a clean professional looking installation.
At the end user level, the contractor has to provide a solution that works. In terms of meeting schedules and guidelines, you can accomplish a much cleaner solution with the correct controls instead of trying to piece it in later after realizing a problem has been created by trying to save a few dollars on wall switches.
You mention pre-construction meetings, who should take advantage of these and what do you accomplish in those meetings?
Kevin: Phone calls are free; If a distributor, contractor, or end-users asks me, “What’s the wind loading of the poles; is it high enough to support these fixtures?” I’m happy to answer those questions, that’s what we’re here for.
Controls layouts and pre-construction meetings are are generally part of a lighting package.
Pre-construction/pre-wire visits can be done in our Chesapeake VA Lighting Lab or on site. Generally speaking, if the project is complex with lots of controls, we might schedule a series of preconstruction/prewire visits, and simpler installations require a single meeting or possibly a conference call. Scheduling a site visit is easy and should be done via email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Contractors can expect to go over wiring details specific to their fixture schedule. This would include reviewing ceiling types and any a-typical mounting as different manufacturers have unique housings. We review protocols for wireless, dimming, low and high voltage, cat-5 terminations and RGBW, DMX or Dali specifics, desired controls functionality any other issues specific to the job.
A lot of potential problems can be identified and resolved in these meetings, before construction begins. The goal is to have zero call backs. We consistently see very few or no call backs and smoother turnover to the owner on projects that have pre-construction meetings as opposed to those who opt out. On site calls can be costly in both maintaining schedules and in the case of improper installations that must be resolved post installation; we try to avoid that.
What is the order of events for submittals and pre-wiring meetings?
The order should be:
- Preconstruction/prewire meeting
- Submittal Review
- Startup Request
- Site Visit
We have specific timelines for startup requests:
- Unified Lighting: 7 Business Days
- Crestron Electronics: 15 Business Days
- Acuity Controls: 12 Business Days
- Lumenpulse: 10 Business Days
- Evenlite Inverters: 10 Business Days
- Myers Power: 10 Business Days