Outdoor Lighting Controls

Outdoor lіghtіng соntrоlѕ іѕ undergoing a mіnі-rеvоlutіоn that offers new dеѕіgn аnd ѕеllіng орроrtunіtіеѕ whіlе challenging electrical рrоfеѕѕіоnаlѕ tо ѕtау оn top оf technological сhаngе.

Trаdіtіоnаllу, оutdооr lіghtіng соntrоl was rеlаtіvеlу ѕіmрlе. A tурісаl scheme featured a соntrоllеr providing automatic ON/OFF based оn time оf dау (uѕіng аn astronomical tіmе switch) or dауlіght (рhоtоѕеnѕоr). The luminaires were typically controlled at the circuit level with no individual luminaire control.

Commercial building energy codes imposing requirements for more advanced sequence of operations, coupled with greater controllability of LED lighting, have resulted in outdoor lighting control design becoming more sophisticated.

Energy codes and outdoor lighting control

ASHRAE/IES 90.1-2017, the national energy standard, requires all outdoor lighting be controlled by a photosensor. Building façade and landscape lighting must be controlled by a time switch that turns the lights OFF at some point during the night.

The energy standard also requires all outdoor lighting power—other than building façade and landscape lighting, but including advertising signage—be reduced by at least 30% after normal business operations based on a schedule or occupancy.

Parking garage lighting power must be reduced by at least 30% based on occupancy, with control zones limited to 3,600 sq.ft. Daylight harvesting and separate control for daylight transition areas (i.e., entrances and exits) must be implemented.

These simple requirements, created to save energy, have had a big impact on the world of outdoor lighting control, increasing demand for sensors, individual luminaire control and controllability. This in turn has increased demand for good design and commissioning.

While not all states have adopted an energy code at least as stringent as ASHRAE/IES 90.1-2017, the products and experience developed around compliance provide ready-to-go solutions for other states as well as existing buildings.

Control options

Today’s product offering from manufacturers offers electrical professionals a spread of choices for outdoor lighting control with distinct capabilities.

A lowest-cost solution for outdoor lighting may include circuit-level, contactor-based switching of luminaires grouped in functionally appropriate control zones, each with its own schedule and/or photosensor as needed. The lighting would be controlled at a panel. If the lighting is dimmable, control wiring must be run the luminaires.

A more robust solution might include luminaires with attached control devices that provide individual multi-level occupancy- and daylight-based luminaire control. The photosensor activates the lighting, while the occupancy sensor raises/lower light output and electrical input based on occupancy. In a parking lot, for example, this solution would be appropriate for area lighting, while signage and security lighting could be operated dusk to dawn using a photosensor of a limited time of night using a schedule.

The most advanced solution in terms of capabilities is an integrated wireless control system that provides ON/OFF and dimming implementing daylight-, occupancy- and time-based strategies. In a parking lot, for example, the area lighting could be zoned and controlled as individual luminaires or groups, while the signage lighting could be controlled on a schedule and security lighting dimmed as individual luminaires or groups.

Occupancy-based multi-level outdoor lighting control is a relatively new phenomenon. Currently, options are limited to passive-infrared (PIR) detection. These options may expand in the future to include options for digital imaging (non-recording video), which offers more precise detection in the dynamic outdoor environment.

While the LED continues to displace other light sources in many applications including outdoor lighting, it will not eliminate the need for control; in fact, it facilitates the adoption of greater flexibility. Intelligent multilevel control is well suited to LED lighting due to the inherent controllability of the digital LED source.

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