Lighting Questions? Ask Jim,The SwitchGenie

Question: Jim, what is the your approach to controlling light fixtures to save energy?

In my years in the lighting business I have learned that if it doesn’t work the first time a customer uses it and consistently from then on, they will eventually find a way around the product and go back to just turning on and off the lights with a switch or a circuit breaker.  This includes dimming systems and any kind of relay system.

My passion has been to find a way to allow the user to have bi-level or multi-level control and still use the existing wall switch. The SwitchGenie ballast does that.  It is perfect for offices with one to six or eight fixtures. The switch will control all the fixtures with our ballast that are on the same switch.

I have found that lighting designers want to get fancy and put in all kinds of controls. This is great for the controls companies, but the end user usually won’t learn how to use the controls and eventually gets frustrated and pushes the “all on” or “off” button so there are no controls being used.

My philosophy is that if we are in the business of saving energy we need to have the default light level to be the most energy efficient light level possible. The fact that our eyes quickly adjust to the available light in the space makes the SwitchGenie’s default setting provide enough usable light to do most of the tasks in the area.  If more light is needed, then the switch can be toggled and another lamp comes on in each fixture so that there more light. This can be done until all the lamps are on.

At Logica Lighting, our experience is that our customers using the SwitchGenie ballast prefer the lower light levels since most of them work on computers and HATE the glare of fluorescent lights. We lower that glare and make the contrast ratios more uniform in the space.

Today I got a call from an existing customer that has had our 8 lamp T8 fixtures in their production facility since 2007. These lights are controlled in zones, and there is push button four-level control switch in each area so that the workers can adjust the lights to the task. This plant runs three shifts, and they do adjust the lights for each area for each shift.  They recently added on to their plant, and we furnished them new lights for the new space. When we discussed the new lights they wanted some kind of automatic controls. I suggested occupancy sensors or a RF wireless handheld controller. We demonstrated the handheld wireless remote, and they immediately chose that so the supervisor of that area can control the lights from wherever he is.

The call today was to ask that we provide them with RF controls for the fixtures in the original installation. We can do that very easily by adding RF radio for each lighting group with a different address for each zone. They will have a new RF handheld transceiver for these zones. The next step is to offer them a computer program that runs on their Windows based PC where they can use automatic time clock programs to control all the lights in the building.  We have a plant that has 720 fixtures with our RF controls, and they are using the time clock program to control all of them.

It is possible to get as sophisticated as you want with our distributed intelligent system. Once you have a microprocessor inside the fixture you can talk to it.  Our ballasts and switches are bi-lingual; they talk our simple IEEE-485 language and also MODBUS, which is the language of the building automation systems…

Have a question about lighting control? Please leave it in comments and I will answer it in subsequent posts.

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