Why power control in large venues is more important than ever

Power control has become more critical than ever as churches, schools, theatres, auditoriums and other large meeting spaces invest in new audio, video, and lighting (AVL) technology and increase their energy load. With automated power control solutions, specifiers can provide the best electrical infrastructure for their AVL system. Automated power control allows End-Users to easily follow these system best practices that ensure the efficiency and longevity of their equipment and lighting fixtures.

The average worship facility’s AVL system for example, is in use only three to five percent of the week. The rest of the time, a facility’s AVL systems are often put into standby or “vampire” mode, and are still drawing power. While standby loads for modern equipment have certainly fallen, facility managers are surprised to learn they’re still spending as much money keeping their gear in standby as actually using it. The same is true for LED lighting fixtures that are only dimmed to zero rather than being completely powered down.

Best Practice: Turn off AVL systems at the circuit level

Good maintenance of an AVL system requires completely power all gear down rather than putting them into standby. Automated power control eliminates risks to a facility’s delicate and expensive AVL gear by turning off the power at the circuit level. A closed circuit that allows the flow of electricity is a liability. Any electrical anomalies such as lightning strikes, voltage sags and surges, can damage or completely fry equipment. But, if the circuit is opened, gear is turned off completely and considered off the grid because electricity is not able to travel to the device.

This is especially important for LED fixtures. For more than a decade, venues have been making the switch from incandescent lighting systems to LEDs to reap the cost savings of lower power consumption and doing away with troublesome lamp replacements. An incandescent bulb is typically rated for 2,000 hours; an LED lamp is rated typically for 50-100,000 hours. However, it’s a common misconception that when an LED lamp is dimmed to zero, it is completely powered down. This is true for the diodes, but not for the electronics which are still fully powered and drawing power. LED video walls experience the same issue. Today’s latest high brightness LEDs demand more and more power to make those bulbs burn brighter than ever.

In addition, there are a lot of sensitive electronics in each LED lighting fixtures that enable them to dim, move, or change colors. Those electronics, much like a computer or display, aren’t designed to stay energized for extended periods. They will only last a few years if not properly cared for — far less than the advertised 30 years the diode will last. Most lighting manufacturers recommend powering assets down completely when not in use. Many even offer small relay panels now as part of their system because they recognize the benefit to lighting systems.

Tip 2: Don’t cook your AVL systems

Another reason to fully power down AVL gear with an automated power control system is to save them from excessive heat exposure. Heat is one of the natural enemies of all electronics, slowly burning them up over time. Standby mode doesn’t allow for the electronics to cool down and is one reason an expected 30-year lighting system may only last three years. In the lighting world, fans were recently added to combat this issue. Unfortunately, these moving parts often wear out well before the lifetime of the system as well.

Tip 3: Give AVL systems the reboot

The Pro AVL industry is moving to a completely digital framework. That means almost every piece of audio, video and lighting gear is built around processors that enable more intelligent capabilities and features. It also means, much like today’s computers, they’re prone to freeze and lock up when left on. Wireless equipment, such as wireless DMX modules and video walls are especially prone to locking up.

Many times, the only way to reset the system is through a hard reboot that will refresh the processors. This can be a challenge at times due to which end-loads need rebooting, where they’re physically located and who is on-site to reboot them. By automatically powering off AVL systems at the circuit level, they’re are given the opportunity to do a healthy reboot when powered back up.

Tip 4: Lessen the load for volunteers

There’s a lot to learn when you’re working behind the technical scenes at church or other venues that use part time help. Volunteers have the heavy burden of getting equipment operating exactly right during each service. They often rely on checklists or Standard Operating Procedure lists to help them to know what order everything needs to be powered up in. These directions can easily go missing or may be misinterpreted. Unfortunately, this leaves a lot of room for human error and we’re all human. But by automating power control at the circuit breaker panel, facilities can lessen this workload and prevent equipment from accidentally being turned on in the wrong order.

Tip 5: Prep AVL systems for the digital handshake

In the digital world, the digital handshake – the link that occurs between end-loads over the network – is an important precursor to systems operating smoothly. Often times, there’s a very specific order and timing that digital equipment needs to be turned on properly. If the gear is not powered up during its specific window to handshake with others, it can miss the connection entirely with either the prior or later gear. The only way to fix this situation is to restart the system from the beginning.

Tip 6: Sequence on video walls and equipment with large inrush loads

Automated power control allows for properly timed sequencing which has always been an incredibly important step in the audio world. For example, if an amplifier wasn’t sequenced on after the mixers but before the line arrays, the speakers and their parts could be damaged. Just one circuit turned on out of sequence could spell disaster and expensive repairs for your system.

But there is now a need for sequencing in other parts of your AVL world. Video walls can draw eight to 10 times their normal current draw during the initial startup phase. This large in-rush of current can cause voltage sags and nuisance trips that can damage processors and prematurely wear out circuit breakers. The need for proper sequencing is now a strong consideration to protect video walls and adjacent AVL gear.

Automated Power Control Options

What many people are unaware of, is that there are numerous options for controlling your electrical loads at the circuit level.  LynTec manufactures AVL specific relay panels that add switching capabilities to existing circuit breaker panels.  These can be added to any brand of existing circuit breaker panels to add control if automation wasn’t part of the original installation.

For new builds or major renovations, LynTec offers motorized circuit breaker panels.  These panels include controllable circuit breakers that offer switching built directly into the circuit breaker itself.  Controllable circuit breaker panels can automate electrical devices wherever they are located within the venue, and save a great deal of wall space in the electrical closet.

Today’s automated power control systems come with a myriad of flexible control options for end-users.

One option is through occupancy sensors, and another is through the use of automated timers. These will automatically turn lights or other systems on and off based on people in the room or based on the time of day and can be tied back to the circuit breaker or relay panel via contact closures or through networkable control protocols.

Another popular option is to use simple wall switches or contact closures that allows a group or number of circuits to be turned on in an automated fashion with the touch of a button. A fourth option is to tie the control panel via DMX cable to the lighting control system and address all of the circuits.  That way, when a command is sent to the addressed circuits, they will close and the lights will turn on.

Take Control

With a reliable, advanced power control systems, worship facilities not only protect their expensive technology investments against energy grid fluctuations, heat, and lock ups but it also provides churches with smart control capabilities across their facility that can lower their electric bill. A lighting control board can control all the lighting circuits and the audio board can control all the audio circuits. In addition, they provide sequencing capabilities that are sophisticated and highly customized. Every circuit can have its own delay setting, so with the push of a single button, volunteers can turn every piece of equipment on in exactly the right order with the right delay settings. All the gear always talks to each other and the system isn’t flooded with startup inrush. The result is a flawless AVL production each and every time.

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