With the tremendous options that are available in lighting controls, I am amazed when I review Electrical Engineering drawings (primarily corporate interior projects) by how “old school” the approach is for wiring, circuiting and controlling general office lighting.  Typically ceiling light fixtures are wired, row by row back to the electrical closet where some master “timer switch” turns them on/off.   Have you ever seen a light switch to control general office lighting in a skyscraper?  Hopefully not.  Specialty areas such conference rooms, pantries, bathrooms etc. typically (hopefully) are out fitted by occupancy sensors to turn off lights when not in use.

But let’s talk about the rows and rows of general fluorescent lighting spanning the ceiling print of a typical office floor.  Literally there are hundreds and in larger spaces, thousands of 2×2 and 2×4 lighting fixtures.  When the EE designs the wiring and circuiting, in many instances it’s just systematically looping up one row and down the other and the space is treated as “general office space.”   Unfortunately, this means that these fixtures are laid out with no clear understanding to how the space will be occupied and used in daily operations once occupied.

Next, the question comes up “how do we turn off the lights at night?”  Knowing the reality that no one will turn off the lights – the EE decides to put in a timer to turn “off” the lights at the end of the day and “on” each morning.  As silly as it sounds, there are still “dumb” timers which are nothing more than a motorized clock with a set wheel which triggers a relay to either open or close the circuit to the lighting fixtures.  Tork timers made a killing with this stuff.  Tork was the definitive leader in motorized timers which turned on/off various circuits – such as outdoor lighting.  Although considered a bit prehistoric by today’s technology, these large mechanical wheels / timers ticked away 24 hours a day with metal “clips” that were set for “on” and “off” times.

In large installations, timers would trigger banks of relays to open/close numerous circuits and turn lights on/off throughout the building.  Multiply this situation per floor and there are timers and relays everywhere.

Now consider this, Joe the office manager says his group needs to work late and he needs the lights to stay on.  Now somebody has to crawl though the electrical closets and track down what circuits control the lights on his floor, find the timer associated with those particular lights and manually reset the timer.  Now Jane finds out Joe changed the lights on his floor and she wants the lights on her floor to turn on earlier in the morning.  And by the way, there are 50 floors in this building, each with more people that have more requests for how they need their spaces lit.  Did I mention what happens when Daylight Savings Time kicks in?

So let me illuminate a MUCH better solution.  Ditch the timers, ditch the relays, stop crawling through the electrical closets and forget about Daylight Savings Time.  Think about motorized and automated circuit breaker panels.  This is so simple it’s silly.  Wire all your lighting circuits to a motorized circuit breaker panel – and you can have web based monitoring and access and remote power controls all at your fingertips.    So who makes this kind of stuff?  Check out a company called LynTec (www.lyntec.com).  This company concentrates on lighting and power controls – it’s what they excel at and their product line offers you a variety of panels to help you maximize control options.  They’ve got web based monitoring (check out their G3 Series), they’ve got RPC circuit breaker panels and they can build in IP connections to bring all the AC power controls to your desktop.    From their web browser you can easy set time on/off for each and every circuit and you can forget about DST because the software reads network time and adjusts accordingly.  When you need to change something on the fly it’s easy – open a web browser.  Need to know what circuits control which lights?   Again, they make it easy – each circuit can be labeled within the software for easy reference in the future.

Oh, and if you want to know the power load and energy consumption for any circuit – in real time or historical logged data –this information is readily available.   After all, knowing how much energy you save comes from knowing how much you use.

Their products can also create automated sequences and programmed “events” which can be stored as presets and run any time of the day, day of the week, or anytime you want.

So, for Electrical Engineers everywhere – it’s time to step out of  your “old school” approach and start incorporating solutions, like LynTec’s, that make SO much sense in the world of building automation, energy conservation and just plain convenience for the facility / building managers.

It’s just the bright idea…..