Controls that free your imagination

Every now and again a new device comes along to enable us to re-evaluate the way we think about controlling the built environment. Stephen Payne, KNX Sales Manager for Theben UK explains more about the many new possibilities for energy efficient systems design.

Controls are big news and big business. There’s already a lot of choice out there and no sign of manufacturers letting up on the stream of news ideas that are coming to market. The insatiable appetite from the new generation of electricians and systems designers, who are bringing a whole new way of thinking to create building environments, will keep this market vibrant indefinitely. So what’s new?

Open protocols seem to have won the battle for hearts and minds, with KNX at last taking what I believe to be its rightful place at the forefront of smart thinking. It’s now leading the way in the UK alongside other systems like DALI lighting control in the UK (with KNX-DALI gateways enabling them to work alongside each other), Enocean’s wireless batteryless product, etc. Open and flexible is the way forward.

Consultants at last are changing their specifications to include KNX building control systems, and forcing heating and lighting engineers to talk to each other across the Chinese wall that has traditionally separated them. The driver for this change is of course, financial with high fuel costs and de facto levies like the Carbon Reduction Commitment. The enabler is the availability of powerful and flexible controls that make implementing new ideas and integrating building services easy and logical. Developments like our stepless dimmers for LEDs, which was chosen as the UK KNX Association Product of the Year, have given them an invaluable new tool for creating ideal living and working environments, with maximum energy efficiency.

This change applies to all types of projects. With a wide choice of products and no shortage of highly competent installers, I would encourage anyone involved with projects from residential homes through to the largest commercial or public building project to look at the controls aspect of the project and see what KNX can do for you.

Steplessly dimming LEDs

Theben’s Universal Dimming Actuator has solved the problem of designing LED lighting systems in a world where there is no agreed standard for LED drivers. It leaves designers free to choose lighting from any manufacturer, mixing and matching to build the best solution for each application which is, after all, the core principle and purpose of the KNX open protocol in the first place.

One of the key challenges for KNX systems designers at the moment – and indeed for any lighting designer – is the dimming of LED lights. Since there is no agreed standard for the design of LED drivers, and so every manufacturer is free to do what they think best. This has made specifying a universal device to control dimmable LED lighting challenging, however Theben has stepped up to the plate with its range of KNX dimmers.

The new Universal Dimming Actuator provides stepless dimming using optimised dimming curves included in the KNX ETS configuration software, and new dimming curves can be imported via the ETS as they become available. It has already been successfully installed in a number of UK sites and been tested with many leading suppliers of LED lights.

Mix and match

The Universal Dimming Actuator is part of Theben’s successful MIX range of actuators and controllers for switching, dimming and heating control. The MIX range is a series of devices, consisting of a base unit and up to two extension modules which make it easier and more cost effective to control multiple channels. Two, four or six channels of dimming can be configured per device group and there is also the option to add booster units for higher loads.

Theben’s PresenceLight 360 KNX Presence Detector with square detection area and constant light control keeps the light level in a given area steady, even if ambient light changes. Square detection zones make it easy to plan an installation and set the right desired light levels. Theben Presence Detectors have been chosen for a number of major projects including the Salford Quays MediaCity, home for the BBC, where thousands of the devices were installed.

As an alternative, the virtually flush fitting PlanoCentro Presence Detector is a good choice for design conscious offices, conference rooms and hotels. These superbly-stylish detectors can now manage larger rooms and provide for zoned lighting to focus on, say, the whiteboard in a training room or the stage of a function room. The detection range covers an area of up to 100sq m and these devices provide maximum flexibility as they can be configured before installation or by using an optional remote control installer tool.

The 2- channel Theben SPHINX 332 KNX is a flexible and straightforward solution to provide two channels of automatic control, responding to both presence and the brightness of natural ambient light and with a detection area of up to 7m it is ideal for many types of rooms like toilets and classrooms. The first channel can be used to dim the lighting in the room and the second channel can be used to control a fan, which is not dependent on light levels, but on motion.

Effective heating control

The new RAMSES 856 top2 OT heating controller is compatible with the OpenTherm open protocol for boiler control and is the ideal solution for the energy efficient needs-dependent control of two heaters with domestic hot water control. The text-based operation on the large display makes OpenTherm heating control clear and straightforward. Of course, there is also a gateway for integration of OpenTherm boiler controls with a KNX-controlled bus system.

Another favourite is time switches which seem to get ever-smarter but also ever easier to use. However, with eight channels, programming via a PC is always going to be the easiest option. The daily, weekly, yearly and Astronomical programming of Theben’s new quartz eight channel time switch (TR648 top2 RC KNX) can be programmed on a PC using the KNX ETS software, or with the Theben OBELISK top2 PC software. As the name suggests, an obelisk-shaped memory device is used to simply transfer programming from the PC to the time switch. So time changes can be made by the installer or customer without the need for experience of KNX programming.

In addition to time control there is also the new light level controller, the LUNA 134 KNX, which can be configured on the device. Three light sensors can be wired in to the device so for example sunlight brightness can be monitored as it travels across a building. With 10 channels, four threshold values and six logic channels this is a powerful controller.