Taking control of energy savings

The latest figures suggest that energy prices look set to reach an all time high and with companies fighting to meet the latest government legislation on energy saving, some may think that 2011 is looking rather bleak. Not so says Paul Mans, Managing Director of CP Electronics who explains why energy saving lighting controls provide the perfect answer.

We may all be fed up with hearing about the latest targets which the Government requires us to hit or the latest energy saving devices which have to be incorporated into both new-build and refurbishment projects, but the fact remains that these targets are here to stay and therefore we have to find a way to work with them.

Sadly this can often be easier said than done and I have heard many people say that they are starting to become overwhelmed by the number of energy saving products which have found their way onto the market. I’m sure that sometimes you feel the same, because every day there is a new company launching a new device which is guaranteed to save you thousands. While I don’t dispute the fact that they do, my advice would be to start with the simple ‘quick wins’ before even looking at other ‘gadgets’.

Making it easy

Lighting is without a doubt one of the best ways to make quick and easy energy savings. In theory it should be as simple as asking staff to switch off the lights when they leave a room – but often this isn’t as easy as it sounds which is why it makes commercial sense to introduce some form of control.

When I mention lighting control it is easy to conjure up an image of someone jumping up and down in front of a light until it eventually flickers into life. Thankfully those days are well and truly behind us and today’s modern control systems can be programmed to suit any environment and come with the functionality which enables them to be flexible and thus meet the demands of any commercial space.

But with such a huge range of products on the market how do you know where to start and which products are the right ones for your building?

New technology

The key as always is with new technology. This sounds quite simple but with technology progressing at such a fast rate you have to keep up with what is happening in the market to ensure that you achieve the maximum savings.

One of the main advances in recent years has been in wireless technology and while in the past there have been some teething problems, I am happy to say that the latest products on the market really do stand up to the claims they make.

One such example of this new technology is the introduction by CP Electronics of An-10, a new lighting control system which uses wireless technology and allows you to install a fully featured lighting control system easily and with minimal disruption.

One of the key benefits of this system comes from the simple installation which wireless technology brings. Because wireless signals can pass through walls, floors and ceilings, you can position switches and sensors exactly where you need them and there is no need to run expensive control wires between devices or back to a central controller.

This has numerous benefits, not least in the fact that as budget cuts continue to take hold, more and more companies are going down the refurbishment route rather than choosing to move to expensive new office space.

Wireless technology is particularly beneficial in this situation as it involves minimum disruption and the installation time can be cut to a minimum. In addition this type of technology is suited to many more applications such as historic and listed buildings where disturbing the fabric of the building would prove to be both difficult and very costly.

Make it flexible

Flexibility is another key area where wireless technology wins every time as the system functionality is achieved by programming rather than hard wiring. This makes it incredibly easy to design the operation of the lighting system and if at any point you need to re-organise the working space, you simply reprogram the devices for the new layout.

Wireless technology also works well if there is a need to future-proof a building, for example if a large building is only half occupied or if the company is planning to expand. With the An-10 control system it is simply a matter of adding extra devices, programming it into the system and you’re ready to go.

System functionality

The system works with a number of different components which include PIR presence detectors to switch lighting on and off when a person is detected in a room; they can also work as absence detectors which work with a separate wireless switch to turn lighting on then automatically turn the lighting off. The system also incorporates dimming detectors which allows the artificial lighting to be balanced by daylight, saving even more energy.

So in a small office for example, there may be four ceiling lights which are switched and dimmed by the output of the PIR (in this case programmed to work as an absence detector). A push button wall plate is connected to a concealed wireless Switch Module and all of the An-10 devices are then set to the same local code.

By simply pressing a button on the wall plate, a message is sent to the PIR detector which can turn the lights on and dim them to a pre-set level. The lights are then automatically turned off when the room is unoccupied.

The final part of the system comes in the form of the infrared handsets which are compact and lightweight in design and provide the multi-functional operation for the configuration of the detectors, ballast controllers and input units.

I have used a small office as an example but in practice this system works equally well in large offices, meeting rooms and schools, thus increasing the potential for energy savings.

Count the savings

Let’s face it – you can’t always rely on the human element and therefore expecting everyone to be as diligent as you are about switching off lights just isn’t going to work in the long term. But with lighting accounting for around 20% of the total amount of electricity used in the UK there are huge savings to be made and the installation of a simple lighting control system is clearly the way forward.

The real benefit is that because this is a modular system which works using wireless technology it is suitable for all applications and whether the installation is large or small there are guaranteed savings to be made.

The need to make energy savings is something which is now an integral part of our day to day life and therefore whether your role is to specify, install or project manage, it is impossible to get away from. My advice is to embrace the changes which need to be made and ensure that the projects which you are responsible for not only meet, but exceed the targets which have been set.

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