The future is bright for DALI

With energy efficiency and consumption firmly at the top of the corporate agenda, many companies are declaring their intention to reduce their carbon footprint. It’s the new buzz phrase that’s been picked up by the media and manufacturers alike – flick through most magazines and you’ll find a product range that declares its low carbon qualities, despite the fact that it might be the latest in coal-fired, gas-guzzling, patio heating technology. Going carbon neutral could be said to be losing its meaning.
However, that said, lighting control is one area that can actually make a serious impact on energy consumption. We know that in most commercial buildings, lighting accounts for more than half of the electricity used and this is relevant whatever the size of the business. Manual lighting control is largely to blame for this and, although there are many ways that a company can reduce its carbon footprint, one of the most effective is to use a lighting control or management system. With a control system, light levels can be automatically regulated or adapted to suit a room’s natural light levels. In addition occupancy control offers the benefit of switching lights off and on (or even dimming) when a room is vacated or entered.
Efficiency by design
The DALI (Digital Addressable Lighting Interface) protocol was developed by a group of European lighting manufacturers, (including Helvar) with the purpose of establishing a new standard to support the idea of open architecture for lighting control systems. In short, the desire was that devices from any manufacturer could be interconnected to provide true interchangeability across ballasts and controls. In this way, multiple manufacturers can be involved in a system, instead of being tied to a single supplier. This results in lower system and life-cycle costs as the system designer is able to select product features from one manufacturer and combine them with products from another.
DALI offers a number of design and installation benefits for the lighting designer and building services engineer. It is cost-effective and versatile, whilst offering enhanced functionality over comparative systems in the marketplace. Individual control of each ballast is one of the most significant benefits provided by a DALI lighting system. This gives building designers tremendous design flexibility. Multiple uses of rooms can be easily accommodated, as can the needs or preferences of individual occupants. Up to sixteen different light levels can be programmed and stored in the ballast memory. In addition, each ballast can belong to as many as sixteen discrete groups, allowing different lighting scenes for workspaces or room applications. Alongside this, dimming or switching in response to ambient light levels and occupancy are readily accomplished with the addition of devices such as PIR sensors.
Wiring is simple and can be carried out with a standard 5- core cable (no separate bus cable is required) and the system is polarity free for easeof installation. In addition, there is no need to wire luminaires in groups as the system is programmed with a PC and software. This ensures complete flexibility throughout the life of the system as there is no costly rewiring required if there is a change in room use, just simple reprogramming. Central monitoring of luminaire status makes fault finding easier and less time-consuming. DALI systems are suitable for small, medium and large projects. The simplest of systems consists of a power supply, dimmer, switchplate and a DALI-compatible ballast. From there, additional components can be added to this simple energy management platform, such as PIR and occupancy sensors.
DALI Router
Helvar’s new DIGIDIM Router uses standard Ethernet communication to combine DALI networks seamlessly together. This modularity allows users to create a fully scaleable system suitable for a range of applications – from a single office room to a large office building. Basic system functionality is available ‘out-ofbox’ with no programming required, with advanced functionality achieved through programming software. Each individual router can operate two DALI subnets containing up to 64 control devices and load interfaces on each.
The system delivers energy saving features via presence detection and constant light functionality. Further automation can be achieved through the programming of scheduled events and OPC server software enables interfacing to the building management systems. Although programmed using Windows based software – either locally or remotely – a computer is not required for normal day to day functionality of the system. However, it can be retained to monitor and report status. With all data stored in the flash memory of the DIGIDIM routers, the need for cumbersome databases is avoided but the system can be saved to PC as a backup.
World first
Recognising the energy saving benefits and flexibility offered by Helvar’s DIGIDIM Router and DALI capability, Swedish electrical consultants PQR EL and architects Strategisk Arkitektur recently became the first in the world to specify the new Helvar Router. DIGIGIM was at the centre of the complete refurbishment of Stockholm’s Blekholkmen building – a landmark building in the city – and has proven its ability to take DALI to a new level.
The vast Blekholmen building, home to the Swedish Post Office and adjacent to the World Trade Center, required a high tech lighting solution that was also flexible, economical and user friendly.
“We were looking for a total lighting solution with great flexibility for the entire premises”, says project manager, Bo Ericsson. “The new Router had not actually been launched on the market so it was a groundbreaking installation for all parties. The long term possibilities and advantages are endless and we seem to be discovering new ones every day.”
The simplicity and wideranging capability offered by Digidim, which requires only one control unit for both the lighting components (fluorescent tubes, dimmers, relays) and the function units (keypads and occupancy sensors) was a deciding factor in its specification. Up to 4,000 Routers can be connected to the same network which in turn means that up to half a million addresses can be connected to one single system – which doesn’t even require a PC connection.
“To implement the Digidim Router in Blekhomen was truly a dream project, but also a challenge,” comments Lars Wilsson, Managing Director of Helvar Sweden. “Today’s installations need to be adapted to the project’s specific needs and versatility was key to the project. Thanks to the new Router’s ability to communicate individually with each fitting, we have met the architect’s every requirement.”
Clear advantages
DALI is not for all applications but it offers clear advantages where fluorescent dimming is well-suited and desired. As demand for fluorescent dimming increases, with the continued drive to reduce energy consumption, so will the demand for DALI, as a control method that offers many distinct benefits. DALI software enables configuration of lighting groups, with presets matching the lighting to the use of space, whilst offering integrated energy management functions.
In addition to the efficiency gains it brings, as an open system DALI offers maximum flexibility for specifiers and facilities managers, as it enables true interchangeability amongst many vendor products and standardised performance across manufacturers.
Key features of DigiDim Router 910
Flexible
As the Router communicates individually with each fitting there is no need to re-route cables if the building is rearranged.
No PC connection
No need for electrical re-installations when renovating – simply re-group the lighting equipment using the visualisation function included in the software. DALI is considered to be the most flexible protocol available for lighting control.
Energy optimisation and savings
By controlling lighting with daylight dependant adjustments and occupancy sensors, sensors can adjust lighting to make optimum use of the ambient daylight available and detect when rooms are unoccupied so unused light can be switched off. Deploying these sensors also means heat dissipation decreases, resulting in air conditioning savings. Savings on energy consumption of up to 70% are possible.
User friendly
Once installation is complete the system offers a friendly, easy to use operating panel.

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