Taking Control of Controls23 May 2012
Begin at the Begining
Whether you’re tasked with designing a single room or an entire building, lighting controls can be one of the most intimidating elements of a lighting project. With so many manufacturers, control devices, and control protocols it’s no wonder most people steer clear of this daunting challenge. For the average person, simply selecting the most basic wall dimmer can be difficult!
- Does the light need Incandescent/magnetic low-voltage dimming?
- Do I need an electronic low-voltage dimmer?
- Does the load I want to dim need a 0 – 10 volt dimmer?
This series is dedicated to answering questions like these by explaining the world of lighting control and making the manufacturers, products, and protocols less intimidating. Through this series we’ll look at types of control, from architectural control systems to controls developed for the entertainment world, and how the types and technologies can be combined to meet the needs of the project. We’ll look at a wide range of projects to help determine the best control selection for the project and how to get the most out of the control system you’ve selected.
Since this is the first entry of the series, I thought we’d start where most people start when they begin a project: assessing the scope of a project and determining the best direction for the lighting control system. To do this, I always find it helpful to list as much about the project as is known and generate a series of questions. Below, I’ve provided a list of questions I typically ask myself prior to selecting a control system:
- What is the main function of the room I am controlling?
- How many circuits/zones are being controlled?
- What are the light source/s within the room?
- Do I need switching? Dimming? Color Changing?
- Is this the only room that requires control or is it one of several rooms?
- How much control do I want to give the typical user/s of the room?
- How easy should it be for the typical user/s to make fine adjustments to the lighting?
- Do I need auxiliary devices such as occupancy/vacancy sensors, photocells, partition sensors, automated shade controls, key card switches, etc. to meet the needs of the room?
- Do I need to interface with other devices or control systems?
- Do any of the light sources (i.e., fluorescent, LED, etc.) require a unique control device to function properly? (more on this later)
- What is the budget for lighting controls?
There are several other items to consider once you begin to design the controls, but the answers to these questions will drastically simplify the decision making process. Also, don’t forget to consider the most important question of all when designing a system:
- Who will be using the lighting controls?
This answer will have the most impact on your selection and typically requires the least amount of research, so don’t overlook it!
More often than not, taking the time to assess the overall project design will point you towards an ideal control system and drastically simplify the decision process.
By: Erick Leininger