Lighting Control System Developments Lead to Savings in Outdoor Lighting

July 3, 2014 By Antony Corrie

Antony Corrie

If you had a 100-dollar bill in your hand, you’d be crazy to let it slip through your fingers and blow away in the breeze. Yet every year – in fact, every night – money evaporates into the atmosphere while most of us sleep in blissful ignorance.

Why? The twinkling of numerous pockets of street lights across the US offers a welcoming glow to air passengers and reassurance to workers heading home after dark, especially those on foot or those collecting their cars from parking lots. But the estimated 15 million street lights that pepper our sidewalks, industrial estates and residential areas come at a cost.

Not only does excessive or unnecessary urban lighting cause environmental pollution, it also places a significant cost burden on the US taxpayer – and considerable pressure on our planet and its valuable resources.

But energy-saving solutions are pushing their way to the forefront of popular thinking, with new developments in lighting control systems now enabling outdoor illumination to be controlled and managed remotely and with the minimum of fuss.

What’s more, the latest in lighting control technology allows individual lamps, or separate sections of lighting, to be dimmed or even switched off completely if and when required, allowing tailor-made solutions that suit a specific area’s traffic density and environment.

It makes economic sense. You wouldn’t want your electricity meter clocking up wasted units by leaving the heating on high while everyone was out. So why would cities have street lights burning at full blast while most people are in bed? The current lack of street lighting control leaves some cities facing hefty bills and in some areas of the US, spending on street lights accounts for more than half of municipal electricity costs.

The US Department of Energy says long-lasting, highly efficient LED lighting could help towns and cities across the country save more than $750 million a year in energy costs. As times have become tougher economy-wise, the strength and pace of the money-saving LED lighting system, and the control systems which enhance and complement them, has grown. Compound that fact with recent news from the White House advocating a much higher percentage of renewable energy to supplement the traditional means of making energy, reducing energy utilizing waste by using wireless control seems to be a no-brainer.

Across the world, many countries – including the US – have begun to phase out incandescent lamps, replacing them with more energy-efficient light sources such as LEDs. In five years’ time, LEDs are expected to account for more than 50% of the global lighting market.

An example of the success of the replacement lighting scheme was highlighted last summer by the Mayor of Los Angeles, Antonio R Villaraigosa. In a blog for the Clinton Foundation website the Mayor reported how, in 2009, the City of Los Angeles had teamed up with the Clinton Climate Initiative to gauge the true cost of its street lighting.

It discovered that it was spending almost $15 million a year to light the city with 210,000 street lamps while churning out 110 tons of carbon into the atmosphere. In just four years, the city had retrofitted 140,000 lamps with LED bulbs, seeing energy savings of more than 60 per cent on its previous bills. It was, said Mayor Villaraigosa, the equivalent of taking nearly 10,000 cars off the road, and taxpayers were saving more than $7 million a year.

Smart systems are able to not only cut electricity bills, they can also wirelessly control the output of individual lighting points, making them as energy efficient as possible at off-peak times when the intensity of light is not such a significant requirement.

The rapid pace of technological development means that customers now have the ability to control a specific lighting unit from anywhere in the world via the internet. In the case of an emergency, lights can be restored to full brightness at the touch of a button – from a computer, laptop, tablet or smartphone. Faults on individual units can also be reported to specific users via email and detailed reports can be made available on the energy usage of individual lights, or a group of lights if required.

Looking to the future, the combination of energy-efficient LED lighting and the continuing development of, and investment in, lighting control systems for use on streets, industrial parks and highways must surely lead to financial benefits for all.

Antony Corrie is the Vice President of Harvard Engineering Americas. Following a successful career at Future Electronics, Antony joined UK-based Harvard to set up the Americas division in August 2012. Last year, Harvard Engineering celebrated 20 years as a British manufacturer of quality and excellence. The company’s lighting control systems are designed, developed and manufactured at Harvard’s automated factory in the U.K. LeafNut (Harvard’s wireless Central Management System) was recently launched at Lightfair 2014 in Las Vegas. The Americas office opened in San Diego 18 months ago.In 2011 the company won the Queen’s Award for Enterprise: Innovation.For further information visit:

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