The lights they are a-changin'
Lighting in many residential, office, commercial and industrial spaces is still based on installations designed a long time ago when energy was relatively cheap and abundant. They lack flexibility and don't really take into account individual requirements. Many lamps and luminaires are still fairly inefficient, lights are often switched on and off [or not!] manually as occupants or workers enter or leave premises and lighting is often not optimised for users' requirements or activities. But things are changing rapidly, driven initially by the quest to achieve energy savings.
Lighting making up a significant share of global electricity consumption and administrations in many countries have introduced measures aimed at deploying more energy-efficient lighting solutions for all uses.
For individual consumers, the most visible – and sometimes controversial – measure so far has been the gradual phasing out of the incandescent light bulbs that have been used for some 130 years, in favour of energy-efficient bulbs. These come in two main varieties: CFLs (compact fluorescent lamps) and LED (light emitting diode)-based lights. CFLs are cheaper, having been on the market for longer, but LED lamps are gaining ground everywhere, including in the residential market, as their price is falling sharply and their performance improving. They are also very flexible, as their brightness and colour can be adjusted, and they offer a long service life.
For lighting professionals and facility managers in the office, commercial and industrial sectors, the main choice now is between more energy-efficient fluorescent and LED-based lighting solutions. Further savings can be made by installing more efficient lights and luminaires, taking another look at working areas and making better use of natural lighting. IEC SC 34A prepares International Standards for all different types of lamps, including LED-based ones.
Managing lighting assets for improved savings and comfort
Retrofitting energy-efficient lamps or installing new light fixtures are just two of the steps that can be taken to cut energy consumption in lighting. The other most effective additional measure is the introduction of lighting management. This enables the right light to be provided in the right place at the right time.
One distinctive feature of traditional lighting installations is that generally they have had to be switched on and off physically in many places. They are often left permanently on in office, commercial and industrial spaces or outdoors, consuming power unnecessarily. This will become less common as property owners and institutions take a harder look at their energy bill.
Light management systems both control (switch on and off) and regulate (the need for or level of) lighting. Lights can be switched on and off automatically at pre-set times. This can be done with TDS (time-delay switches), which operate for a certain time and can either be manually actuated and/or remotely electrically initiated. International Standards for TDS are prepared by IEC SC 23B: Plugs, socket-outlets and switches, part of TC 23: Electrical accessories.
The brightness of lamps can be adjusted with dimmers, which are electronic switches. IEC SC 23B prepares International Standards for this type of switch. Lights can also be activated by special devices that react to a situation – for instance if a presence is detected or there are low levels of light. Such devices can be found indoors – in working spaces, corridors or lifts – or outdoors in security lighting or new urban lighting installations relying on LED lamps (which, unlike conventional outdoor lights, can be switched on and off frequently and dimmed).
A single lamp or luminaire can also combine several sensors – for instance dusk-to-dawn and motion sensors. These sensors rely on semiconductor and optoelectronic systems. IEC SC 47E: Discrete semiconductor devices, prepares International Standards for these.
Unprecedented levels of convenience
As well as the ability to save energy, intelligent light management systems provide all users with high levels of comfort and convenience through their flexibility, their ability to control colours and brightness and their capacity to adapt lighting for different tasks and according to the availability of daylight.
Individual luminaires can be adjusted according to requirements or solutions can be developed for whole rooms, buildings and even outdoor or urban lighting. A wide degree of control is on offer, ranging from individual lighting points to entire landscapes.
Lighting is undergoing a revolution: the merger of energy-efficient and flexible lights – LED-based solutions in particular – and intelligent lighting management systems benefits not just the industry, but also users, in terms of savings and convenience.
The tireless work of IEC TC and SC experts, who prepare International Standards for all possible links in the lighting chain, is what makes all these advances possible.