Industry Opinion: The Role of Light & Shade Control in Home Energy Management

By Yasmin Hashmi, HiddenWires. The shift to LED lighting is a direct result of legislation to cut energy consumption, but are clients convinced that automation can further add to those energy savings? We asked a number of leading lights about trends they have noticed in home energy management, and about which features make automated light and shade control suitable as part of the solution. Here are their replies.
Mark Tallent, International Product Manager - Lighting and Building Control, Crestron I have noticed a lot more questions from the custom install world about how installers can make best use of the energy saving benefits of integrated control. Recently, a European dealer won a prestigious American award thanks to an installation that featured a touchscreen-based traffic light system in each room. If it were midday for example, and the outside temperature were 26 degrees, a room were not occupied and the chillers and lights were both fully on and the shades were open, the touchpanel in front of the room would indicate RED because the system would be running extremely inefficiently. The option would therefore be to revert to an eco mode. This would shut down any energy-consuming devices in that room and shut the blinds to block out solar radiation. Once the room was occupied again or scheduled to be used, chillers could be energised and lights set to an acceptable level.
Mark Green, Vimar UK Account Manager, IMP Being involved mostly in high-end residential projects, energy saving has not been a high priority within project specifications or client requirements. Energy monitoring has been more of an 'added value' to the client rather than a necessity or expected part or project delivery. Technology in energy management and monitoring has come on leaps and bounds over the last few years and can be incorporated into the fabric of intelligent buildings, so it is a great shame that the take up and acceptance of this technology in homes is not greater. Energy saving using light and shade control is more predominant and accepted as a standard when projects move into the commercial field using BMS within large offices, hotels, educational buildings and tower blocks. In residences, the use of automated light and shade control is being taken up, but more so as a room environment enhancement - as part of scene sets or to achieve constant lux levels within specific rooms, balancing ambient outside light levels against luminaries within the room. Any energy savings made due to the use of automated light and shade control does seem to take second place to the need for comfort control.
Iain Shaw, Partner, Brilliant Lighting Lighting control has long been associated with energy efficiency, but building regulations that insist on energy-efficient sources have pushed lighting control systems centre-stage. Designing energy-efficient lighting sources requires a different approach. We use more circuits, building up layers of light to deliver the appropriate intensity and colour on a granular basis, as dimming LEDs is more complex than halogen, and we use a wider range of control protocols. More complex control systems can respond to daylight, and when window shading is incorporated, the systems can help with thermal management. Lighting control simplifies things for the end-user; a well-designed system offers ease-of-use way ahead of that possible with conventional control. The complexity of what is being controlled can be hidden from the user who is presented with simple, intuitive control.
Ty Saville, CBS Sales Manager, Somfy The control of natural and artificial light has a great impact on the visual aspects of the home along with functionality and energy savings, and it is up to manufacturers, within their respected industries, to balance the demands of homeowners with new energy management regulations. As a manufacturer of automation systems, we have seen the market for motorised interior shading expand every year - mainly due to the growth in the high-end residential sector, but our goal is to bring automation to the everyday household rather than just the elite. If we can manage the heat coming in and going out of windows due to insulation losses, we can help to save on energy costs while also increasing comfort.
Andy Moss, Managing Director, Moss Technical, Niko Partner One of the most talked about trends is the revolutionary use of smartphone technology in home energy management. Most major brands are offering a smartphone capability, which allows users to control, manage and review their home energy consumption. With an increased focus on energy efficiency throughout our lives, it is no wonder that demand for energy efficiency tools has skyrocketed. Smart meters are now demanded regularly and are installed in an increasing number of new-build homes. Good home energy management requires the aforementioned features, but they must work alongside more intricate ones that control light and shade in order to be successful. As we all know, light is often the key cause of residual heat. A feature that comes as standard with most automation systems is occupancy detection. Occupancy detectors do exactly what they say on the tin. When a room is occupied, systems can be set to turn lights on automatically, and when a room is empty, they will turn off. This ultimately means that any residual heat from lights that are left on will be cut immediately after use. Smart meters can be used to monitor the efficiency of this system throughout our homes. Often, the most significant cause of light and heat build up comes from solar gain through windows and thermostats and light sensors offer the most reliable solution in any given room. Automatically closing a sunblind can restrict the heat build up in a room, especially if fitted externally so that the window doesn't become a big radiator! Thermostats and sensors can be programmed to alert the system and automatically close blinds or shutters to reduce the amount of light entering a room. This therefore reduces heat and increases shade, meaning that you don't have to activate the air-conditioning to cool the room down. What's more, thermostats can be fitted externally, so that if the temperature rises outside, external canopies and shutters will operate to reduce the amount of sunlight entering the home. It is vital to remember that early design is crucial to increase the success of these features. Smart meters and smartphone technology mean that we can keep track of the efficiency of our homes and monitor how light and shade features maintain the most economical environments.
Guy Simmonds, Sales Director - UK, Lutron Electronics The adoption of LED as a primary lighting source in residential applications continues apace due to performance, to meet regulations, and to make efficiency gains. The first step to realising energy management goals is to combine efficient LED lamps and fixtures with a control system that allows you to manage the light in your home, whilst maintaining the performance of those LEDs. The other significant area to consider is daylight - if correctly harnessed, it provides a free-of-charge light source that can contribute to the overall lighting level in each room. Daylight is however, dynamic, and somewhat unpredictable, changing from day-to-day and hour-by hour. Therefore, the key is to design a total light management system comprising dimming technologies, automated shades, and daylight sensors that work together to compensate for these constant changes in daylight, minimise the need for electric light and deliver the desired lighting levels in every room, at any time.
Paul Nagel, VP of Lighting & Comfort, Control4 The biggest trends we're seeing in home energy management are being led by three key elements. The first is UK government legislation, EU directives and the US Energy Star programme that have driven the phase-out of the incandescent lightbulb. LED bulbs use one tenth of the energy of a comparable incandescent bulb. It is estimated that the worldwide LED replacement market will grow from US$1.3B in 2013 to $15B in 2018. As consumers embrace this new technology for the energy savings it provides, they are exposed to options for smart control of this new technology, and the lifestyle and additional energy benefits it provides. The second is the exposure to and excitement surrounding Internet of Things (IOT) enabled products, providing a catalyst for companies large and small to make traditional HVAC controls and thermostats intelligent and offer smartphone applications. Most of these products support energy saving and auto-learning features as a primary benefit. Once again, as consumers embrace these smart HVAC system controls, they see the possibilities for whole-home smart control and the lifestyle and additional energy benefits it provides. The third is the growing popularity of window treatments (shades, blinds and shutters), especially in the U.S. Historically, window treatments were viewed in terms of security, privacy and aesthetics. Now, with the worldwide focus on energy management, these systems are valued for their energy savings potential. A smart window treatment system can be optimised for outdoor/indoor temperatures, radiant heat, and exposure. Window shades can be lowered in the summertime when external temperatures are high, to block radiant heating, and can be left open during the wintertime to allow radiant heating to heat the home. While these lighting, HVAC and window treatment trends can be seen as isolated 'smart' systems within the home, they can be intelligently integrated through an automation system to deliver increased efficiency, convenience and lifestyle benefits. For example, the homeowner could simply set the home to 'Away' mode, whether in the home or remotely, and the home automation system could then coordinate the interaction of these systems to achieve the level of energy desired.
Yasmin Hashmi is the Editor of HiddenWires, EMEA's leading English-language publication for the home control trade. You are welcome to add to this discussion by commenting below or through the HiddenWires group on LinkedIn. You are welcome to comment on this article. See below.

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