Samantha Keck asks Richard P Westfall, vice-president and general manager of Lighting Management Systems at Leviton, and the company’s director for international business development, Paul F Sherbo, about lighting management
Tell us about your latest innovative product.
Richard P Westfall (RPW): Last year we introduced an energy management product line – occupancy sensing – that is self-powered and, more importantly, no batteries, completely wireless. We expanded the line now, so we have occupancy and vacancy sensing, lamp modules, fixture modules, thermostats etc. It is a breakthrough in technology, with wireless and no batteries.
How does it power itself?
RPW: It’s a solar cell that collects the ambient light as well as a switch with kinetic power. Anytime you turn on the switch, it generates power and stores the power.
So between the solar cell that collects ambient light and the kinetic switch, it generates enough power. So the power consumption is very low.
How did you think up this kinetic energy part?
RPW: We worked with a technology partner called Enocean, and they came out with a radio module and, in joint development, we created products that use both kinetic and solar and storage of power.
How do you link light management with energy efficiency?
Paul F Sherbo (PFS ): It depends on the application.
For example, one of the most common and most fruitful applications tends to be restrooms. The restrooms are very often the ones with lights on and no one there. The result can be, in terms of that application, up to 90% savings. … We don’t dream these savings up.
There are two main bodies in the US where we get our data: one of them is the Department of Energy and the other is the Environmental Protection Agency. Both of them have very well researched body of data that indicates what typical savings are. And this becomes the basis by which many of the states apply their energy codes.
In most places that I go to in the US, a typical office, for instance, lights are controlled by an occupancy sensor. But further than that, not all of the lights can come on; somewhere between 30-70% only can come on. The additional or second switch (if you want to call it that) has to be manually operated.
The idea is that when you’re coming into a room, most of the lights don’t come on. If you need additional lights then you can go push the button and the additional light comes on. That’s called bi-level switching and that is another strategy that is used in energy savings. But we also make occupancy sensors that have that kind of capability built into it.
Do you consider lighting management part of home automation?
PFS : Certainly. But I would like to say that a lot of energy management is done on what we call a stand-alone basis, which means that the only thing I may have in my house is an occupancy sensor. That would certainly be called energy management but that is also called a stand-alone application.
But in another application, maybe the entire building is part of the scheme. A place like this is a very good example. The electric light is controlled based on the amount of available daylight and the amount of electric lights that would come on would be adjusted in proportion to the available daylight –which is called daylight harvesting.
Then yes, we might have sensors in the hall way, we might have switching to control the parking lot to make sure that the lights in the parking lot go off when the sun comes up and they go on when the sun sets. That is what we would typically call a building automation approach where all the lights are controlled. And now we are beginning to expand beyond just controlling light because you can control other things.
What are your new products for 2010?
RPW: We have a tremendous amount of products in development today that will be launched in 2010. We have a complete intelligent ballast for distributed dimming system, we have a complete energy management switching relay line coming out, and we have a complete line of line devices… for this particular market.
PFS : One of the latest strategies is to bring in more energy management. It’s one thing to build a new building and put controls in it, but what about the gazillion square metres that already exist? So we brought out a suite of wireless products that allows us to implement energy saving lighting controls easily into existing buildings without tearing into the walls and putting wires in them.
RPW: That would be the first product line that we talked about, the self powered wireless product line.
How has the downturn affected your business plans?
RPW: Leviton has about 60% of the residential wiring business in North America. Of course the downturn has affected the corporation. At the same time, the corporation has invested in technology business units in lighting management systems, network solutions and integrated networks. So the growth has been in innovation in those products lines, and that growth has sustained us and allowed us to continue our growth internationally.
PFS : There is no question that you have to do costcutting, but I think what is really exciting for us is the greening of the world which is still happening despite the energy downturn. In fact, a lot of governments which are doing stimulus programmes for their economy are centred on making more green products and retrofitting their existing government buildings, to make them more energy efficient. That helps companies like us.
Buildings here are understood to last only about 25 years and it is almost easier to build a new building than to retrofit one. How do you see Leviton modifying its strategy to fit this economy?
RPW: We came to the Middle East a year ago and this is our second year, and we are starting to grow our product portfolio here and our strategy is to completely bring in 104 years of product leadership in North. So we are bracing ourselves for that growth.
PFS : I would think about that question from the perspective of the building owner. How far am I into the lifecycle of the building? The good news about energy management control is that the payback on them can be relatively short depending on the application – which means the investment is going to pay for itself. If you are talking about a full-blown energy retrofit for a building that is not going to be around for long, then you have to weigh the cost of investment of retrofitting against a new building. If I had it my way, I would make the age 10 years so that I can provide for more new build.
In a new building, it is surprising and gratifying, particularly in the Middle East, where energy is, in many cases, not very expensive, that the government seem to be very interested in promoting a greener society, with greener building, less energy consumption. My conclusion is two main reasons: One is I think the entire world is waking up to a greener, more sustainable planet; but even if you have inexpensive energy, it still costs a lot of money to build power plants, transmission lines and infrastructure. So it doesn’t matter that you have energy that is in expensive; building all the infrastructures is very expensive.
Is there a trend in lighting management?
RPW: In the light sources, there is the incandescent, sodium to fluorescent and, now, of course, the future is LED [light-emitting diode. Its light output is small compared to incandescent and compact fluorescent lamps].
The world is poised to welcome LED in the future. We believe it is going to be a major light source. We don’t know if it’s going to be next year, three years or five years away. But as the light source becomes more effective and more efficient, it will. And we believe and the industry believes that it will become a major light source. In our business, we control lighting, so the trend is for us to stay with the technology to be able to control those types of light sources as they change.
PFS : One of the things that I would add and the other thing that I think is interesting about trends in energy management is that when you do a LEED [Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design, an internationally recognised green building certification system] building, for example, you have to verify those savings. So it’s one thing to say that you are going to have savings, but the standards are going to require verification that this building is designed to save X and that you are actually saving X. So verification will become a bigger trend.
Energy management, for us and for the most part, involved lighting, and lighting control daylight harvesting is really being considered much more than from the point of saving energy. We find that people who are in a building use more daylight. Just to go off on a tangent here for a bit, it has been shown that people in the UAE spend most time indoors around the world. But it has also been determined that sometimes things happen to people who are indoors too much that is not so good. We find that if the people are in buildings that have more control or lighting and daylight, amazing things happen.
At a call centre with daylight, for example, the attention span of the people inside goes up, so is productivity. I am saying that we are looking at more holistic approach to building lighting controls and, naturally, that ties into energy management. We have this incredible generator that lives up in the sky called the sun and, for decades, we have done a poor job of utilising it.
In this market, the tricky thing is to control heat gain when you let in more light. So what do you do? You have to angle the building so that it’s not getting a direct shot of the sun and you make sure that where you let in the light, it’s not so direct.
How can we be more ecofriendly with lighting?
PFS : Certainly disposal with various light sources is an issue; just throwing a fluorescent lamp into the trash is not necessarily a good thing. I don’t know how much recycling is handled here but, if it’s not, then it becomes an issue. LED is the same way, actually; it is not necessarily a good idea to throw LED into trash cans because they have hazardous materials inside of them. Hazardous is a relative term; are you going to die from touching LED? No. But is it good for the environment? No.
RPW: I would add that effective energy management is crucial to conservation. PFS : Just to add to that%