UC Berkeley to develop wireless lighting controls

Sep 26, 2004

Building science researchers at the University of California, Berkeley, have received a grant from the California Energy Commission to develop a flexible, low-cost lighting control system that could provide commercial building owners with significant energy savings and more satisfied tenants.

The research team, based at the campus's Center for the Built Environment (CBE), will construct the system using miniature, low-power radio technology being developed at UC Berkeley.

Because lighting energy accounts for nearly 50 percent of electricity use in commercial buildings, the new wireless system holds great potential for energy savings. In many buildings, lights are left on unnecessarily because of inadequate controls. Traditional switches are typically expensive to install, inflexible, and generally unable to respond to available daylight or occupancy.

By building the new system using a wireless network instead of traditional wiring, CBE's research team aims to greatly reduce installation costs for the new system, and to allow for cost-effective retrofits in existing buildings.

According to CBE Research Specialist Charlie Huizenga, the cost of installing today's wired switches is approximately $150 to $200 per switch. "Improvements in wireless technology will make our system cost effective for many applications. We estimate that within a few years, the installed cost of our wireless devices could be as low as $25 per device," he said.

Unlike lighting control systems now available, CBE's proposed system will be compatible with a wide variety of existing light fixtures, lamps and ballasts. In
pilot installations, CBE has installed light controllers in a matter of minutes.

Huizenga said that the new system will have advanced features that enable building occupants to control lighting to suit their individual preferences.

"In rooms or areas of a building with adequate daylight, lights could be turned off manually by occupants, or automatically with daylight sensors," he said. "In large open offices, lights could be controlled above individual workspaces. This will allow us to avoid the common scenario in which you have an enormous office area with all the lights blazing, when there are only a handful of people actually working in the space."

The wireless system will provide flexibility by allowing a single switch to control a variety of lights. Switches will be designed so that they may be easily reprogrammed when workers move to new locations, or when office layouts change.

Previous research conducted by CBE and other groups has shown that building occupants who have some element of control of their workspaces are generally more satisfied that occupants with no control.

Another important application of the new lighting control technology would come during periods of peak electrical demand. CBE's proposed system could automatically eliminate 50 percent or more of the lighting load in many buildings during peak times, without compromising health and safety.

CBE's $75,000 grant comes through the Energy Innovations Small Grant Program, part of the California Energy Commission's Public Interest Energy Research (PIER) program.

The small grants programs are aimed at small businesses, academic institutions and non-profit organizations that would not normally qualify for PIER funding. The objective of PIER is to provide seed funding for small but innovative projects that will reduce the cost of producing electricity, save energy and improve the environment.

CBE may seek more funding from its industry partners to take its prototype to the next level, said Huizenga, noting intense interest from leading building industry firms and organizations that follow and support the center's work to improve the performance of non-residential buildings.

Explore further: Researcher develops method for monitoring whether private information is sufficiently protected

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

The importance of plumes

Apr 18, 2014

The Hubble Space Telescope is famous for finding black holes. It can pick out thousands of galaxies in a patch of sky the size of a thumbprint. The most powerful space telescope ever built, the Hubble provided ...

Better thermal-imaging lens from waste sulfur

Apr 17, 2014

Sulfur left over from refining fossil fuels can be transformed into cheap, lightweight, plastic lenses for infrared devices, including night-vision goggles, a University of Arizona-led international team ...

Power arm band for wearables harvests body heat

Apr 12, 2014

(Phys.org) —A group of Korean researchers have turned their focus on supplying a reliable, efficient power source for wearables. Professor Byung Jin Cho of the Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology ...

Recommended for you

Amazon launches grocery service for Prime members

6 minutes ago

Amazon is taking aim at grocery stores and discounters like Wal-Mart with a grocery service that lets its Prime loyalty club members fill up to a 45-pound box with groceries and get it shipped for a flat rate of $5.99.

Facebook buys fitness app Moves

3 hours ago

Facebook has bought the fitness app Moves, which helps users monitor daily physical activity and their calorie counts on a smartphone.

User comments : 0

More news stories

Facebook buys fitness app Moves

Facebook has bought the fitness app Moves, which helps users monitor daily physical activity and their calorie counts on a smartphone.

Autism Genome Project delivers genetic discovery

A new study from investigators with the Autism Genome Project, the world's largest research project on identifying genes associated with risk for autism, has found that the comprehensive use of copy number variant (CNV) genetic ...

Study links California drought to global warming

While researchers have sometimes connected weather extremes to man-made global warming, usually it is not done in real time. Now a study is asserting a link between climate change and both the intensifying California drought ...