Daylighting Systems Automate LEDs with Natural Light

November 21, 2012
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Sunoptics LightFlex

Sunoptics' LightFlex system (in rendering) delivers natural daylight to a classroom and can be paired with a lighting control system to regulate and augment the natural light.

Daylighting and daylight harvesting are hot topics in the green tech world, and with good reason: Bringing natural light indoors, whether in a business or home, reduces the need for one of our biggest energy hogs: lighting.

Even super-energy-efficient LED lights need not be on if natural daylight is available. Motorized shading systems that can automatically raise or lower shades are cool and save on heating and cooling costs as well as lighting—but to fill an interior space with natural light, you’ll need something else. And that something else is either a skylight or a tubular daylighting device (TDD). You’ve probably seen these as bubble-type skylights on some rooftops.

These are basically skylights that transport natural light through a reflective tube and to a light fixture or diffuser on a ceiling. They’re pretty simple devices. And some can be augmented with LED lamps and other lights as well as sensors to automatically switch over from natural lighting to interior lighting. That brings you the best light from both worlds.

Two systems I recently saw at the Greenbuild Expo in San Francisco are applicable for homes and businesses.

Sunoptics LightFlex

Sunoptics’ LightFlex system, used primarily in commercial environments, is for suspended ceiling applications and delivers light from above through a 21-inch tube that has a damper in it to control the amount of light. The damper can be connected to a control system and photo sensor that reads the amount of daylight to automatically adjust the amount of light. To automate lighting, LightFlex can work with a lighting control system such as the IP-addressable nLight system (also now with Wi-Fi capability) from Sensor Switch and LC&D (Lighting Control & Design), sister brands under parent company AcuityBrands.

Bendable elbows can get around obstructions between a roof and suspended ceiling, and a square system is available. Occupancy sensing can also be used. LightFlex is a big system that is best used in commercial buildings with suspended ceilings.

Solatube Smart LED System

Solatube Smart LED System

Solatube's Smart LED system automates LEDs to come on when daylight is not available.

 

Solatube is used in businesses and homes, and its Smart LED system includes four LED lamps inside the reflective tube and above a fixture and activated by a photo or occupancy sensor. When daylight hits a minimum threshold, such as late in the day or when stormy, the photo sensor triggers the LEDs to come on.

The four LEDs in the tube use just 17 watts to deliver about 850 lumens (50 lumens/watt and equivalent to about a 60-watt incandescent bulb). The color temperature is 3000 Kelvin, which produces a warm light, and the CRI (color rendering index) is 80, which is decent.

Solatube says its system can be installed for under $775.  An occupancy sensor is optional and can be added for $50. Pricing on Sunoptics’ LightFlex vary, depending on the size, location and situation.

Both system claim the skylights can capture sunlight at low angles.

Here’s hoping we see more and more daylighting systems that capture natural light to be used indoors and work in conjunction with energy-saving lighting controls and LED systems to automate lighting and energy efficiencies.

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