Bill Wright, Head of Energy Solutions at the ECA, on how wiring data cables are set to take centre stage in lighting installations.
Today’s LED lamp is of course virtually unrecognisable from the tiny indicating lamp that ﬁrst entered the scene, mounted on circuit boards, and which was used primarily as a condition indicator rather than for illumination. These lights consumed a fraction of a watt and had a reputation as a high speed fuse if you connected them incorrectly!
The latest developments use LEDs as high power ﬂood and spot lights where the lamps are rated in tens of watts. Today, the price and performance of LED luminaries is such that it ﬁnally begs the question ‘why anyone would still choose an incandescent lamp for illumination’?
Hand in hand with the development of the LED lamp has been the incredible progress with control gear and LED drivers. The early systems had many faults, including high leakage currents and low power factors, but these have all been resolved and the modern control gear allows lamps to do many things that were on recently regarded as impossible! Think colour changing, dimming, data collection and even the dissemination of information over the web, all of which are becoming increasingly common. All these can be combined with a range of smart technologies, while the low power consumption of an LED also lends it to being powered over a data cable.
“As a result, electricians should look to learn new skills to keep up with the latest developments, as they may ﬁnd they need to wire data cables rather than mains voltage cables for lighting systems.”
The ﬁrst offices in the City of London have just been provided with an LED lighting solution using data cables. These are being built with LED luminaires that are not connected to a 230v power system but instead, dc powered via a data cable. The luminaires are connected together with a CAT 5 or 6 cable and a RJ 45 plug and socket. Why run a separate mains cable when they will run on elv dc? The current rating of Power over Ethernet cable gives around 100W of available power, which can be enough to light a reasonably sized office.
This DC distribution could also be extended to other appliances round the office and home. Most PCs and TVs can run on DC inputs so we may soon see a DC distribution system in offices and homes, with mains power only for those pieces of equipment which require higher power. Standards are currently being considered for DC distribution in buildings.
As a result, electricians should look to learn new skills to keep up with the latest developments, as they may ﬁnd they need to wire data cables rather than mains voltage cables for lighting systems. In many cases equipment can be prefabricated and simply plugged into luminaires, signiﬁcantly reducing luminaire installation times.
With further improvements still likely, such as lower costs, increased capability and reduced power consumption, not only does it provide opportunities to grow your business, but it’s also an exciting area for electricians to be involved in!