Power over ethernet lighting: What you need to know - Smart Energy Decisions

Energy Efficiency  -  June 21, 2019 - By Alexandro Jimenez, Hubbell Control Solutions

Power over ethernet lighting: What you need to know

Among the greatest innovations in lighting technology was the introduction of the light-emitting diode (LED) fixture, best known for its ability to provide quality lighting with lowered energy costs.

Commercialized lighting has evolved to include LED technology, which comes with the advantage of utilizing low voltage current to enable lighting products to function while still receiving the same illuminating benefits. While the luminaires have received most of the attention to date, it’s the lighting controls, including Power-over-Ethernet (PoE) lighting, that will ultimately be the leading technology for energy efficiency.

Facility owners and operators are becoming increasingly interested in PoE lighting for energy management and better building performance. Analytics provided by a PoE solution can have a significant impact on sustainability and cost-saving strategies.

The concept might seem complicated, but PoE isn’t just for lighting experts. Professionals responsible for planning, building, installing, operating and maintaining localized power generating projects, facilities, equipment, and systems need to understand what it is, how it works and why it might be a strategic asset in order to make the best decisions for their project.

If your organization is considering PoE, here is a crash course in what you need to know.

What is it?
PoE lighting utilizes Ethernet cables to provide a low voltage solution that powers luminaires throughout a facility over the existing data connection. It incorporates common components found in the marketplace, a computer, Ethernet switches, LED luminaire and a low voltage intelligent PoE “driver” to converge the worlds of IT and lighting.

PoE lighting is a cost-effective solution for smart building deployments that demand an immediate return on the investment, and it is scalable from basic lighting control to advanced cloud-based analytics.  Using an Ethernet cable gives the system the ability to transmit data – not only from the centralized “brain” – but also between luminaires allows for a single data and power cable installation.

It is estimated that a PoE lighting solution can increase energy savings up to 75 percent. With a PoE lighting controls system, not only can the user implement immediate savings, but they can simplify the management of the controls system and enable the facility managers to operate the facility more efficiently.

How does it work?
Standard AC line voltage enters a building. This line voltage is then directed to the data closet(s). Power is then routed to several locations simultaneously, including the computer, serving as the centralized brain of the system and the Power Source Equipment (“PSE”), which will power to the node serving as the “driver.”

This computer serves as the intelligence of the system, bringing all the peripheral control devices together under a single platform. The central computer sends and receives commands and serves as the graphical user interface (GUI). This provides the facility manager with direct control to the networked system AND a window to make changes when needed to the control scheme.

The power sourcing equipment (PSE) converts the AC voltage to DC and sends it from a port down a Category cable to the associated nodes, thereby providing power to the LED boards and illuminating the spaces. Low voltage powered devices (PD) connected directly to the LED board eliminate numerous wires typically found on a standard AC driver and simplify installation or constructability.

Added Value
PoE lighting has the capacity to transmit data, which aligns perfectly with facility owners’ desire for smarter and more efficient buildings. One of the most compelling advantages of PoE lighting is the system’s ability to work on an open platform utilizing an open Application Program Interface (API). Smartphones, home automation systems, and other smart devices use an API. This type of interface is commonly used today to link intelligent devices or systems across platforms for ease of use and enable the user to easily manage the facility under one umbrella.

Open API lighting control systems can communicate with shade controls, projectors, security systems, and automation systems while providing services such as asset management of facility equipment, emergency response capabilities, and space utilization metrics. A PoE lighting system is now in the sandbox with other systems and can either be the front end of those collected systems or work under another system while providing the same controls’ functionality.

Data Analytics
Power consumption and data metrics are another added value to enabling PoE lighting. How long have the lights been on? Where are the lights on in a space that is occupied? How much conditioned space is not being used in the facility? These are questions that a facility owner may ask to maximize lighting benefits while reducing overall energy costs.  

PoE lighting infrastructure and its expansive capabilities provide the engine to gather information as well as distribute commands. If enabled in the PoE system, the ability to work with other systems as well as provide metrics of a facility elevates the owner of a smart building to heights unseen.

Ownership and maintenance of a facility become simplistic and safer. If a luminaire needs to be replaced, simply disconnect the single cable and remove it. The dangers of managing line voltage luminaires are eliminated, which opens the door for ease of maintenance, reducing the cost of ownership.

PoE isn’t strategic for every application and considering infrastructure designs up front is important when investing if it is as a viable option. Taking this step affords architects and engineers the opportunity to properly allocate space for the infrastructure and plan for the distribution of power across the building footprint. Any kind of design-build opens the door for complexity and potential for installation hurdles costing time and money. There’s a question of value that always needs to be addressed, and the robust capabilities aren’t always needed. An increasing number of building owners, however, are leveraging the Internet of Things (“IoT”) through a digital ceiling platform, and PoE sits squarely in the middle of this discussion as a smart and energy-efficient lighting control option.


Alexandro Jimenez is an associate product manager at Hubbell Control Solutions, a Hubbell Lighting brand. Hubbell Lighting is elevating the lighting experience. Empowered by lighting solutions that integrate seamlessly into their environment, save energy, provide improved quality of light, deliver a return on investment and armed with Hubbell's unflinching support, its customers are able to think differently about how, where, and when they can use light.


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