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Cal State Dominguez Hills Saves with Smart Sensor Lighting

As somebody walks down the halls of mixed-use building Welch Hall on the campus of California State University Dominguez Hills, ceiling lights automatically illuminate. A few moments later, after the person has passed by, the lights dim again. The result of that little bit of intelligence built into the lighting fixtures is a dramatic reduction in energy usage. In the last two years the university has reduced energy usage by 78 percent and office energy usage by 50 percent in areas where it has deployed smart sensors created by Enlighted.

Central Plant Manager Kenny Seeton worked with environmental science students in a class taught by Earth sciences instructor Judy King. The intent of the project was to help them develop practical suggestions for reducing energy usage on campus. Students did inventories of lighting usage and researched the "pros and cons" of various "smart" fixtures on the market. The team eventually recommended sensors from Enlighted because they could be installed into existing fixtures, making the upgrade process straightforward.

Enlighted ended up donating sensors for classrooms, and the project received support from utility Southern California Edison.

Smart sensors control lighting at each fixture. Light levels are adjusted by sending data through a wired connection in the ballast of the fixture. Then data about the operations of the sensor are sent via wireless network to an online program that monitors and manages lighting from a central location. For example, if somebody wants more or less lighting in an office, that can be tuned through the application.

The sensors also modify lighting based on how much natural light is available in the area. When a space is unoccupied during work hours, the smart sensors dim the lamps to 10 percent luminosity or less until movement is detected.

The team conducted a two-month pilot with three fixtures, and the school committed to the larger installation, which has involved deployment of 424 smart sensors in Welch Hall as well as other buildings. The university estimated that the lighting project has saved it $26,000 annually.

In June the university received an Energy Efficiency and Sustainability Best Practice Award during a state sustainability conference. In accepting the award, Seeton said, "I was fortunate enough to work with some great students, faculty and staff whose positive energy kept me motivated to always do a little more."

About the Author

Dian Schaffhauser is a writer who covers technology and business for a number of publications. Contact her at dian@dischaffhauser.com.

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