In a traditional lighting control panel, you have low voltage switching devices (relays or switch grade circuit breakers) combined with a master control or building automation system. The master control system is the communication channel that provides the instruction to the switching device to open or close the circuit. Most are simple scheduling systems, but often they include occupancy or optical sensors that can automate the on/off commands sent out by the control system. The key point is that the switching devices require direction from a separate control system and cannot provide information back to the master automation system as it is a one-way communication channel. These panels are still in the marketplace and are typically inexpensive; however you also have to add the cost of the master control system to determine your complete project costs.
What is a Smart Lighting Control Panel?
A smart or intelligent lighting control panel adds two key dimensions to lighting control.
First, an intelligent panel has its own control system or brain built in. Scheduling, circuit zoning, contact closure inputs as well as multiple control protocol ports are typically available so that the panel can take direct communication from multiple sources and operate on its own. There is no need for a master control system, but it can take direction from one if desired.
The second key addition to an intelligent control system is two way communications. A smart panel can provide information back to the user or building automation system. This information can include energy management data, alarms/notifications, or simply the status of individual circuits. In order for this to work, a built in graphical user interface (GUI) must be included in the package as well.
Obviously, there are advantages to each system, which is why we offer both solutions at LynTec. Which system is best for your application? Below are some questions that you should be able to answer in order to determine which lighting control panel option would fit your project best.
When should I consider intelligent lighting control?
No existing Building Management System
Intelligent lighting control (ILC) allows segregated circuit zone control, time scheduling and flexibility to change control configurations without the need for other computers or software. If you’d like that functionality and don’t have an existing master control system in place, a smart panel could lower your total project cost.
Need network access
Browser based controllers allow remote access for configuration and control over standard Ethernet / Internet connections. Intelligent panels can give you true remote access to electrical control and monitoring.
Need smartphone application for control and monitoring
Included smartphone and tablet application allow “anywhere” access for control and monitoring. Any device with a browser is now an instant interface to your power panels.
Need event notifications
Receive notifications for tripped motorized circuit breakers or other system related issues.
Need multiple control protocols on a single lighting control system
ILC allows sub dividing remote control circuit breakers or relays into zones. Each zone can be controlled by push button, DMX, RS-232 serial, sACN or TCP/IP commands.
I don’t need intelligent lighting control if:
Existing building management system in place
LynTec products are designed to accept contact closure (push button), serial, DMX, sACN or TCP/IP commands from other control systems to operate remote controlled circuit breakers or relays. If a master control platform is in place, a smart panel’s control capabilities may be redundant.
No Energy Management Program is in place or planned
Without a need for data reporting or alarm notifications, there would be little to gain from an upgrade to two-way communication functionality. Don’t buy data reporting if it will never be used.
Simple on / off push button control will suffice
Planning to install or upgrade to a simple on and off control system operated by a push button wall plate? Then a traditional smart breaker or relay panel will do just fine.
Using single control protocol to control all lights
No requirement to mix control protocols on a single controller.
I hope this comparison of traditional and smart lighting control panels helped. If you have questions or would like to discuss a specific application, please contact LynTec at:
800-724-4047 or write to us at