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Article - January 2003
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The Quest for Environmentally Friendly Control Systems
Measurement of the standby consumption showed the ballasts were actually drawing a massive 6.75 watts each, meaning the tower would burn 162 Kilowatts with no lights on.

Terry Bonham
Engineering Services Manager
Dynalite


There is a growing trend for electrical equipment such as TV sets and VCR's to be energised permanently, with some form of remote control used to turn them on and off. This type of appliance is never truly turned off, but placed in standby mode and continues to consume energy.

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A year 2000 study revealed 11.6% of the average Australian domestic electricity bill could be attributed to appliances on standby, which prompted the National Appliance and Equipment Energy Efficiency Committee (NAEEEC) to call for a one-watt standby limit.

There are similar trends in commercial applications, an example being electronic ballasts. The common 1-10V ballast poses no standby concerns, as the control signal limits dimming down to 10% and requires the supply to be switched off to extinguish the lamp. This is not so for the newer DSI and DALI ballasts, where the lamp can be completely extinguished while the ballast is still powered. In this state the ballast is similar to a TV set - it is on standby and still drawing power, waiting for the control signal to re-ignite the lamp.

This raises some points for consideration. The quantity of ballasts found in a commercial environment may number in the hundreds or even thousands, unlike a domestic environment where there may be half a dozen appliances in standby mode. Then there is the amount of energy the ballast consumes when on standby and manufacturers appear to be reluctant to publish this data (although there has been some verbal indication that this figure is "around one watt" - the same figure designated by NAEEEC for domestic appliances).

Dynalite recently completed an office tower project containing 24,000 controllable ballasts. Excess energy consumption was a great concern to the client, who was not happy at the thought of consuming about 24 Kilowatts of power (based on the unconfirmed 1 watt per ballast) with the lights off. Measurement of the standby consumption showed the ballasts were actually drawing a massive 6.75 watts each, meaning the tower would burn 162 Kilowatts with no lights on.

As all Dynalite ballast controllers are equipped with a relay that switches off the power circuit when all channels reach 0%, delivering the client the energy savings they desired was very straightforward. This scenario highlights the need to consider energy consumption at the design stage of a project. Care should be taken to quantify the energy consumption of ballasts, which varies significantly between manufacturers and models.


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