Canadian Electrical Industry News Week


Nov 24, 2017

Lighting ControlSteve Mesh

Networked lighting control systems are all the rage these days. Rightfully so, given their enormous capability to control luminaires, energy use — and potentially much more. But what are the major elements that define a networked lighting control system? Understanding this will help the specifier to decide which system to use on a project.

Wired vs. wireless

The biggest buzz word in the controls industry today is probably “wireless”. This means that the lighting control system wirelessly connects components in its network (via radios embedded into each component). Other systems are “wired”, in which case physical wires connect the control system components. Some hybrid systems are designed to connect certain components wirelessly, but others via wires. What is transmitted through this network regardless of whether it’s transmitted wirelessly or through physical wires? Instructions are sent from a central server to luminaires and potentially other devices as well (e.g., thermostats for HVAC systems) — for example to dim, turn on or turn off. Data are returned to the central server; for example, from occupancy sensors, photosensors or switches. The information from those “peripheral” devices goes to the central server, which in turn sends instructions back to luminaires. Additionally, information about the luminaires is returned to the central server; for example, about whether the luminaire is on or off, its dimmed level, power draw based on current dimmed level, etc.

The biggest benefit to using wireless systems is the ease of installation and, therefore, potentially reduced labour cost. Additionally, if the luminaire vendor can pre-install “controllers” as well as sensors on a per-fixture basis, then the electrical contractor only has to connect power wires just as with any other fixture. Plus, they typically don’t have to have any knowledge about networked lighting control systems to complete the installation. One potential drawback to using a control system that connects components wirelessly is that it may be less secure than a wired system. If you’re specifying a control system for a project where the client is extremely sensitive about security, this may not be the best solution. Lastly, wireless signal propagation isn’t always foolproof. The radios used in these components are typically low-power. Plus, the signal may have a hard time travelling long distances and going through interior partitions. It’s very important to heed a vendor’s recommendations for maximum distance between components and gateways.

Using wires to establish a network to connect all components in a lighting control system may provide more security, or at the very minimum more peace of mind to an owner who is concerned about hacking. It may also reduce the potential for the signal to drop out due to propagation problems. However, these wires are invariably low-voltage — typically Ethernet cable or a pair of low-voltage cable such as 18/2 (a pair of 18-gauge wires). As such, they are susceptible to voltage drop over long distances. So the specifier should still heed the vendor’s recommendations for maximum distance between components.

Remember that the network does not transmit “dimming” signals. The network connecting all components only transmits instructions telling luminaires and other devices what to do, and then the luminaires internally tell their ballasts or drivers to dim, etc. (usually using an analog 0-10V signal). As such, the network data is entirely digital. Be aware that there are systems that use centralized controllers that send 0-10V dimming signals to a group of fixtures, but these are the exception to the rule.


Networks in lighting control systems can be connected in different ways, especially in a wireless system. One of the more prevalent patterns is a “self-healing mesh network”. That means that any “node” (component) can connect to/communicate with any other node. If a particular node isn’t working for any reason at all, the signal simply tries to find another nearby node (hence the “self-healing” phraseology). Some wireless systems use a “star” topology to connect all components to a gateway. (“Gateways” are essentially wireless routers that transmit wirelessly back and forth to components — luminaires, sensors, switches, etc., and are wired back to the central server.) In a star topology, every device must establish a connection to the gateway on its own. Some systems using a star topology allow you to make any device into a “repeater.” The amount of data flow through a system with a star pattern is typically less than in a self-healing mesh network, so there may be an impact on frequency of data transmission, reliability, etc. Using a system with a star topology may reduce the likelihood of having transmission problems. However, if any component’s radio has difficulty connecting with the gateway, some other component in between can be turned into a repeater to help establish the connection.

Wired systems typically use a “daisy-chain” topology to connect components back to either gateways (similarly to a wireless system) or in some cases directly to a central server. In some systems, a strict daisy-chain topology must be maintained — meaning no sub-loops, “T” connections, etc. Other systems allow any type of topology as long as everything is ultimately connected back to a gateway or server. It’s important to note that in both wireless as well as wired systems, it’s common to have more than one “loop” or group of components connected to a gateway or central server. For example, on a large office floor, a wireless system may use four (or more) wireless gateways (obviously depending on size and the number of components). A wired system may have four (or more) “loops” of network wire. That’s why most systems use gateways similarly to any other computer network to manage all of the components that must be incorporated into the overall system (and ultimately connected to a central server).


So far, we’ve only touched on the hardware. While that’s important, it’s probably even more impactful to consider how the system’s software works. What is the “UI” like (user interface)? What capabilities does the software have, or not have? Who can access the system, make changes, etc.? As you might imagine, differences in software are only limited by the imagination, so it could take a semester-long class just to scratch the surface in understanding the different approaches taken by vendors.

Fortunately, lighting control systems all have to do more or less the same basic things. For example, they have to take information from sources such as occupancy sensors, photosensors and switches, process that information, then instruct luminaires how to behave. They typically have to provide a timing method (such as NTP, Network Time Protocol) in order to facilitate a scheduling function. Obviously, every system has to have some method to discover devices on its network. However, different systems do sometimes have surprising variations in how they deal with certain aspects of what a lighting control system has to do.

A perfect case in point is “zoning.” Some spaces are fairly simple or fairly small. In those situations, simple zoning may suffice. For example, the space may be divided into a very limited number of zones, in which each component (such as a switch, occupancy sensor or photosensor) belongs to its respective zone as required. What if the space is much larger or much more complex? For example, in a large open-office floor, luminaires in primary and secondary daylight zones must be automatically controlled by photosensors. Additionally, it’s common to use occupancy sensors to achieve the “automatic shutoff” requirement in most codes. It’s becoming commonplace to use a dense pattern of occupancy sensors, but you may only want to use the least amount of photosensors since all luminaires facing a particular exposure can use the information from only one photosensor to dim to appropriate levels. In that case, the “zones” for occupancy sensors may overlap the zones for the photosensors, or vice versa. Not all vendors allow for this complexity of zoning in their software, believe it or not. If they do not, then you might be forced to purchase and install a photosensor in every single occupancy sensor zone.

This is only one example of how the software may be wildly different in different systems, but there are many others. The most important thing is — caveat emptor! If you need the software to behave in very particular ways, it is your responsibility to look for a lighting control system that meets your specifications. There is no standardization for how software works in lighting control systems at this time. So check out the differences in both software and hardware with any systems you are considering for use. That way you should be able to eliminate any surprises once the system has been installed and commissioned.

Steven Mesh is an award-winning lighting designer who has designed lighting and control systems for a variety of project types (commercial, museums, schools, residential, restaurants, retail, historic, healthcare, etc.). As an educator, he has taught classes and given presentations about lighting and controls across North America and internationally. One of his is developing lighting and lighting controls courses that rely on hands-on and/or interactive content. He has been a repeat speaker at LightFair for eight years.

Published with the permission of Lighting Control Association.



Grimard is more competitive and produces estimates 3X faster with Procore


When the pandemic lockdowns started in March of 2020, Grimard (an electrical contractor) had to decide whether to shut down its operations entirely or implement a new platform with people who were now freely available for work.

Once they implemented Procore, they found a way to efficiently communicate with stakeholders and offer full transparency in terms of project costs and planning. It also allowed Grimard to utilize historical data to make project estimates more accurate. Grimard was able to streamline its bidding process, which made it more attractive to potential clients and helped the business grow.


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2021 Canadian Electrical Code Overview of Changes

EIN CSA Group Logo 2022 400CSA C22.1:21, Canadian Electrical Code, Part I contains many updates and changes that are potentially significant to electrical professionals. This online, self-guided course provides the key changes and impacts to the industry presented in an easy-to-follow format.

 Designed for professionals with a good working knowledge of the Code and who solely need the key changes including general updates or those made for clarification, safety, and new products and systems. Key changes due to Rule relocation or deletion are also noted.

This course may help save valuable time to help keep electrical projects safe and in compliance. This training is developed with input from a broad cross-section of electrical industry experts and with cooperation from all provinces, territories and several key jurisdictions across Canada. 

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Sponsored Content

Brady Product Spotlight: Grip, Grab and Identify

PB-BradyGrip-200.jpgTired of guessing a cable bundle’s identity? Deciphering handwritten wire markers? If you’ve got too much detective work, here’s a way to solve it: BradyGrip Print-on Hook Material featuring VELCRO Brand Hook.

It’s the EASY way to ID wire and cable bundles. Just print and place. In an instant, your toughest ID work is done. Thanks to a Brady and Velcro Companies partnership, this one-of-a-kind material sports a printable front and grippy back – just the right combo for challenging datacom, electrical, construction and medical jobs.

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Yukon Canada

Communities across the North and Arctic are prioritizing cleaner, more reliable energy sources, as they continue to feel the impacts of climate change. By investing in renewable energy initiatives that support energy independence and economic development, we can keep our air cleaner and build resilient, healthy communities for everyone to call home, all while creating good-paying, sustainable jobs and lowering harmful greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions.

The Yukon is leading the country in its pursuit of cleaner energy and climate change initiatives. 



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Linde announced it has inaugurated the world's first hydrogen refueling system for passenger trains in Bremervörde, Germany.

Linde’s hydrogen refueling system, which it built, owns and operates, will refuel 14 hydrogen-powered passenger trains, enabling each train to run for 1,000 km emission-free on a single refueling. It has a total capacity of around 1,600 kg of hydrogen per day, making it one of the largest hydrogen refueling systems ever built. Linde’s future-ready hydrogen refueling system has been designed and constructed with the ability to integrate future on-site green hydrogen generation. The new hydrogen trains will replace existing diesel-powered trains.

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Chris Lane

The Continental Automated Buildings Association (CABA) Board is pleased to announce the appointment of Chris Lane of Johnson Controls to the CABA Board of Directors. As Director of Product Management for Building Automation System (BAS) products at Johnson Controls, Lane leads a team of product managers responsible for designing the strategy and direction for Johnson Controls’ global portfolio of BAS products. 

"I’m honored to have the opportunity to join CABA’s board and support their vision to empower connectivity among people, spaces and technology,” said Lane. 


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Canadian Electrical Contractor Discussion Group: Can You Count the Deficiencies?

EIN CECD 400Have you ever been called to fix the work of a 'handyman'?

"Was supposedly done by a"certified ' electrician....told the homeowner that he got a $266 record at TSBC. Can you count the deficiencies?"

"There is a second panel change in the triplex also.......even more deficiencies. Think the guy was a glorified handyman. Ones not obvious: 240 BB heat hooked up 120....drier on 2p20....range on 2p50....water heater fed with 2c14 Bx on 2p15."

Go HERE to join the discussion



Grimard is more competitive and produces estimates 3X faster with Procore


When the pandemic lockdowns started in March of 2020, Grimard (an electrical contractor) had to decide whether to shut down its operations entirely or implement a new platform with people who were now freely available for work. Once they implemented Procore, they found a way to efficiently communicate with stakeholders and offer full transparency in terms of project costs and planning. It also allowed Grimard to utilize historical data to make project estimates more accurate. Grimard was able to streamline its bidding process, which made it more attractive to potential clients and helped the business grow.

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HellermannTyton Double Slit Conduit

HellermannTyton announces HelaGuard Double-Slit Corrugated Conduit. The two-piece solution features one semi-circular tube that snaps over another to envelop a wire or cable bundle. This makes it possible to add flexible corrugated protection to wiring that is already connected on both ends.

Standard conduit requires installers to guide cabling into and through the length of tubing. That is less of an issue at the time of manufacture. But if the ends of the wire are soldered to a terminal or otherwise inaccessible, non-slit conduit – and even single-slit conduit – can be tedious or impossible to apply.



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Greenlee Mobile Bending Table

By Blake Marchand

For the new Bending Table for Greenlee® 881 Series Benders, Greenlee Tools, Inc. set out to improve ergonomics and product security.  Previously, contractors usually had to disassemble their bender unit for relocation off the jobsite due to it being harder to secure on the jobsite. New anti-theft features incorporated into the bending table product design allowed the cart and its accessories to be more fully locked. 

This increases contractor productivity by helping reduce the need for tedious setup and tear down of the bender due to off-jobsite storage. Greenlee wanted to make the Mobile Bending Table as versatile as possible and intentionally designed it to fit through most 32” wide doors.  

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Siemens PBSI Sept1 GIF fire test

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DCC-11 EV Energy Management System

DCC-11, manufactured by Thermolec, is an energy management system designed to allow the connection of an EV charger to the main feeder of a panel without affecting the load calculation. 


  1. DCC does a real-time reading of the total power consumption of a home or condo electrical panel;

  2. It detects when the total power consumption of the main circuit breaker exceeds 80% and temporarily de-energizes the charger.



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Klein Tools Knee Pads

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Knee Pad Sleeves

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Sponsored Content

Fire Protection for Lithium-ion Battery Energy Storage Systems


Lithium-ion storage facilities contain high-energy batteries combined with highly flammable electrolytes. In addition, they are prone to quick ignition and explosion in a worst-case scenario. Such fires can have a significant financial impact on organizations. Rapid detection of electrolyte gas particles and extinguishing are the key to a successful fire protection concept. Since December 2019, Siemens has been offering a VdS-certified fire protection concept for stationary Li-ion battery storage systems.

Click HERE to learn more.

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sdgs poster 936 enBy Blake Marchand

With many organizations, governments and policymakers finding it challenging to implement the UN Sustainable Development Goals (UN SDGs) , CSA Group has developed a methodology for mapping CSA standards to UN Sustainability Goals (SDGs) aimed at demonstrating how organizations, governments and policymakers can use CSA standards as an effective tool in developing and implementing their SDG strategies. The methodology was developed as part of a research project initiated by CSA Group, completed in collaboration with University of Guelph, Niagara College and the Toronto Metropolitan University. To support the methodology, CSA Group also launched an interactive searchable database that allows standards users to quickly find out how and where CSA standards support specific UN SDG targets.

The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development was adopted by all UN member countries in 2015. The agenda includes 17 UN Sustainable Development Goals that aim to promote and provide strategies to improve health, education, inequality, and the economy while prioritizing climate change and the environment. 

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All code-related information bulletins and directives that have been issued to date remain in effect. All potentially impacted information bulletins and directives will be reviewed for consistency with the new code edition and revised if necessary. 

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