Thought Leadership: Dispelling common misconceptions of DALI lighitng control

Thought Leadership: Dispelling common misconceptions of DALI lighting control
DALI is a common international standard for lighting control systems, allowing for two-way communication between devices. DALI was written by a number of large lighting system manufacturers, looking to simplify the specification and operation of lighting control products. Based originally on the DSI protocol, DALI allows components from different manufacturers to be combined, forming a complete lighting control system.

DALI is a set of open European standards, under the series EN62386. There are various parts of the standard, each concerned with different aspects of the system. These are developed and maintained by a committee of lighting control experts drawn from across the industry.

Despite the fact that DALI is now a relatively mature technology, there are still many misconceptions that can discourage the use of DALI lighting control products. A few of the common ones are listed below, alongside information that hopes to lay the misconceptions to rest.

1.    “DALI is a really complex protocol, meaning that installation and commissioning will be time consuming and costly”
In the early days of DALI, this may have been the case. However, manufacturers now design DALI lighting control solutions that have extremely simple installation and commissioning processes.  Installation schemes using pluggable, prefabricated cable assemblies may cost a bit more but will generally result in a much faster installation, with fewer snags.
While a larger system will need a commissioning engineer, a good entry-level solution should allow the installer to handle the setup themselves.  Calon’s SmartSensor™, for example, provides a high-performance solution for single-room and smaller systems where the sensor itself takes care of the addressing and grouping of an entire DALI channel.  This means that a smaller system can be quickly set up and commissioned by an electrical installer using only a simple, handheld remote control.

For larger systems, a web-based or app-based setup workflow can greatly simplify the commissioning process, especially when combined with the facility to pre-engineer the settings for a unit and download on-site.

2.     “I have LED fittings. I don’t need a DALI lighting control solution!”

LED fittings are energy efficient, and can help businesses achieve energy reduction and cost saving goals. However, to achieve the maximum benefits of reduced energy consumption and reduced cost controls are a necessity. DALI lighting controls will maximise these savings, help to extend the system life, provide valuable information, and create a more comfortable environment, whilst being easy to monitor and modify if lighting requirements change. In any case, automatic lighting controls offer better savings with LED than with fluorescent lamps.

3.    “DALI sounds great, but DALI lighting control solutions are too expensive”
DALI, DSI and 1-10V systems are the only three methods of dimming control commonly used in commercial buildings. DALI solutions can be implemented for the same cost as the alternate solutions and are future proof due to the ability to easily reconfigure the devices if legislation or requirements change. This makes DALI actually less expensive that the other options!

4.    “DALI lighting controls are specifically designed to be suitable for large projects only”
Although many DALI lighting control solutions are flexible enough to meet the needs of large-scale projects, the simple wiring systems of DALI controls mean that they are simple for installers to use, whilst being well suited to smaller applications. In addition, many DALI lighting control manufacturers have specifically designed solutions that provide all of the benefits of DALI  in a way that meets the requirements for smaller projects. The SmartSensor™ is one example of this, providing a plug and play DALI lighting control solution for typically smaller applications such as single classrooms and individual offices.

5.    “DALI lighting controls are too costly to maintain, when light fittings need replacing I have to get commissioning engineers to come out and re-commission the whole system!”

For some DALI lighting control solutions this is true. However, some manufacturers offer a self healing property as part of the DALI lighting control solution, which makes the replacement of network devices must simpler. The SmartBridge™ range from Calon is unique as self-healing is available for both single and multiple lamp replacements, removing the need for a commissioning engineer to attend site.
In situations where one lamp needs replacing, the settings of the original lamp are automatically applied to the replacement. In cases of multiple lamp replacement, a simple wizard tool on the web application allows the replacement lamps to be regrouped and have the correct settings applied to them with a click of a button.

6.    "Isn’t Power over Ethernet the latest thing now? "
Yes, PoE is the latest technology to be adopted within the lighting control market, but DALI is far from redundant. DALI is currently widely adopted within the market as an open protocol solution, meaning that products between different manufacturers can communicate. New DALI products are constantly being designed and brought to market, providing more choice for customers and competitive pricing.
Full PoE solutions have been demonstrated to cost around 4 times the amount of a DALI lighting control solution! The SmartBridge™ PoE solution from Calon combines the best of both worlds, providing 95% of the benefits of PoE at just 25% of the cost.

7.    "I’ve always used DSI when I need dimming lights"
DSI formed the basis of DALI and is still a popular protocol. However, unlike DALI, DSI is a proprietary control protocol with lamp drivers and ballasts only available from a single source. This has a negative impact on consumers as there is less flexibility in terms of pricing and solutions for various applications with DSI controls. Increasingly, DALI ballast drivers are being released at a very competitive price point to DSI and are compatible with other DALI products from various manufacturers.
Another bonus of DALI lighting control is that it is able to provide status feedback allowing identification and rectification of lamp faults to be simple and quick. With DSI controls, fault finding is typically a manual process. DALI controls can also support automatic testing and reporting of emergency lighting, when linked to a suitable controller, further reducing maintenance costs.

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