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How to Build a PoE LED Lighting System for Your Office?

Indoor and outdoor lighting is extremely essential for business activities. It helps create a pleasant workplace, boost work productivity, improve employee satisfaction and maximize the comfort of visitors. Today, LED lighting has become a fundamental part of smart buildings to provide an overall better quality, optimal color rendering and sharper focus. In addition, the higher visibility of LEDs also improves workplace safety. And they are better for the environment and can cut down energy consumption by upwards of 70 percent. And this improvement in energy efficiency can be directly correlated with financial savings. Whether you’re looking for easier maintenance or improved performance, LED lighting is the solution for you.

Why Should You Consider PoE Lighting for Your Workplace?

Power over Ethernet (PoE) is a relatively new technology but its application is growing at an astounding rate in both commercial and industrial sectors. PoE lighting is a form of smart lighting that uses PoE technology to connect, monitor and control LED lighting. It revolutionizes the way how we control lighting by allowing it to become a part of the Internet of Things (IoT) to bring illumination and IT together. This modern lighting system uses Ethernet cables to power the light fixtures and transfer data between the luminaires and control software. PoE lighting utilizes low-voltage DC power, making it safer, faster, easier, and less costly to install than traditional lighting. And since PoE enables the transmission of power and data via a single network cable, the cost of installation and operation can be greatly reduced. It integrates building energy efficiency by eliminating AC or DC power wires along with associated conduit runs and labor savings.

PoE Simplifies LED Lighting

PoE offers one cable solution for power and network connections, which allows for lower capital expenditures and material costs related to construction and maintenance. Moreover, with the deployment of PoE, you can enjoy greater flexibility in design and placement. You can directly take advantage of the existing cabling structure to retrofit your lighting system and incorporate LED lighting into IT systems. In addition, the PoE LEDs used in the smart lighting system are direct DC-powered, while the conventional LED fixtures used in traditional lighting systems are normally equipped with an AC-to-DC power converter to operate LED lighting, which will consume unnecessary electrical energy. But driving the LEDs directly with the DC power can greatly improve energy efficiency. Furthermore, PoE has evolved from providing 15W of power to 90W, so the number of devices connected has grown exponentially. For example, PoE can power devices such as lighting, sensors, HVAC controllers, alarms as well as All-in-One touchscreen PCs, wireless APs and USB-C laptops.

Using PoE to power low-voltage DC-powered LED light fixtures can bring more benefits than traditional lighting system:

1. Decreases in Installation Costs

Above all, the most notable benefit of PoE lighting is cost savings. Operating costs are significantly lower thanks to the extended lifespan of PoE lighting. A PoE LED only costs 2.99 dollars but can last for 15-25 years, while the Incandescent LED will cost you $13.80 for a limited operating lifespan of only 1 year. As previously mentioned, installation costs can be greatly reduced by delivering power and data through the same twisted pairs to future-proof building automation with a highly secure and widely used communication protocol. Moreover, you can also reuse the existing cabling or IT infrastructures to install the hardware. Plus, structured cabling is also more easily scalable than traditional power cords.

2. Advanced Data Analytics

PoE lighting provides a centralized platform to control the energy usage in your business and provide insights into further cost savings. Since data can travel both directions through the Ethernet cable, the PoE lighting system can use data analytics to learn the habitats of your space and provide you with information to reduce energy use while maintaining high-quality and accurate lighting. When planning, building, installing and maintaining these localized lighting systems, it can provide real-time feedback pertaining to production costs, operational efficiency, etc., and help you troubleshoot the potential problems occurring in your building. And at the same time, these PoE lights can provide valuable feedback data to the control system, allowing the building to adjust energy consumption based on occupancy patterns.

3. Automated Lighting Control

Automation is the key to a digital building system. By deploying PoE LEDs, you can have overall control over your lighting system to promote better efficiency in the workplace to balance the natural light. What’s more, you can schedule the lights to be automatically turned off when the space is no longer in use, like the meeting room. And the same can also be scheduled for certain areas like individual offices and cubicles. For example, you can configure the PoE LEDs to shut off at 8 p.m. so they won’t stay on all night, which can greatly help lower your electricity bill. The LED can also be connected to the smart sensor as well to automatically operate when the sensor is triggered. Besides, instead of needing to shut down the entire area for maintenance, you can easily target the faulty LED fixtures and work on the individual light points.

How Does PoE Lighting Work?

The PoE lighting system is normally made up of four elements: the graphical user interface (GUI), i.e. the computer, the power sourcing equipment (PSE), i.e. the PoE switch or PoE injector, nodes and light fixtures. Oftentimes, the fixture is attached to a node along with the sensor and dimmer, so you can turn on and off the lighting automatically or manually. PoE LEDs can be directly connected to the Internet via standard Cat5/6 cables to send and receive data, enabling the LEDs to respond promptly to the node and provide instant data analytics back to the PoE switch. And since PoE LEDs need DC power to operate, the AC line voltage will be directed to the PoE switch and converted to the desired power source. Once the hardware is set up, the DC power will be routed to the different nodes located throughout the space simultaneously and then they will forward the power and data downstream to the connected light fixtures. But only data will be transmitted to the dimmer and sensor. As high-power PoE (IEEE802.3bt) can deliver up to 90/100 watts of power, several fixtures or nodes can be daisy-chained together to reduce power cabling. However, not all manufacturer nodes are equivalent or compatible with the desired fixture, you have to make sure Each fixture has its own IP address. Once identified by the network, it can allow users to control each fixture or the entire lighting system as desired, allowing for instant on-off, dimming, color tuning and emergency lighting controls. And the data delivered to the GUI can be used to customize illumination in multiple zones. The computer acts as the central brain to send and receive commands to realize remote monitoring. Here’s how it works:

1) When plugged into the power outlet, the PoE switch will convert AC power to DC power which is then sent to the node that connects the LED light fixture, sensor and dimmer.

2) The node receives the data and power from the PSE and passes them to the fixture, etc.

3) When the light fixture is powered, the node will collect data and send it to the GUI.

4) The GUI processes the data and passes the instructions to customize the lighting configuration. Moreover, the PoE technology can also be controlled via smartphone apps or workstations, which adds the convenience of remote applications.

High-Power PoE: The Best Solution for PoE Lighting

The PoE lighting system offers a cost-effective way to conserve energy and reduce costs, but any integrated lighting system requires thoughtful design and architecture. Poor installation can result in issues such as motion sensors not working or timers not being set correctly, while the emergency of PoE for lighting controls has greatly simplified the process of cabling, installation and configuration. It opens the door to endless lighting automation in intelligent or high-performance buildings. The ability to deliver desired performance requires the right approach, the right skill sets, and most importantly the right product.

Even though it runs on low DC voltage, PoE lighting is a high-power consumption system. Deploying intelligent lighting systems over balanced twisted pair cables requires a constant power supply of at least 60W to safely energize the lighting grid. Therefore, you’ll need high-power PoE to ensure the quick activation of the LED lighting with a lower standby power to reduce the overall power consumption.

What’s New in the High-Power PoE?

IEEE802.3bt is the newest PoE standard that first implements power over four twisted pairs of structured wiring. Type 3 PoE is specified to deliver a maximum power of 60W at each PoE port over Cat5 cabling with a minimum of 51W available at the PD- twice the capacity of PoE+. Examples of devices that these higher levels of power support include 802.11ac WAPs, speed-dome PTZ cameras, etc. Type 4 PoE can generate a much higher power output of 90-100W at the PSE with a minimum power assured on each port being 71.3W to support extremely power-hungry devices like flat screens, desktop computers, etc. But even if Type 3 and Type 4 could deliver a much higher amount of power, they’re still restricted to the 100-meter distance limitation of standard PoE.

Lower Standby Power to Deliver Better Performance

The new PoE standard shows great improvements in standby power consumption. In the IEEE 802.3af/at standards, the PDs must draw approximately 10mA for at least 75ms every 250ms in a duty cycle to keep the PoE port alive, which is extremely crucial for LED lighting and security systems to remain “ON” to ensure fast turn-on. Unlike traditional lighting, intelligent LED ballasts need to be constantly powered even when the light is off, but it also results in significant power wastage when a large number of PDs are deployed. IEEE 802.3bt offers a practical solution to reduce the minimum standby power to 20mW which is 10 times lower than the older IEEE standards (nearly 200mW at 54V).

Fastcabling has launched a bunch of new products to customize your PoE lighting with low cost, easy operation and high performance.

95W PoE Midspan Injector

This product is an unmanaged ultra-high-power PoE injector developed by Fastcabling. It is equipped with one Ethernet port, one PoE output port and one AC power input port. And as a PoE power unit, it can automatically detect and identify if the powered device meets the PoE standard and supply power up to 95W to the light fixture through the network cable (AC-to-DC power conversion will be completed before the power is transmitted.). It eliminates the need for installing new electrical outlets on the wall, ceiling or any unreachable place, and most of all, it reduces installation time. This 95W PoE midspan injector is extremely easy to install by way of plug and play and comes with simple troubleshooting, making it easy for both business and home users. And it’s ready to provide high-speed network communication (10/100/1000Mbps) with no need for software configuration.

16 Port 90W Managed PoE Switch

The 16-port 90W managed PoE switch adopts the latest standards to better support the long-term networking needs of PoE applications and allows for a wide range of devices to be powered and connected to the network. It supports 90W of power plus data up to 100 meters through existing cabling on ports #1-8 (30W of power on ports #9-16). It can provide a higher level of QoS and support various protocols like SNMP to allow the users to check the status of each network port for traffic throughput and network error. Additional features provide more flexibility and control. To separate your PoE lighting system from other applications, you just need to create a VLAN ID on the switching tab, and you can configure the features of QoS by setting the desired CoS, Queue scheduling, bandwidth control, etc., to prioritize critical traffic for your business.

8-Port L2+ 90W Industrial Managed PoE Switch

Fastcabling also launched a 90W industrial managed PoE switch to deliver industrial-grade durability and enhanced network redundancy for use in applications with harsh conditions. It provides advanced L2+ switching functions and < 20-msec fast ring recovery protection to prevent interruptions and external intrusions. It’s packed with an IPV6 DHCP server for superior data processing performance and network reliability, which makes it ideal for large-scale network aggregation and high-speed enterprise networks. With intelligent PD alive check, the PoE switch monitors and automatically reboots unresponsive PoE devices when necessary. The redundant power inputs also help ease the unexpected risks of power outages to deliver better network service. Designed with a rugged IP40 aluminum housing, these industrial PoE+ switches show great resistance to a high degree of vibration and protection against ESD or surge and operate within a wide temperature range ( -40°C ~ 75 °C).

What Else Should You Consider?

Heat rise is a severe concern in high-power PoE. Simply put, more power means more heat, and overheating will increase the DC resistance in copper wires, thereby jeopardizing signal transmission. The higher the power level and the smaller the gauge of the cable, the more likely the cable heats up, which will accelerate cable deterioration and the aging of the jacket. Overheating in PoE cabling can also lead to an increase in insertion loss. To minimize heat rise in high-power PoE, you should choose a network cable of a higher category: the higher the cable category, the lower the heat rise. Normally, a Cat6 or 6e Ethernet cable would suffice for the job. And you can choose a cable terminated with a larger conductor since conductor resistance is one of the main culprits of overheating. A larger conductor will let electrical currents easily flow through and thereby reduce the conductor resistance. And it’s advised to choose a shielded cable rather than an unshielded one for better heat dissipation.

Basic PoE Cabling Architecture

Not all intelligent building systems are the same, and a company must make a multitude of deployment decisions once it chooses PoE lighting.

Zone Cabling for PoE Lighting

Zone cabling is a structured cabling structure applied in PoE lighting, which highly increases the flexibility of the cabling infrastructure. It permits the installation of the cabling system earlier in the construction before the work kicks off. This architecture also increases energy efficiency by reducing voltage drop over an extended distance. The zone cabling architecture can be further divided into the active and passive zone. In the passive zone cabling, all the active devices are installed in the control room and the consolidation points are placed between the control room and the end devices. These consolidation points can be in wall-mounted, in-ceiling or under-floor mounted enclosure boxes to move, add and even change the hardware. However, in the active zone cabling, the PSE is located in the zone enclosure where long-distance fiber is threaded all the way from the control room.

Deployment Strategies for PoE Lighting

In this section, we will introduce several deployment strategies to help you choose the best solution for PoE lighting installation.

Centralized vs. Distributed

There are two deployment strategies for installing PoE lighting. The most common strategy is the centralized strategy. A deployment where the PoE switch is placed in the center of the control room. Multiple Ethernet cables are routed to the patch panel located in the zone enclosure. And then run the cables from the patch panel to each light point. In this way, you can use the existing power facilities and create a centralized platform for lighting control. And it’ll be easier to perform maintenance on equipment. However, the biggest drawback is that it requires more cables to be installed, and a larger PoE switch is needed. On the other hand, the distribution strategy is more suitable for smaller PoE switches. In this architecture, the PoE switch is located inside the zone enclosure, typically in the ceiling near the fixture, thus requiring less cabling. Alternatively, you can also use fiber optic connections for uplink, which allows the fixture to be located at greater distances from the control room. The main drawback, however, is the need to install new power infrastructure into the ceiling.

Directly-Attached vs. Node-Centric

Normally, the direct-attached architectures have been employed for PoE lighting deployment to create a point-to-point relationship between PoE lighting units, the PoE switch, and any other items attached via PoE. Being the simplest network topology, it’s very easy to maintain and troubleshoot, making it ideal for less experienced users. If a wire has a problem, you can replace it within a few seconds. And if one device shuts down, the other data links can continue to function. But for as many PoE-powered devices attached to the network, there should be an equal amount of PoE switch ports on the switch, which will be a large investment. In the node-centric architecture, more light fixtures can be connected to the PoE switch through a single node via RJ45 Ethernet cables to create a hop-to-hop connection. Multiple light points can be daisy-chained together, only one PoE switch port is consumed, but more fixtures are powered. There are some limitations to this node-centered architecture. Currently, a PoE++ switch (60W) can power only four canned light fixtures at a time. Moreover, a faulty node will cause all devices connected to this line to fail.

Separate vs. Converged

Traditionally, building automation has been operated by a separate network, controlled by the operations teams with little or no IT background in the day-to-day operations of the network. One of the obvious advantages when deploying a separate network for building automation and lighting control is that you can use the existing and proven technology, the traditional way things have occurred in the past few decades. But with the introduction of PoE lighting, some of the traditional arrangements need to be changed to better meet the requirements where PoE lighting can be applied to the network. It also makes it more difficult to manage two separate networks of facilities. Another method is to integrate the newer PoE lighting network into the existing network system. But you have to make sure all network components can be connected to the IP network and the installed network cabling must be able to handle PoE. But generally speaking, converging the enterprise network into the building automation and PoE lighting network is not suggested.

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