Across Capitol Hill, electricians of the Architect of the Capitol (AOC) are responsible for thousands of miles of wiring and more than 100,000 light fixtures.
Many of the historic buildings under the AOC's care, including the U.S. Capitol Building, were built before electricity and have required continuous modernization and upgrades while maintaining the historic fabric of the original design.
In the Senate Office Buildings alone, there are 30,000 light fixtures, and replacing them with modern smart systems has the ability to dramatically reduce energy usage while increasing customer satisfaction. As of January 2010, the team had installed the new system in 30 office suites that accommodate Senators and their staff. AOC electricians installed thousands of new lighting ballasts across the Senate.
The new lighting control system being installed by the Electrical Division is comprised of digital electronic dimming ballasts and sensors that automatically determine the level of natural light in a space and reduce the artificial lighting accordingly. Ultimately, the system can generate energy savings of 50% to 70% and improve customer satisfaction by allowing for lighting "customization" that can tailor the light level to the customer’s workspace preference.
Unlike the "dumb" ballasts being removed and recycled for their steel each "smart ballast" in the new system contains a small computer that is tied into the larger system via a central hub allowing the ability to adjust every individual light across the Senate buildings from a single laptop.
While the system itself may be smart, it takes the creative thinking of employees to install, adapt, program and manage the system. In order to learn the system, AOC electricians attended training in simulated labs to learn how to utilize the sophisticated software.
During each installation, from their laptop AOC electricians configure the lighting system for the office, setting the levels for each work space and area within the office. From the moment of installation of the new ballast, the lighting levels are automatically set at 70%, instantly reducing energy consumption per ballast by 30% without any noticeable effect for the customer. The system also “harvests” the daylight and in some offices with significant sunlight it may save energy by as much as 90%.
Additionally, from their wireless device AOC electricians receive light bulb outage reports so his team can proactively replace them before a customer calls; they can "load-shed" (dim lights to reduce energy use) across the Senate during peak energy consumption, such as summer, helping reduce demand on the regional power-grid; and make adjustments at customer requests such as setting lighting levels differently for a particular workspace.