C&K – How switches help lighting systems achieve high energy efficiency


Whether via carbon emissions limits or green building certification, the pressure to make buildings more energy- efficient has been growing for some time.

Rating systems such as LEED, Energy Star and Green Globes in North America and BREEAM, HQE and DGNB in Europe are growing in popularity. Sustainable design, zero-net energy and eco-friendly are the modern buzzwords used throughout the building industry. But what does all this mean for the hardware used to monitor and control energy usage in modern buildings? Various energy-saving lighting applications are used in commercial buildings today. This Design Note describes attributes of the electro-mechanical switches which operate in these systems.

The topic is important because lighting is responsible for 19% of electricity consumption worldwide, and 23% in the US. Building owners therefore have much to gain from improvements in the efficiency of lighting systems. According to the US Green Building Council, one of the simplest ways to reduce a building’s carbon footprint is to retrofit energy- efficient lighting equipment.

Performance, reliability and durability are key requirements when it comes to keeping residential and commercial buildings safe, comfortable and energy efficient. That is why leading consumer, industrial, medical, retail, automotive and enterprise technology device companies rely on C&K’s switches to help them create lighting applications that are environmentally friendly and ideally suited for harsh environments. C&K, one of the world’s most trusted brands of high-quality electromechanical switches, helps design engineers who develop residential and commercial light switches, dimmers, wireless light switches and occupancy sensors that cater to the demands of the modern world.

The controllers used to programme or manually actuate the shades often use tact switches for the user interface. The haptic properties and long-term reliability of the tact switches selected can have a big impact on the user’s perception of the quality of the end-product. Tailored to meet the requirements of the lighting industry, C&K’s lighting portfolio offers a broad range of tactile miniature, ultra-miniature and micro-miniature tactile switches for printed circuit board mounting. C&K’s most popular tactile switches – the KSA, KSC and KSS models – offer engineers and designers excellent tactile feeling, low profiles and actuator and sealing options to suit any design. These switches offer superior performance and can be tuned to work with applications such as integrated room controls, room occupancy sensors, programmable light timers, lighting controllers and shade controls.

For DIP switch options, they are generally required to have a low profile and a miniature footprint. They should also offer a contact system which can resist corrosion and provide reliable switching at low current levels. C&K offers low profile and standard profile, coded rotary, SIP
and jumper DIP switches. Engineers can also choose a surface-mount, through-hole, right-angle or vertical mounting option to suite their design. The BD standard profile DIP switch is a popular choice because it has an extended actuator and an open bottom construction that allows for solder washing without the need for tape seal. Brands also use C&K’s SPA single in-line DIP switch because it has a high-pressure contact system that does not require tape sealing – and also has a retention feature that holds a part to PCB prior to soldering. Both of these DIP switch categories can be used for a large assortment of applications, including LED signage, high-bay occupancy sensors and LED street lighting.

Finally, in large buildings, these devices are typically managed by a building-control system. These controllers are commonly referred to by the name of their communication protocol, such as DALI or KNX. Most of these devices employ some type of tact or push-button switch for set- up, programming and manual zone control.

In summary, energy efficiency in buildings continues to command more attention from governments, property owners and building operators worldwide. A lighting retrofit offers a simple way to save energy and cost, which means that it makes sense for building owners to invest in the devices described above.

It is important to point out that a lighting system’s simple tact, push-button and DIP switches – often the cheapest components in the end device – can have an important effect on the end-user’s perception of the system’s quality.

• Tactile switches – KSA, KSC and KSS series of miniature, ultra-miniature and micro-miniature products
• Push-button switches – tiny, snap-acting momentary, momentary latching
• DIP switches – low-profile and standard-profile, coded rotary, SIP and jumper DIP switches
• Coded rotary switches – low-profile, multi-position with vertical or reverse versions
• Card Reader switches – for smart card connectors