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Power on the Hill

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LynTec Solves Installation, Power, and Cost Hurdles for Pennsylvania Boarding School’s Theater Lighting System

The Hill School in Pottstown, Pennsylvania, was found in 1851. As one of the first family boarding schools in the United States, it has a long legacy of offering education that is centered around a family made up of instructors and peers — offering hands-on learning that will prepare students for the next step in their educational career. Preserving that history and mission includes overseeing and continuously updating the AV, lighting, and power systems on the sprawling campus. To that end, the school formed a relationship with system’s integration firm and event technology solutions expert Starlite and most recently began updating the schools Center for the Arts (CFTA).

Built in 1987, the 31,000-square-foot visual and performing arts center houses the Center Theatre, a 700-seat proscenium theatre that serves as a learning laboratory for budding actors and actresses, scenic and lighting designers, and theatre technicians. The power control for the stage lighting system hadn’t been updated since the theater was built and was due for an overhaul.

“As we started to do some inspections for them, we identified some safety concerns and areas that needed attention, maintenance, and improvement, which included the stage dimming system,” said Brandon Creel, ETCP, CTS-D, director of engineering at Starlite. “They had three dimmer racks with 288 dimmers and circuits. Over time, some connectors had broken, which had been labeled to not use, and some pigtails were fraying, so those were wrapped up in electrical tape. That’s not really conducive to an academic environment where students are learning to run and operate a show production.”

Because of the age of the dimming system, the manufacturer was no longer in business, so it wasn’t an option to replace it. Likewise, repairing it wasn’t an option nor a good alternative for a school trying to prep students for future technology. In answer, Starlite proposed that the school use its funding as wisely as possible and update the lighting instruments to LEDs, reducing the number of circuits and power needed for the system.

Once that was done, Starlite wanted to eliminate the theater’s two outdated dimming systems, one for stage and one for house lighting. The dimming systems were fed from different power sources with no way for the lighting board to communicate with the stage lighting system. Starlite would replace the stage power and control system with an efficient power control system that would allow students and staff to remotely control, monitor, and switch its new LED lighting. And in the second phase of the project, Starlite would incorporate the house lighting into the system as well as provide significant capacity going forward to expand on the lighting system.

Starlite knew right away that LynTec power control solutions was the right solution for the job. LynTec RPC remote control breaker panel along with a slave panel would provide a cost-effective platform that would allow the school to not only install state-of-the art power control but would open up room in the school’s budget for its LED lighting. With that came the requirement to provide circuit-level on/off control of the fixture since in standby mode, LED fixtures can burn up a lot energy, minimizing the cost efficiencies, and output heat that can shorten the lifespan of the system.

“We knew we had to take a close look at the power because nobody had done anything with it since the original build 30 years ago,” Creel said. “With the LynTec panels, we were able to make it smarter, more compact, flexible, and allow them to do more without putting additional subpanels in.”

requirements for ease of installation. It’s built on the G3 Powerlink hardware platform by Square D, the universally recognized and trusted hardware foundation. It removes the additional steps and space needed to install a separate relay panel. Electricians can quickly and easily wire the system while providing additional circuit switching control capabilities in the same enclosure. This allowed the school to remove the big dimming panels and install the compact, low-profile LynTec panels, all while gaining more space in their electrical loft than they had before.

The RPC series also features a flexible architecture that will also enable the organization to add more circuits in the same horizontal wall space to control a greater number of components, as needed. The RPC panels support 48-, 66-, and 84-circuit breaker positions with no increase in enclosure width. Because of this comprehensive package, integrators can easily set up, program, monitor, and control loads on a circuit-specific level.

The panels could be integrated and controlled through the theater’s lighting console as well as through its Crestron control system or the architecture lighting button. The system is accessible from any web-enabled device, allowing users to control the system remotely, resulting in greater installation flexibility, more efficient power control, and the ability to provide direct on/off control for LED lighting. The panelboards also enable built-in under- and over-voltage protection, optional customizable sequential circuit level on/off capabilities, and the ability to interface with third-party control systems via contact closure, TCP/IP, DMX, or RS-232.

Another benefit of the LynTec panel is that Starlite was able to integrate the power control of the theater’s work lights into the system as well. The previous work lights were operated only through wall switches that were hard to locate in the dark. Once they were converted to LED lights, Starlite set up the circuits to be powered from the RPC, enabling the crew to turn them on and off from any of the three solutions that control the system.

In addition, the power that was feeding the existing dimming system was an 800-amp three-phase disconnect. With the installation of the RPC panels, the facility went from 288 circuits to a mere 84 circuits, freeing up 100-amp three-phase service from one of the existing panels that had been at capacity. Starlite was able to put in a power distribution panel that feeds the LynTec panels and reserve the rest of the 800-service for other needs such as a company switch and future expansion for the facility.

“We just wrapped up phase two and we’ve heard nothing but positive feedback,” said Creel. “For the first time they have a system that’s easy to use and there’s no maintenance or things that the students have to learn to work around. The school certainly appreciates not having to spend time or money on repairing a system that wasn’t getting them very far. Now they can focus on teaching students.”