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Wireless technology

Miguel Aguado, Marketing and Technology Manager at Lutron Electronics, makes the case for wireless lighting systems

When installing a lighting control system in a building, facility managers have many goals, including energy savings, optimising building operations and access to data. But the bottom line is always the same: creating value.

With wireless lighting solutions, the value comes at every level. At the most basic, wireless solutions are a more cost-efficient way of adding control to buildings than a typical wired solution, particularly when dealing with retrofits. Wired lighting requires knocking holes in walls and fishing wire throughout a structure; wireless systems install much more easily.

Wireless solutions often include the same controls found in wired construction, such as dimmer switches, load controllers, occupancy and vacancy sensors, and easily programmable software. But because of the simple installation, they scale more easily, allowing you to start with a single space and adding others as you need them, connecting each area wirelessly. Eventually, you may expand to an entire floor, or even an entire building over time as your budget allows.

Moreover, some wireless systems work with fixtures readily available in the market, whether they are 0-10V or DALI.

The scalability of wireless was important to the Benbow Group, a bespoke crafter of shopfitting in Newton Abbot, Devon. “We needed a solution that met our needs today, and could easily scale in the future as we added additional spaces,” says John Bailey, the company’s director. “A wireless system fulfilled our goals.”

Pat Henry, an electrician at Franklin and Marshall College in Lancaster, Pennsylvania, was also impressed with the benefits of wireless systems. The college, which was established in the 18th century, wanted a solution that was energy efficient, easy to install and program, with minimal disruption to occupants. It also wanted timeclock functionality, the ability to load shed and provide real-time energy savings, all within the college’s budget.

The first challenge concerned the buildings themselves. “On a campus where some of the buildings date back to 1792, it’s just not always feasible to fish wires through the walls,” says Henry. A wireless solution made the most sense.

Installation proved to be simple and fast. The college started the installation in its College Square administrative offices. Henry was able to install and program the controls while the building was occupied, without outside help. “We were able to complete the installation and set-up in a mere total of four days, working from just 6 to 8am,” he says.

The retrofit makes use of various Vive controls. Occupancy sensors ensure that lights aren’t left on when the space is vacant, daylight sensors automatically reduce lighting levels in perimeter offices, and Lutron Pico remotes allow occupants control over their personal space.

The system has paid dividends. With the existing fluorescent fixtures, the administrative offices were using 130 kWh during the measured time period. After the lighting and controls retrofit, the space used 60.86 kWh over a comparable time period – a total electricity saving of 55 per cent.

Though energy savings are important, employee satisfaction has also become a priority for many offices. Research from the Heschong Mahone Group and Future Workplace, among others indicates that occupants value features such as personal control and access to daylight and views. Lighting control can contribute to those amenities, which not only contribute to people’s comfort and productivity, but may help to attract and retain top talent.

Van Meter, an electrical distributor in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, is an employee-owned company that put employee comfort at the top of its list when it decided to renovate and expand its central distribution centre and offices. “A pleasant, productive workspace was one of our top priorities,” says Shaun Myers, lighting specialist at Van Meter.

The company, which also used the Vive wireless solution, wanted automated control of both electric light and daylight with simple-to-use, intuitive options for manual control, allowing the employee-owners to make easy adjustments that would suit their personal needs. Blinds had their own wireless automated system, while a Vive system handled the rest.

Van Meter expects future growth to require additional space. The flexible, scalable, wireless solution with app-based set-up and control ensures Van Meter will be able to tailor the lighting to a changing floorplan and space layout. The company used Vive Vue software, which provides a graphic representation of switching, dimming, wall controls and smart sensors, all under one software umbrella.

The result is seamless communication between the wireless components throughout the building, with adjustments made from the Vive app. If a change to zoning, scheduling, dimming level, or even occupancy sensor settings is required, it’s as simple as logging into the software.

Wireless technology and intelligent lighting control systems are saving energy, increasing user comfort, and offering flexibility for a wide variety of buildings. They are likely to play a growing role in the years to come.

About Sarah OBeirne

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