Josh Thompson, principal, Point Source, says that wireless networks provide facility managers with a number of options to both save money and expand into areas they might not otherwise have been able to reach. After all, running a wire requires additional materials and a hole in the wall.
"The current cost of materials, conduit and cabling can push the BMS outside of the return-on-investment window. Wireless fixes that in many cases," Thompson says. "In an industrial facility, there are applications where sensors and controls would be desirable, but due to hazard containment, penetration of the hazard space is not possible. Wireless solves this problem."
That concept of reaching the hard-to-reach places also applies to security, says Gislene Weig, associate, Syska Hennessy.
"When they have a problem getting cable to certain locations and they want to put in a camera, then we would use wireless," she says.
There are additional wireless applications in security. RFID systems allow for tracking of inventory or equipment that isn't used in a stationary location. In health care, many maternity areas of hospitals have tracking bracelets that use RFID to ensure that babies stay in the area. If a baby is taken too close to the door, an alarm sounds.
If all you want in the way of remote access to building automation systems is the ability to log in after hours, that doesn't necessarily require a wireless system internally. But remote data collection on a real-time basis is another big plus of wireless systems, says Myers, using the example of a property manager in a multi-tenant building being able to pull electricity use data from a submeter by walking down a hallway, instead of having to enter individual units. Being able to leverage that real-time data is where the real payoff comes in.
"The applications where you can see return on investment would be in your energy management, your lights, your shades, your mechanical, your room on/room off times, your integrated HVAC and electrical scheduling, your peak power scheduling for operating purposes," Thompson says. "That kind of information, that kind of intelligence on the building that is not specifically life critical ... if properly integrated and commissioned, you can see huge ROI very, very quickly just in energy savings."
The growing use of wireless devices has produced, along with gains in flexibility and energy savings, some surprises for facility managers. In one building, Myers says wireless thermostats Velcroed to cubicle walls became a little too popular with staff who worked in the spaces controlled by the movable devices. When they were relocated, they took the thermostats with them.
" When they walked away with the thermostat, it lost touch with the zone it was supposed to be controlling and didn't do anything, basically," he says. "With a couple of these occurrences, they had trouble controlling the temperatures on the floor and couldn't figure out why nothing was working until they realized they were moving with the thermostats."
>>> The ZigBee Alliance recently announced it has ratified the ZigBee wireless building automation standard. The building automation standard provides the ability for BACnet-based building automation systems to be expanded wirelessly without the need for work-arounds to potential communication issues.
Operating on the IEEE 802.15.4 standard on the 2.4 GHz radio frequency, ZigBee uses a battery- or AC-powered self-healing mesh network to help guard against potential issues if one component is working improperly. The network can support up to 64,000 devices and offers wireless commissioning and group addressing.
Cutting the Cord: Wireless Controls Bring Flexibility
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