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Daylight Savings: Time to Synchronize Time

By Scott DeSmith

Daylight savings time (DST) starts on Sunday, March 13. Will you have to deal with complaints about clocks showing the wrong time? Will your maintenance and engineering staff spend time adjusting each clock by hand? Or maybe your clocks never all display the same time, no matter the time of year?

When clocks are not synchronized or do not automatically adjust for DST, it means more than just dealing with complaints. Whether you are on a school campus or in an office building, punctuality becomes a problem. Meetings, classes and shifts may start or end at the wrong times, and maintenance staff spend valuable time adjusting clocks.

Time to synchronize time

The good news is that you do not have to spend time worrying about or adjusting clocks. Synchronized time happens when all of the clocks in a building, whether they are wired, wireless, digital or analog, are on a time technology system that ensures they all show the same time.

The benefits of this go beyond the convenience of the time on the wall:
• Optimize the flow of building occupants and ensure classes, meetings and shifts start and dismiss in sync.
• Cut maintenance time and cost required for adjusting the clocks for DST changes and throughout the year.
• Accurately track shift changes, payroll and any regulatory reporting requirements.
• No one-size-fits-all solution exists for synchronizing clocks; the answer depends on your building, budget and needs. Here's what you need to know about your synchronized time options and how to determine which may be best for your facility.

Know your technology options

There are two main ways to synchronize clocks:
• A wired timekeeping system has a master clock that is wired to each clock in a building and controls the displayed time to uphold synchronization.
• A wireless system controller retrieves a time signal from GPS satellites, cell phone towers or the internet. A signal is sent to each wireless clock using a radio frequency.

Both the wired and wireless options automatically update for daylight saving time twice per year and may come with a multi-year battery life, saving your maintenance staff a huge amount of time adjusting and repairing clocks. In certain cases, vendors have options that can synchronize both wired and wireless clocks within the same building or campus.

Some buildings install a system controller, which reaches beyond the clocks to also control the on/off times of HVAC, security and lighting. Just as computers on a network can "talk" to each other, so too can a timekeeping system controller communicate scheduled times for other systems. This is especially helpful for schools when a schedule has to be adjusted because of a weather delay or special event.

Building managers can adjust for different schedules online via any computer, or by pre-loading special schedules for events such as holidays. For instance, the activation times of HVAC, lightning and security can be turned on or off at predetermined times. This saves energy while the building is empty and keeps everyone in sync when normal operations resume.

Understand your needs

While some vendors offer free clocks audits to help you understand and determine your best options, knowing the answers to the following questions will help you be better informed right from the start:

What is your building type?

In an existing structure, power access points may be limited and extending an existing wired system can be expensive. Battery-operated Wi-Fi network clocks may be ideal: They receive a regular time sync signal from your network server to stay on time. Their staggered wake times to retrieve a time signal avoid any slowdown of your Wi-Fi network. They come preconfigured to your Wi-Fi system, so the only installation required is hanging them on the wall.

In a new construction scenario, a wireless clock system will save you the most time and money since there is no need for cabling to each clock. Power over Ethernet (PoE) clocks are a great option if a powered Ethernet cable is available throughout the building.

What is your budget?

Whether you want a wireless system that controls your clocks and building systems, a traditional wired system or a simple way to tell time, the design phase allows you to plan your system based on your priorities. Costs can range from $20-$200 per clock depending on your building's size, synchronization needs and installation options.

What are your installation options?

Most clocks have a hanger bracket or keyhole for mounting. However, wired and wireless systems may require more: PoE clocks need a powered Ethernet drop close to the clock location; if your existing wired clock system has a back box, a replacement clock needs the correct hanger bracket; wired clocks require AC wiring.

For a wired and wireless clock system with a master clock, an electrician may be needed if signal circuits are used to integrate bells, intercoms or other building equipment.

Stop spending time on time

Synchronizing your building's clocks has benefits beyond the time displayed on the wall. Synchronized time drives punctuality, safety, efficiency and lowers maintenance costs. As you consider a timekeeping system, knowing your technology options and the needs of your facility will help you be better informed and ensure that your building operates like clockwork.

Scott DeSmith is a product application specialist for American Time.

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posted on 3/10/2016