Challenges Associated with Wireless Lighting Controls
While installing wireless lighting controls can provide energy-saving opportunities, managers also must be prepared for bumps in the road while completing retrofit projects.
The General Motors Co. plant in Springhill, Tenn., reduced energy spending by $2 million — a savings total of 30 percent — when it installed wireless controls as part of a major lighting project. The company changed out 16,000 fixtures at the plant. Part of the retrofit included installing more than 1,700 wireless fixtures.
“Initial buy-in and successful communication during the rollout is critical for success,” says Steven Townsend, senior electrical systems engineer for facility engineering at GM Global Facilities. “Providing acceptable light levels and timely installation and commissioning within production schedule limitations was a challenge.
“During pre-commissioning, the luminaires were at full light output, and light levels were significantly above the post-commissioned target level. Gradual reductions and advanced communications were required to avoid the perception of inadequate light after commissioning. Another challenge was defining which features and functionality would be offered to the end-users and determining the appropriate levels of access and control.”
The variety of options available with wireless systems offered Townsend a new set of opportunities.
“There are so many features and capabilities available that it can be difficult to settle on a uniform strategy of leveraging the control features, such as schedules, local switching, occupancy sensors, daylighting, and other custom possibilities,” he says.
Managers also must consider properly training employees to operate wireless systems, Townsend says.
“The primary challenge is ensuring that the system is properly managed over time,” he says. “Personnel are often transferred or reassigned, so it may make it difficult to manage the system over the life of the system.
“A second (challenge) would be the fact that the market and technology is changing so rapidly that specific wireless-system products could become obsolete, making it difficult to obtain parts with interoperability for either ongoing maintenance purposes or system expansions.”