Six Specification Steps:
Selecting a Wireless Lighting System
Maintenance and engineering managers planning to enter the wireless lighting controls market are reminded to carefully consider their options before diving in completely.
"If you do go wireless, it's not an all-or-nothing proposition," says John Casadonte of Cree Inc. "Some places are more convenient than other places. Just a little transition can mean a lot" in terms of energy savings.
With the technology rapidly changing, it is important that managers build a long-term relationship with their manufacturer to more easily keep up with the latest products.
"We're at a point right now where you want to take a balanced approach, and say 'is it so important that I make an investment today, or do I want to make sure I'm making an investment that is going to scale with my property for the next 20 years?'" says Kenneth Walma of Eaton's Cooper Lighting. "If you're asking those questions, it may tell you to hold off with all these factors, until you can have a solution that meets all of your requirements."
Managers considering wireless lighting control systems for their institutional and commercial facilities should take these six factors into account before moving forward with a project, Walma says.
Scalability. "Take a look at all the different systems out there. Is (the project) really a small application for a few offices, or is it a campus or large facility? The different technologies have a wide degree of capability from a scalability perspective."
Compatibility. "How does this control system integrate with other building systems or the building data network, be them wired or wireless? You find varying degrees of that capability depending on wireless architectures."
Interoperability. "How much wireless technology is the property already using, and is this wireless lighting control system actually going to conflict with other wireless technologies on the property? This definitely varies widely by facility."
Performance. "Speed of the network is an important factor. Determine how much info you are going to send back and forth."
Security. "Probably one of the hottest buttons now. People haven't been investing in wireless lighting controls in commercial facilities (before recently), and now you're seeing all this talk about it. Now, it's attractive for hackers. There is a limited offering of standards for wireless lighting in the industry and the well known standards do not contain security within the standard. If any of these systems are connected to the building data network, the building's data security is only as good as the least secure device on the lighting network. Without a standard that contains security, such as Wi-Fi, basically the entire building network is limited to what that manufacturer decides to implement."
Cost. "Fundamentally, cost of these kinds of wireless technologies is directly related to volume. The more chipsets, the chips get cheaper and easier to incorporate into the products. Before investing in a wireless lighting system, the device and subsequent system costs should be evaluated with a long-term look. Is the wireless technology you are reviewing relatively new to the lighting space, or more mature? The newer wireless technologies to lighting will see significant price degradation over time whereas those that have been in existence for some time may actually see increases if their volume diminishes while new technologies are accepted. The price points of these devices is not a fixed price in time."
— Dave Lubach