By Jordan Hobart
Wireless technology has become a standard part of life for millions of people. Where would we be without our TV remotes, keyless entry systems, and cell phones? Consequently, commercial facilities have also been affected. What were once classrooms, boardrooms, and meeting rooms now must be high-tech multi-media centers equipped to accommodate the latest presentation equipment. For most organizations, this means retrofitting a room that wasn’t initially designed for the current purpose.
Lighting improvements have traditionally been avoided altogether in these ventures because they are perceived to be labor and cost intensive. Yet, to be truly effective, a multi-media room upgrade should begin with lighting. Nearly all of the information we process is received visually, so a proper visual environment is critical.
Thankfully, the wireless revolution has reached the lighting controls industry. In addition, wireless lighting control systems are simple to operate and bring exceptional flexibility to a space because they can easily be re-adapted and expanded as new needs arise.
A standard wireless lighting control system for a meeting room consists of two simple components: a wall-mounted or tabletop transmitter and a fixture- or junction box-mounted power controller. Installation involves replacing a conventional wall switch with the wall-mounted transmitter and mounting power controllers directly to the first fixture in a group of lights or remotely on a junction box. Because the controls communicate via radio frequency, wall transmitters do not require any wiring directly to the power controllers. This makes the installation of additional wall controls in an existing room very easy. An optional tabletop transmitter can be placed or mounted on any surface and can be used from any area in a room.
System operation is just as simple. The power controllers regulate the light level of dimmed and switched fluorescent lights, incandescents, and low-voltage lights. In many applications, the installed cost of fluorescent dimming is less than switched fluorescent lighting with dimmed incandescent lighting. Maintenance and energy costs are also lower, and fluorescent dimming can be easier to use.
Each group of lights is also operated directly by the user. For example, during a PowerPoint presentation, lighting over a video screen can be dimmed, while lighting above a conference table can be at an optimal level for note-taking. In many cases, controllers will also operate projection equipment and adjust video screens and window shades to effortlessly establish the perfect environment for any presentation. A user can make all of these adjustments from one location simply by pressing a few buttons.
By virtue of its design, wireless lighting technology mitigates any fears that tomorrow’s tools will render it obsolete. Each transmitter is addressed to a power controller or controllers during installation, and can be adapted at any time. As other technologies are incorporated in the building, there may be a need to integrate the lighting controls in a room to other systems. This is a simple process, as wireless interfaces will allow the room to be controlled by A/V systems, building management systems, and more.
Given the affordability, convenience, flexibility, and reliability that wireless lighting controls offer, they are clearly here to stay. Moreover, as technology evolves, it is safe to say their future is unlimited.
Jordan Hobart is manager of the Education Lighting Systems at Lutron Electronics Co. Inc., (www.lutron.com), Coopersburg, PA.