6 Integration Tips for Wireless Lighting Controls

Sept. 23, 2013
How to ensure a smooth deployment and optimal performance from your new system.

They may advertise a quick installation, but there’s more to wireless lighting controls than checking to make sure the devices are working.

For a truly successful launch and optimal performance, consider these six tips as you adjust to your new wireless control system.

1) Plan the Initial Rollout
Before installation begins, you should have a comprehensive plan for how you’ll phase in wireless controls. Few choose to retrofit an entire building with wireless controls in one shot, so pick a logical place to start – a room, a stairwell, or even a larger open office space – and expand from there.

“A lot of people will put in a system for a classroom or one part of a building, evaluate it for a certain period of time, and then look at putting it throughout the entire building after they gain a higher level of confidence,” explains Eric Lind, vice president of global specifications with Lutron Electronics, a developer of lighting control and shading solutions. “In buildings like high schools or colleges, if you have the opportunity to do one space, it’s usually very straightforward to move on to other spaces like it throughout that building or potentially the campus.”

If your wireless rollout includes a central management system, the expansion process will be fairly similar, but requires a solid plan for the relationships between each sensor and control, adds Antony Corrie, vice president of Harvard Engineering Americas, a designer and developer of HID ballasts, LED drivers, and control products, including a central management system for lighting.

“You can’t eat an elephant in one bite,” Corrie explains. “A logical approach is to choose the location where the team will start deploying wireless, determine how the nodes will communicate with each other, and then commission to make sure everything’s working. Then you’ll turn on the lighting points in waves.”

2) Calibrate, Commission, and Maintain
As you install each successive wave of wireless lighting controls, you’ll have to program the devices to communicate with each other per the manufacturer’s instructions.

“Often that can be a very straightforward 10- to 15-second process,” explains Lind. “Then, with things like daylighting, there will be a step to calibrate. That also tends to be a rapid, automated process, but it is a step that needs to be done. Then you’ll be up and running.”

Wireless controls are designed to be fairly hands-off, but you still need to make room for them in your preventive maintenance program, Lind adds.

“Some of the wireless technologies use batteries, so you have to be conscious of how long those will last,” explains Lind. “Many buildings have had hands-free toilets with batteries for years, and they change them out based on their use every three to five years.”

That same usage pattern can be used for your wireless system once you know the battery life and have a rough estimate of how often the devices are used.PageBreak

3) Define the Data Scope
Does your wireless system feed usage data back to an energy dashboard? This strategy can help you get a handle on energy consumption in your facility, but the sheer amount of data available to you can become overwhelming. Decide during the initial rollout how deep you’d like to dig into lighting usage.

“You might not want to know that an individual light went off or dimmed for 30 seconds, so you can set those parameters when any large system is rolled out,” Corrie says.

ENERGY STAR’s Control Commissioning Tips

Most lighting controls will require basic setup tasks, a process known as commissioning. ENERGY STAR offers five tips to ensure optimal results.

  • In all cases, make sure sensors are placed according to construction drawings or layout plans. Adjust accordingly if you encounter any unexpected obstructions that aren’t reflected on the original plans.
  • Are you changing any furnishings or adding a new coat of paint before you install daylighting controls? If so, wait to calibrate the system until all furnishings and new interior finishes are in place. For help, check out Architectural Energy Corp’s free Sensor Placement and Orientation Tool.
  • For scheduling systems, program start and stop times for weekdays, weekends, and holidays, and verify the correct operation of overrides.
  • Adjust the sensitivity and time delay for systems with occupancy sensors to reflect placement and orientation that differ from your original facility layout.
  • Make sure manual dimmers are installed as specified. Upper limits should be appropriate for the tasks performed in each space, and lower limits should not cause lamps to flicker.

For instance, if your building hosts multiple tenants, you likely care more about energy usage by tenant than by fixture. Have the management system group its measurements by suite or floor, then use that information to fairly bill each tenant for their own energy usage instead of relying on the building’s overall energy expenses.

“Many companies can’t detect and pinpoint exact energy consumption from office to office. They receive a bill, which is then cleared by them and amortized out from suite to suite,” explains Corrie. “If a property management company had the capability to see granular, specific energy consumption down to the individual suite, it becomes a profit center for them.”

If you opted to forgo a central management system with a dashboard, consider submetering to track post-installation energy savings from your new controls, Lind adds.

4) Appoint a Lighting Guru
An FM department in a larger building or campus could benefit from assigning one team member to focus on energy consumption from the lighting system or on conservation in general, Corrie notes.

“You might have one person remotely monitoring 15 buildings, or one team capable of detecting an issue and pinpointing the fault through the central management system so they don’t have to physically walk to the location to investigate,” explains Corrie. “If you can tell them ahead what to put in their tool kit to fix the problem, that reduces time and maintenance costs.”

5) Redefine Normal Light Levels
You’ve probably already made plans to dim spaces like stairwells and unoccupied corridors, but what about occupied spaces? You may be able to dial back the intensity of a space’s lighting without causing discomfort.

“The human eye can’t really detect a light that dims from 100% to 90%. Right there, you have an instant 10% energy savings,” says Corrie. “Couple that with light detection, where the side of the room that’s near a window doesn’t need light, but the other side does because it’s in a darker area.”

6) Get Creative
Energy savings certainly present a persuasive argument, but if you’re considering installing a wireless lighting control system, think beyond the financial savings and examine how better control over your lighting could influence profits.

“You can use central lighting management to push marketing campaigns, monitor buyer traffic and behavior, and understand where buyers are going and what they’re doing,” Corrie says.

“If someone returns to a clothes rack to look at something for a second time, you could warm up the lighting or brighten it in that area,” Corrie adds. “The realtime applications are endless. These systems don’t just enable people to control and monitor lighting, but to do many other things using the existing infrastructure and technology that’s already there.”

Janelle Penny [email protected] is associate editor of BUILDINGS.

About the Author

Janelle Penny | Editor-in-Chief at BUILDINGS

Janelle Penny has more than a decade of experience in journalism, with a special emphasis on covering facilities management. She aims to deliver practical, actionable content for facilities professionals.

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