Three Places to Cut the Cabling

Feb. 22, 2011
Wireless technology can reduce the inconvenience and cost of installing new cabling.

From easier implementation to increased flexibility, wireless technology offers many upsides. It’s simple to swap a keyboard for a wireless version, but the sky is truly the limit when it comes to other wireless opportunities. To boost the movability of some of your equipment and treat the environment a little more kindly, take a look at three key places you can cut down on your cabling needs.

Computers, Phones, and Peripheral Devices
Completely eliminating cabling is out of the question for now – your electronics still need electricity and analog phones still need phone jacks. You can greatly reduce the cable clutter for individual employees, though, by more heavily relying on wireless technology.

One such system, Bluetooth, offers everything from mice and keyboards to speakers, barcode scanners, and receipt printers. The low-energy technology will soon expand into access control with proximity devices, says Mike Foley, executive director of the Bluetooth Special Interest Group.

"When you walk away from your desk, your computer will automatically lock," he says. "When you come back to your desk, it will automatically log you in."

Eliminating the need to run miles of cable in an industrial setting can save thousands of dollars, Foley adds, and can also help cut energy use.

"You can have an intelligent thermostat that communicates with a meter and adjusts the temperature settings or turns off the HVAC system during times when the cost per kWh exceeds some pre-determined threshold," he says. "Office buildings can use Bluetooth to monitor the presence of workers and visitors around the building and use the data to adapt the environment conditions, such as humidity or temperature."

Building Systems
Building automation systems are prime wireless territory. Lights are easily automated, and dimmable ones can be paired with occupancy or daylight sensors to turn off or adjust the amount of light in a room depending on available natural light and whether anyone is in the room. Other products can control anything from HVAC to energy monitoring systems.

Adding wireless switches and sensors to an existing wired lighting system not only saves the hassle of running wires through the walls, but adds extra portability. If you need to reconfigure the layout of your environment, it’s easy to move the light switches to their new homes. A typical school gymnasium uses 40 fixtures total, while an office with a grid ceiling might use about 25 light fixtures per 100 square feet, depending on the office’s size and layout, says Gregg Thomas, senior engineer for Lightning Switch.

"The additional cost of being able to control all of the fixtures typically adds $50-100 per fixture compared to getting fixtures without the controls, so it’s a fairly minimal addition," Thomas says. "Then you get added energy savings by being able to turn lights off that you’re not using."

Safety and Security
Wireless technology can play a major role in your safety and security operations as long as you can still deliver a power source to the equipment, such as through a wall outlet, says Craig Sanford, technical sales and support associate for PolarisUSA. Eliminating the need to run video cabling offers quick installation, the ability to move the equipment to new locations, and the possibility of placing cameras in harder-to-reach places, like skyscrapers and water towers.

The wireless possibilities don’t stop at cameras – unwired counterparts are available for burglary, smoke and fire detection, and environmental detectors to complement existing safety and security measures.

Cameras can’t run purely on batteries yet, Sanford says, but it’s more likely to find a wall outlet or other power source near the camera than a video cable.

"Many people who buy wireless cameras are planning to place the camera in a location that has power, but no video cables run, and are simply trying to avoid having to run more cables or trench a conduit across their property," Sanford says. "If you can wire it, go ahead and do so for the reliability of it, but many times the application is simply too difficult."

Before loading up on wireless equipment, be sure you really need it. Remember, you’ll still have to provide a wired power source for many systems. Transitioning some functions to wireless, though, still has undeniable environmental benefits.

"Beyond just the energy savings, you’ve got to manufacture all the wiring and plastic, bend the copper, and transport it to the job site," Thomas says. "If wiring is decreased greatly, there’s many environmental benefits."

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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