It seems like everything in our lives nowadays is wireless – or heading that way. This week, Mark Lane and Dennis Hoskins, two members of the Controls Product Management Team at Acuity Brands®, join Catherine Bruce on the Bright Ideas Series to discuss wireless controls for lighting fixtures.
WHY ARE WIRELESS CONTROLS IN HIGH DEMAND?
One of the top priorities of most building operators is energy reduction. LEDs are a great way to reduce your carbon footprint as well as gain energy savings. Similarly, controls can provide those same benefits.
However, the central reason behind the surge in wireless controls is the huge opportunity of existing buildings to renovate or retrofit.
During a new building’s construction, it is fairly easy to run wires and lay out the framework for traditional controls up front – because there are no walls in the way yet. However, laying hundreds of yards – or even a few miles – of wiring can still take a lot of time and money within the scope of that project, so wireless is a great option there too.
However, when it comes to retrofitting existing buildings with new LEDs and controls, there are a lot of challenges associated with traditional wired controls. It is very difficult to get a wired product in place and installed through existing walls.This is where wireless controls really shine as a solution.
Using wireless controls means that a contractor doesn’t have to worry about the usual obstructions, crawl spaces or long hours generally associated with a lighting retrofit. Eliminating the need for laying wire makes for a simpler and faster installation that will also reduce energy usage. That’s a win for contractors, as well as building owners.
PROGRAMMING WIRELESS CONTROLS HAS BECOME EASIER.
Most contractors are familiar with push-button programming of controls and lighting fixtures. However, push-button programming comes with its own set of challenges. The right buttons have to be pressed in the right sequence an appropriate number of times, and the programmer has to wait for a specific blinking sequence to know that the light has been programmed properly. If not, then they have to start the sequence all over again.
To add to this arduous task already filled with tedium and human error, in applications like outdoor and industrial lighting, some fixtures may be suspended over 50 feet in the air. Pushing the buttons on each fixture requires the use of a lift truck or bucket truck, which is an expense of its own.
Even worse, a contractor may install several hundred lights according to their customer’s exact specifications, only for the customer to take a look and say, “I’m not sure I like it. Can we change this or that?”
Even though the contractor may have delivered exactly what was ordered, it’s on him or her to make things right with the end user… and that could mean additional hours on a scissor truck trying to reprogram or even replace every single fixture.
With wireless controls, luminaires can be programmed from the ground with a smartphone app. Some products even take ease of use further– the SensorSwitch™ JOT for example, requires just one touch on a light switch to program an entire room of lighting fixtures.
So if a customer beholds the final delivery and asks if anything can be changed, contractors can now pull out their smartphone and change the settings for every single device at once, on the fly. And since the app is secure, the distributor can keep control access protected unless they opt to share it with select individuals. They can even pass that access on to customers so that each buyer can make changes to their own fixtures whenever they want. That’s an unheard-of level of flexibility in the lighting market.
WHY ARE WIRELESS CONTROLS IDEALLY SUITED FOR INDUSTRIAL AND OUTDOOR APPLICATIONS?
Given that most outdoor or industrial fixtures are usually 20-50 feet in the air, wireless controls already provide the convenient service of reducing ladder and lift time; and easy control of all fixtures at once. This feature can be especially valuable for contractors trying to install or adjust fixtures somewhere like a Minnesota parking lot in the middle of December. Nobody wants to be out in that kind of environment any longer than absolutely necessary.
Additionally, lighting for applications like parking lots can benefit from the programming that wireless controls provide. If the lights are at 100% brightness all night, that could be a waste of energy in the absence of any human activity.
While motion sensors can solve some of this problem, they may produce their own complications when lights aren’t wirelessly connected to one another.
A pedestrian may walk under one light which turns up to full brightness… but after the person’s eyes adjust for that light and they keep moving, they can’t actually see beyond themselves to the rest of the parking lot where it’s still dim or dark.
The best option for this situation is to have a wireless product that saves energy and provides proper lighting: so that when somebody walks under the first fixture, that motion sensor tells all the lights in the parking lot to come up at the same time or in a sequential order, and adjust light levels gradually and properly for the situation.
WIRELESS CONTROLS CAN HELP FUTURE-PROOF YOUR SPACE.
One of the great benefits to most pieces of hardware nowadays is that any new changes tend to come in the form of software updates.
Smartphones and even vehicles now come with apps that update regularly, and the updates unlock new features. Manufacturers also provide firmware updates to create a brand-new experience for users as well. So a user of the CLAIRITY Pro app, for example, can unlock new capabilities in their lighting fixtures whenever the app itself is updated with new features.
To find out more about what wireless controls are capable of, visit acuitybrands.com. After the holidays, Catherine and guest, Will Walker of Encentiv Energy, will discuss utility rebates and how you can take advantage of them in your area.
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