Here are the questions that often get asked when considering wireless lighting controls:
Why would you consider wireless lighting controls?
Are you considering them for a Residential or a Commercial project?
Is your project new construction or a renovation?
What is the cost difference between wired and wireless controls?
When discussing wireless technology, you need to first be discussing 'why would you consider wireless?' when wired controls are amply available and very reliable today. The reality of the matter is that people choose wireless controls for many reasons but mostly for these: flexibility, reduced installation costs and areas that are difficult to wire. When wireless lighting controls first entered the market, their primary project types were outdoor site lighting , warehousing or residential. Though the past few years, solution for all lighting projects have become reliable and viable,
Flexibility is important because wireless control devices can be placed where they are needed without limitation imposed by wiring, including areas that are difficult to wire. More flexibility can be provided in unique applications. Electrical planning may also be shortened because the controls can be relocated in the field without additional labor or material costs. After installation, devices can be moved and the system expanded with relative ease. This seems to make more sense in renovation work or existing building retrofit. This benefit is important in both residential and commercial applications.
Reduced installation costs are realized from wireless controls eliminating the need for dedicated control wiring and associated switch legs, traveler wires and other raw materials. The system installs quicker, producing reduced installation costs. Again, this lends itself well to existing buildings with no damage to walls or ceilings, and little to no disruption to business operations. When wireless controls are considered for new construction, the material cost and reduced labor being estimated are still a viable advantage to a project. In addition, field commissioning is less complicated due to the fact that sensors can be relocated upon need in any space without rewiring.
Some areas of both commercial and residential projects are virtually impossible to run wire, thus wireless controls in these scenarios become the best option.
Is the project you are working on a residential or a commercial project? The decision to use wireless or wired lighting controls follows the same guidelines in either application. If the residential project is a renovation, the selection of wireless controls would be the right choice. You would be able to utilize existing rough in dimensions and reduce the need to open up walls and ceilings any further than your construction project demands. If the residential project is a new construction, your option to use wired or wireless is wide open. In this scenario, the labor to install wireless devices would be drastically reduced than wiring long home-runs of low voltage wired throughout the home but the material cost would be approximately 20% higher than a wired solution. If the project is a commercial project, the selection of control options would again be solely based on your desire to reap any of the benefits listed above.
New Construction or Renovation? The choice of wireless controls is much easier when doing a renovation project or an existing building retrofit. In this case, wireless controls clearly would offer your project the vast benefits of both flexibility and reduced installation costs. In most retrofits, a wired control solution simply isn't an option at all due to the inability to run wire to the necessary locations. When doing a new construction project, the choice of using wireless controls over wired controls becomes a broader discussion. The traditional means in a new construction project would be to design around wired controls utilizing digital low voltage wire between all devices. Walls and ceilings are wide open and running of this cable is fairly easy. Typically, the cost of a wireless system over a wired system (material only) varies from equal in value up to a 20% premium on devices depending on the system and manufacturer chosen. The installation estimate for installing wireless controls instead of wired controls should realize your project a sizable reduction in labor costs depending on the number of devices and the distances in the locations and bring the delta between the two options closer to equal in installed value.
Is there a substantial difference in cost between wired and wireless controls? There are so many products and manufacturers offering wireless controls today and the simplicity or scalability of these devices/systems varies. In the simpler devices (occupancy sensors / wireless wall stations / daylight sensors) that are designed to be installed as a standalone solution, in both of the scenarios of Lutron's Energi Tri Pak devices and LC&D Xcella wireless controls, the material cost is equal to the cost of a wired system without the additional labor time for installation. When wireless control devices are designed into a more expansive scalable system, the wireless system cost is greater than a wired system due to additional devices being required such as system gateways, routers and signal repeaters. Even in these global systems, the pricing of the wireless system may exceed the wired system material cost by as much as 20% but the realized installation time reduction of the wireless should bring the two system options closer to equal in installed value. When the wireless system is installed the intangible benefit to the end user is the ability to relocate any of the devices in the future to allow for their churn of business in their spaces without additional electrical labor costs.
To learn more about wireless controls in general, sign up for the Lunch & Learn or for more specific wireless control product offerings from LaFace & McGovern, click on any of the following links and feel free to ask for a product demo on any of them: