Feature Article

Controls Go Wireless

December 4, 2007

Wireless technology has been in development for decades but has blossomed in recent years with the proliferation of cell phones and wireless computer networking, enabling greater communication and connectivity among electronic devices. The technology has affected telecommunication, transportation, and consumer electronics and now offers new tools for green building. Lighting is one of the key areas being affected, but ventilation and numerous others aren’t far behind.

Wireless controls in buildings can eliminate the wire running from a device such as a luminaire to the source of control. The luminaire still needs to be wired for power, but it doesn’t need to be wired to a switch or sensor. Thus a light switch needs to be placed only for convenience to the occupant. A daylight sensor can be placed where it functions best—and easily moved to further optimize it—without running wires. A variable-air-volume vent can be programmed to respond to a thermostat or occupancy sensor without needing additional wiring. The environmental and economic benefits of this technology include energy savings by more precisely serving the needs of occupants, and reduced wiring, which reduces material use. However, wireless controls remain relatively new, and questions remain about reliability and realizing promised savings.