The simplicity of plug and play

Imagine walking into a dark office where the heating is set at a default level, but the minute you walk in it senses your presence and the lighting and heating switches to a pre-set level which match the needs of the individual in the room.

It may sound like the perfect solution but it is becoming increasing common with the introduction of KNX and the local control which this network can bring. I spoke to Mark Redfern, Managing Director of Wieland Electric about their product range which is making this type of control a reality.

Keep it simple

The basic concept of the Wieland system is actually very simple. If you take a typical office installation as an example, using traditional methods you would install a number of cables providing data and power to each office which can be both costly and time consuming for the installer. By using this solution you simply install a bespoke RAN box which provides the means to control everything within that office.

Although the concept is very simple it is the technology within the system which is the clever part because it is this technology which makes the system work.

Wieland recently introduced the gesis KNX series which can be used in combination with their range of KNX compatible devices to build a KNX based network with components from one supplier. Mark says: “Our range includes presence and motion detectors which can typically be used for the control of lighting, room temperature controls for heating, cooling and ventilation and switches for interfacing standard switches with the KNX network. The benefits of this to a system integrator can be huge because it means we can provide a bespoke solution for every installation.

“In addition because we also supply the cabling for the installation, we provide the ability to source everything from one manufacturer and therefore you have the guarantee that each of the products will work together providing a seamless and trouble-free installation.”

Making it work

The range of compatible devises is fairly comprehensive but it is the bespoke RAN boxes which bring it all together to provide the individual room control.

When you talk about KNX everything is decentralised in that the control is in the device, so if you have a KNX controlled valve in the radiator the intelligence is in the valve. All you therefore need to do is programme the thermostat to talk to that valve to achieve the desired temperature in the room, and this is where the Wieland solution comes into its own.

The major benefit of building a KNX network using the Wieland product range is that they can provide one decentralised control unit for each room or office, and because the units are building blocks they can be plugged together and wired accordingly, providing a complete plug and play solution.

This is a unique offering in that each RAN control box can be programmed to suit an individual installation and in a large office this has the added benefit of repeatability in that a number of identical boxes can be manufactured and sent to the installation – all the system integrator has to do is plug them together.

A recent job at the European Court of Justice in Strasbourg is a perfect example of how this works. In this particular installation there were 1200 rooms for which Wieland created 1200 boxes in five different styles to suit the five different styles of offices within the building. All the installer had to do was wire each of the boxes into the different offices resulting in a quick and easy installation providing local control for each office.

Mark says: “We can basically provide a bespoke solution for any application. Because we manufacture each control box to suit the individual requirements of the client there are numerous benefits over a centralised system. Firstly the speed and cost of the installation is reduced (typically there is a 70% time saving and 30% overall saving depending on the exact installation). Secondly the environmental impact is reduced because there is less copper and plastic used in cabling for the installation. In addition because each system is designed to the customer’s specification and delivered to site as a preassembled unit, there is no waste and thus it eliminates the need to recycle any parts that are left over once the installation is complete.”

Not just offices

You would be forgiven for turning the page at this point if your next installation is anything but an office block, but the simplicity of the system means that it can in fact be used in many more applications.

A good example of this would be hotels and classrooms because whatever the installation, the system works on the same principal with each unit providing individual room control of heating, ventilation and lighting. In fact one of the many benefits of this system is that because each decentralised control unit is completely configured to suit the application they can be installed on a box by box basis which is repeatable. From an installers perspective this means that they are working with identical units which speeds up the installation time considerably.

Mark says: “We have dedicated members of staff in the UK and a design department in Germany who work with the installer through every step of the process from design through to installation. By working in this way we are able to ensure that the control units meet the needs of the installer and the end user and are compatible with all the other devices on the KNX network.”

The benefits of KNX

Wieland was an early partner with KNX and although the technology has been around for over 20 years and has been widely used throughout Europe, it is only recently that it has begun to take off in the commercial market in the UK. Mark says: “KNX provides an excellent way to manage buildings and energy efficiency within those buildings but it has been very slow to be accepted in the UK. The beauty of KNX is that the intelligence and control is local and therefore each application can be configured to suit the needs of the end user, but despite this, until the installation at Heathrow T5 the technology was not widely talked about and therefore not widely used.

“We are now entering into a very exciting period with KNX. The number of systems integrators is growing at a rapid pace and we have a very forward looking KNX board in the UK. In addition because we now have an increasing number of reference projects such as T5, the industry is beginning to recognise the benefits which KNX can bring to an installation.”

And finally

The major benefit of installing a KNX based solution is that all of the components in the system are compatible no matter who the manufacturer is which means that once the installation is complete you know it is going to work.

By using the Wieland solution as part of a KNX installation the benefits are enormous, not least of which are the cost savings on materials and labour at the installation stage and the energy savings which can be achieved once the installation is complete.

However the main benefit is that they offer a complete plug and play solution, from the cabling and the control boxes to motion and presence detectors, room thermostats and lighting controls, everything is available from one source.

I don’t need to tell you the benefits of working with one manufacturer because I am sure that most people have suffered at the hands of the ‘no blame’ culture which always seems to rear its head when products fail to work together. By using this solution from Wieland you can be assured that not only will it work but it will also save time, labour and energy costs which alone make it worth looking into.

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