Reduce Costs with Wieland Structured Wiring Systems

Wieland gesisMICROThere are a number of approaches that electrical engineers can take to help reduce the costs of projects. Mark Redfern of Wieland Electric suggests that one of them should be the wider use of structured wiring systems.

There is growing pressure on in-house electrical engineering departments and electrical contractors to reduce the cost of projects. While sourcing equipment at competitive prices plays an important role in this, there is also much that can be done to reduce the cost of the installation work.

A case in point is the use of structured wiring with 'plug and play' connections, which have been shown to deliver savings in installation time in the region of 60%. Even when slightly higher capital costs are taken into account it is still possible to achieve savings of 30-40% on final installed cost.

Clearly this will vary with the type of project, and savings can be greater in projects where access is difficult. For instance, one lighting manufacturer that now routinely supplies our intelligent connector system for use with ballasts on high bay luminaires calculates that installation is 70% faster than with conventional wiring techniques. Much of this comes from reducing the time spent working at height.

In addition, many of the buildings that use high bay lighting are factories, warehouses or retail outlets - where any work on the lighting will require scaffolding or the of use mobile elevating work platforms for access. So in a situation where existing lighting is being replaced, anything that saves time will also reduce disruption at ground level.

Another benefit is the opportunity to make better use of multi-skilled operatives. For example, if mechanical operatives are working at high level on pipework, they can also plug in the connections for the lighting. The plugs are configured so there is only one way that they can plug in, so there is no chance of the wrong connections being made. Of course, it is essential that connections at the distribution board and overall system tests are carried out by qualified electricians but a simple plug-in operation is well within the scope of any multi-skilled operative.

Inherent flexibility
Beyond the initial time savings at the time of installation, the inherent flexibility of structured wiring greatly facilitates subsequent changes to the installation. For example, if the layout of a space changes there may be a need to reconfigure the lighting and other small power. With conventional wiring this can be very disruptive and potentially expensive. With a structured system there is considerably less disruption and less overall cost.

Another benefit is that the components of a structured system can be re-used, whereas with conventional wiring there is considerable waste during a re-wiring project. Consequently, structured wiring helps to reduce waste and to meet recycling targets.

Plugging and playing safe
As with any systems, it is important to understand the safety implications and there have been occasions where we have received requests for male to male connectors for plug and play ring main circuits.

This is something that our company will not supply - and for very good reasons. The convention is that only female connectors should be live - and the point of a convention is that if everyone follows it there can't be any mix-ups. It's a bit like everyone stopping at a red traffic light; we all understand the convention so it works well!

So we would emphasise two points; one that that the convention should always be observed and, two, that plug and play systems are intended for radial circuits only, not for ring main circuits. And although there is a huge amount of safety built into the higher quality plug and play systems, using them in ring main circuits could compromise safety under certain circumstances.

There is certainly some confusion around this issue and this may have arisen because of the need for compliance with BS 61535, whereby connectors intended for permanent installation must comply with IP2X when engaged, and the socket (female) part shall also be IP2X when disengaged (IP2X is the 'standard' European finger test).

The emphasis is on the extra protection for the female connector but many manufacturers play safe by designing their male connectors to comply with IP2X as well. There's nothing wrong with this, of course, but it may have given the impression that an IP2X rating for a male connectors means it's OK for them to be live.

Of course, many readers will already be familiar with the general principles of structured wiring but it's worth getting up to speed with the latest developments, as these systems continue to evolve. For example, there are now 6-pole circular structured wiring systems that use a patented coding system for different applications and use round connectors to minimise space requirements and facilitate installation through firewalls. There are also compact 'micro' connector systems specifically developed for use with LED lighting in confined spaces such as display cabinets

It also makes sense to work with a supplier that can meet a wide range of requirements and provide the technical support that may be required through the project.

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