New Combination Products Give Cables More Control

There was a time when lighting and other switched electrical equipment 
was designed for simple on/off operation, making wiring a simple 
affair. Contractors only needed to install a single run of power cabling
 to meet operational needs. Today, though, both clients and ambitious 
energy standards are requiring greater control over building systems, 
specifying products like dimmable lighting and variable-speed fans, and 
the need for additional runs of control/signal cable can make 
installation a much more complicated task. Southwire

Chuck Ross

There was a time when lighting and other switched electrical equipment was designed for simple on/off operation, making wiring a simple affair. Contractors only needed to install a single run of power cabling to meet operational needs. Today, though, both clients and ambitious energy standards are requiring greater control over building systems, specifying products like dimmable lighting and variable-speed fans, and the need for additional runs of control/signal cable can make installation a much more complicated task.

The latest version of the leading U.S. energy-efficiency standard, ASHRAE 90.1, “Energy Standard for Buildings Except Low-Rise Residential Buildings", developed by the American Society of Heating, Refrigerating and Air-Conditioning Engineers, is calling for greater integration of natural daylighting with powered light fixtures. As a result, light sensors now are frequently used to determine whether light fixtures in a space should be on, off, or dimmed to some level in between.

The need for control and signal wiring, in addition to wiring for power, can add considerable time to a lighting system’s installation schedule and create the need for a second crew to come through to handle the controls integration. As a result, wire and cable makers have begun manufacturing metal-clad offerings that incorporate both power conductors and low-voltage control wiring into a single product.

Such an approach can offer multiple advantages for electrical contractors. The benefits in reduced labor costs and speedier installation are clear, as combining power and control wiring eliminates the need for a second crew. Less obvious, perhaps, is the opportunity to expand into new lines of business. Control wiring is often the job of integration specialists, rather than electrical pros, so by being able to piggyback the installation of both systems at once, electrical contractors could gain a new foothold in the integration business.


Photo courtesy of Southwire

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