Schneider Electric rethinks the installation of lighting systems

Published:  15 October, 2005

Flexible busbar
By providing power distribution and built-in tap-off points for lighting fittings on Canalis KDP flexible busbar trunking in lengths up to 192 m, Schneider Electric claims to offer all the benefits of a bespoke prefabricated system with none of the drawbacks.

More than halving the time to install a lighting system above a suspended ceiling with the same material cost as traditional materials is what Schneider Electric claims to have achieved with a new flexible busbar system.

One of the characteristics of modular wiring systems is that they are bespoke — made for a particular project. That is all very fine if the design can be frozen at a suitably early stage and there are no changes that will compromise the prefabricated system.

Now Schneider Electric has addressed these issues for lighting installations in commercial buildings with suspended ceilings with a flexible busbar system that combines the installation flexibility of traditional wiring with the benefits of bespoke prefabricated system.

Less skilled labour

Simon Rowlinson of Schneider Electric tells us that an installation based on Canalis KDP flexible trunking costs the same in terms of materials as a cable system, owing to the economies of scale for the manufacture of this globally available system, but is much faster to install and requires less skilled labour. ‘It achieves all the advantages of modular wiring without being bespoke.

‘The time saving for installation is up to 55% compared with traditional cabling,’ he says. Because of its ease and speed of installation, a Canalis KDP flexible busbar trunking system typically costs up to 20% installed less than conventional cabling in cable trays.’

Unlike rigid busbar trunking, the Canalis flexible system is not load bearing, so it cannot be used to support luminaires — but this is not regarded as a problem above a false ceiling.

Canalis KDP flexible busbar trunking is rated at 20 A and is available with three or five conductors. Tap-off connector studs are factory fitted at intervals of 1.5 or 3 m. For special applications, connections can be provided at any distance down to 250 mm.

It is delivered as 24 or 192 m lengths on reels, which are said to make it as easy to store and handle as conventional cable, especially when used with the optional uncoiler kit.

The largest reel of 192 m is sufficient for a lighting system serving an area of 5000 m2. Simon Rowlinson suggests that the complete fit out of such an area can be achieved in just a couple of hours. It can be supplied with PVC or LSF low-smoke, low-halogen insulation.

Connections off the flexible trunking are from standard GST18 sockets, which is a standard connection on many light fittings today.

Accessories

To maximise the time-saving advantages of this flexible-trunking concept, a range of accessories has been developed — all designed to make installation faster and more convenient. These include standard tap-offs, prewired tap-offs and fixing components for the quick and secure attachment of the flexible trunking to metal cable racks, structural steel, concrete slabs and wooden structures.

There are also 10 A preconfigured switching units that provide facilities for phase selection so that loads can readily be balanced in 3-phase installations. They use spring terminals for rapid wiring.

Nor is it just at initial installation that this flexible-trunking system offers cost- and time-saving benefits. Extending or changing systems is no more difficult than installation. Indeed, because the trunking has built-in tap-off points, additional tap-off boxes can be installed while the system is live. For larger-scale changes, long lengths of the trunking can simply be reused.

Competition

Simon Rowlinson summarises, ‘The competition for this flexible busbar trunking system is traditional cables — especially because the material costs are the same. This new system should be considered whenever there are more than five light fittings.’

Just as cables and luminaires are supplied through electrical wholesalers, so this flexible busbar trunking will also be available in the same way. At first, it will be supplied to order, gradually becoming a stock item.



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