Daylight savings time occurs twice a year in most parts of the country; starting March 11, 2007, it’s going to be a bit different than in past years, thanks to an act of Congress. The Energy Policy Act of 2005 (EPAct 2005) altered daylight savings so it will begin the second Sunday in March and end the first Sunday in November.
This is a major change since, for decades, daylight savings began the first Sunday in April and ended the last Sunday in October.
A couple weeks here and there may not seem like a big deal, until you start looking at how this change affects electrical systems.
Intelligent and integrated systems dominate most of today’s facilities. Integrated systems can include time-controlled lighting; security and life safety; heating, ventilating and air conditioning; and other systems. The preprogrammed systems auto-adjust for daylight savings time. Even systems that do not adjust for time might be linked to others that do.
The contractor’s role
It is reasonable to conclude that electrical contractors have installed and possibly programmed these integrated building systems. Since ECs maintain and service them, they have the most hands-on experience with the systems being affected by the change.
Since building owners and facility managers may not be aware of the EPAct requirements, they may not deal with it until right before the new daylight savings time takes effect this spring. Contractors are in a unique position to educate their customers about these issues and get them resolved as quickly as possible. Systems may only need lighting schedule changes, but to make this adjustment will take a bit more than that.
According to Scott Jordan, Square D/Schneider Electric, “It’s a software change, meaning the system will have to be reprogrammed to account for the change in daylight savings parameter, which is something that hasn’t changed in decades.”
Also, if these changes are made after March 11, the system will “spring forward” an hour again on the original date because the device believes that date to be the correct daylight savings change date.
“Building owners and facility managers should examine their systems that have automated schedules,” Jordan said. “When they do, they should go to their electrical contractor and ask about changes that will be needed.”
What to do
According to Jordan, “Manufacturers of systems have already begun attending to this. Contractors can download a software upgrade for the Square D Powerlink whole-building lighting control system and apply it to reprogram the system for the daylight savings change. We’re guessing it is similar for other systems/manufacturers but, of course, can’t speak for them.” One could probably assume that by this point just about every manufacturer has a repair or recommended process ready to go.
Potential scenarios directly related to non-updated systems can run the gamut. “A building in a bad part of town that doesn’t have its parking lot lights turned on at the start of the day because the lighting control system thinks daylight savings is two weeks away could create a dangerous situation,” Jordan said.
Contractors can best prepare themselves for the potential onslaught of service calls come Monday, March 12, 2007, by getting their strategies in place.
Check in with current customers. Alert them to this issue, and follow up by going into their respective facilities and assessing their systems in order to determine which ones will be affected. It may be worthwhile to check in with manufacturers to determine the best course of action.
Proactive contractors who get moving on the issue right now could turn this “speed bump” into extra business, happy customers and increased recognition as being total systems experts. EC
STONG-MICHAS, a freelance writer, lives in central Pennsylvania. She can be reached via e-mail at JenLeahS@msn.com.