Temperature control in large enclosed spaces - such as goods warehouses or aircraft hangars – presents a huge challenge to conventional technologies. As such, this type of environment is very expensive to heat or cool and uncomfortable to work in. Innovative wireless technology can provide the answer.

A harsh environment for man and machine

The North American distribution center at Brossard, Quebec, Canada is the largest such IKEA facility worldwide. Consisting of four warehouses, with the largest one covering an area of 300 x 200 meters (or 1000 x 600 feet), it serves the whole of Canada and Eastern United States. With virtually no interior walls, and with a layout subject to frequent change, conventionally wiring such a building presents huge difficulties – many miles of wiring would have to be pulled in an expensive, disruptive and time-consuming effort to connect all the temperature sensors needed for efficient climate control. Once done, it would be virtually impossible to restructure space in keeping with IKEA’s shifting operational requirements. An ever-changing product mix – with varying packaging dimensions – has to be stocked efficiently, dictating minimal fixed partitioning within the warehouse. For IKEA, the priority was very much on employee comfort and energy saving. Another priority concerns a reduction in the company’s environmental impact and carbon footprint

The intelligent solution

The EnOcean-based and BACnet-based system from Regulvar, using state-of-the-art wireless and batteryless sensors from Thermokon, allows for enhanced energy management through centralized HVAC monitoring and control. It also switches to the most economically viable form of energy depending upon the time of day (be it gas or electricity, or night-time storage heating). Installation of the maintenance-free system took just a few days and did not hamper normal operations at the facility. A network of sensors, receivers and repeaters, often placed atop metal structures and sometimes spanning distances of up to 70 meters/200 feet, reliablytransfers data despite the huge amount of metal present in the building (mainly as storage racks). The low ambient light levels have no negative impact upon the solar-powered thermostats, with the temperature sensors dependably bridging distances of up to 40 meters or 100 feet to their receivers despite the huge number of metal structures – a harsh environment for wireless devices.

“We’re delighted with the way the system was installed. We hardly noticed the work being done, and our people are really happy about the clear improvement in temperature comfort. As a company, of course we appreciate the big saving in energy cost and we’re proud about making such a relatively small impact on the environment despite the size of our warehouse complex here in Quebec”, says Jean Nolin, Facility Manager at IKEA in Brossard.