|Average Salary||Avg. Hourly Wage|
Building Automation Systems (BAS) are integrated electronic systems that deal with pretty much every aspect of plumbing, electrical, and mechanical building operation using specialized software.
BAS are gaining popularity in all buildings, but they are integral to structures with high-efficiency designed to meet LEED energy efficiency standards.
Electricians work on BAS routinely, and some are experts in the installation and maintenance of BAS.
The building-wide control systems emerged when HVAC (Heating, Ventilation, and Air-Conditioning) systems became common in commercial buildings.
The challenges of managing different zones in a large building like a skyscraper as well as balancing airflow required some centralized control systems to operate valves, fans, and duct baffles.
The initial control systems were designed pneumatic and exclusively devoted to HVAC.
But as the prices for solid-state controllers and electrical switches reduced, and they became more reliable, most HVAC control systems became electrical.
Today, low-voltage control wiring skeins run through every building.
With the advances in the electronics industry, those controllers advanced as well.
With cheaper and more capable chips, the control systems of buildings started using IoT.
IoT or Internet of Things are smart sensors, PLCs (programmable logic controllers), and other devices communicating with centralized management software and between each other to coordinate functions.
With this, building systems acquire resilience and data offering flexibility and new capabilities.
BAS Installation Is Becoming A Specialty Position For Low-Voltage Wiremen
Originally, because of the association with HVAC, HVAC technicians handled the BAS installation.
But with the systems becoming more comprehensive and capable, the work is widely relating to the low-voltage wiring installation.
In some states, only licensed electricians can perform this type of wiring work.
In 33 different states, there are laws regulating who can work on cabling between 0 and 49 volts, so most BAS installations fall into the regulated area.
Electricians perform the following duties:
- Installing routers, boosters, and other network devices.
- Routing and pulling wire, either through conduit or within building walls.
- Inserting power taps into the lines where necessary to provide power to remote devices.
- Terminating and installing jacks and faceplates at wire ends.
Many BAS systems, such as LON or BACnet-based, have their own physical layer network topologies that stretch through the building.
Since the internet widely replaced the point-to-point data connections, BAS networks are gradually replacing other low-voltage data networks.
However, widely, BAS networks are being built on standard Ethernet networks.
With special adaptors, even LON can be tunneled over Ethernet, standardizing and minimizing the low voltage wiring in the buildings.
With Power Over Ethernet (POE) standards, Ethernet can be also used to supply power devices with low-voltage, such as networking equipment or cameras with no need for a separate wire.
The network can run data traffic from the BAS network and LAN (Local Area Networks) at the same time.
With this flexibility, Ethernet quickly becomes a standard choice for BAS wiring.
Since the equipment is rather common and affordable, BAS is also becoming popular in residential use as HAS (Home Automation Systems).
Electricians performing works on HAS systems use off-the-shelf wiring and hardware such as August Smartlocks and NEST thermostats.
BAS Electricians Develop Information Technology Skills
Maintenance of these advanced systems requires new skills for many electricians working with low voltage.
The basics of testing voltage on wire pairs and checking for open circuits are no longer sufficient for tracking every problem on the data bus.
Electricians have to comprehend data networks and basic building blocks.
They may have to handle deciphering Internet Protocol packet headers or analyzing line interference with an oscilloscope.
Some work requires both software and old-fashioned tools such as wire cutters and strippers.
When the wiring system is installed, most troubleshooting and configuration can be done with data analysis tools and computers.
With the integrations, security issues that aren’t typical for the traditional low-voltage systems also arise.
Since most LANs are Internet-connected, the possibility of hacking and malicious intrusion appears.
BAS electricians are also handling basic security precautions and putting in firewalls.
Building Automation is Taking Over Traditional Low-Voltage Roles
BAS technicians may also work closely with security system technicians.
Security systems and fire alarms are being integrated into the main BAS as well.
With this integration, BAS controllers can tell how many people are in the building, where they are, which helps regulate electrical and HVAC services more efficiently.
With this combination, code compliance can become difficult in some jurisdictions, which may prohibit the fire alarm systems to be integrated.
However, it is expressly allowed by NFPA 72, the National Fire Alarm Code.
Still, the code implemented locally wasn’t adjusted to permit it in many locations.
Even where it is allowed, installers have to ensure that the systems:
- Have both primary and secondary power sources and integrity monitoring systems.
- Meets fire alarm actuation standards of initiating all alarm functions within 10 seconds of a sensor device activating.
- Meets performance requirements under established voltage, temperature, and humidity variations.
- Meets bandwidth and error reporting standards to report failures within 200 seconds.
But in general, there are multiple advantages to the connection of alarm systems with the BAS:
- Building natural gas intakes can be shut off automatically.
- More efficient wiring runs and simplified troubleshooting.
- Security systems can be temporarily disabled to allow rapid evacuation from the building.
- Alarms can easily override HVAC controls to manage airflow to snuff out oxygen to fire floors.
- Backup power sources can be brought online to power emergency systems.
Becoming a BAS Electrician
Since the use of BAS is becoming more common, it is easier for the electricians working with BAS to find work.
Most major commercial constructions use BAS to some extent.
They always search for installers and maintenance technicians, so the demand for them remains constant.
Similar to most electricians, BAS specialists need an associate’s degree or higher to enter the field.
In the states that require a license, licensing schemes may also demand a certificate or degree to demonstrate you have the education necessary to safely work on low-voltage systems.
There are multiple certification options to improve your credentials in the BAS field.
The specific Certified Control System Technician certificate offered by the International Society for Automation covers:
- Calibration, maintenance, and troubleshooting.
- Administration and management.
- Project start-up, commissioning, and planning.
The certifications from the Electronics Technicians Association are available to:
- Alarm System Technician.
- Data Cabling Installer.
- Electronic Security Networking Technician.
- Fiber Optics Installer/Technician.
- Residential Electronics Systems Integrators.
Some specialized training and certifications to the specific devices are also offered by most manufacturers of BAS devices.