Home Lighting Systems New Bern NC
The Right Light Controls
Flip a switch or pull a cord and there is light - how much easier could it be? Actually, thanks to today's automated home lighting systems, it can be a lot easier.
We've all had some experience with automated lighting, at least on a small scale: for instance, the courtesy lights that come on when you open your car doors and fade out when the doors are closed. "Why shouldn't our homes be just as convenient?" asks Gary Axe, product manager for On-Q/Legrand Lighting, a Middletown, Pa.-based manufacturer of home automation systems. "In addition to providing convenience and enhancing safety and security within the home, system-controlled lighting can enhance the aesthetics and appeal of the home both inside and outside."
There's another benefit as well: By automating your home's lighting, you can manage power use, save electricity and reduce energy costs. Approximately 5 to 11 percent of a household's energy budget is dedicated to lighting, according to the U.S. Department of Energy. An automated system will turn off lights when they're not needed or dim them to a lower strength automatically, which, at a 10-percent reduction, can double the life of the bulb and save about 5 percent on electricity annually.
Best of all, these home systems are getting easier to use, and costs are coming down. "Automated lighting systems are like any other technology - every time a new generation comes out, the systems get more elegant, easier to use, are packed with more features and are a lot less expensive," says Thomas Pickral Jr., business development manager for HAI (Home Automation, Inc.) in New Orleans. "That's why the market is growing so fast" - an estimated 30 to 40 percent annually.
So just what can an automated lighting system do for you? Say, for example, you're in your bedroom at night, ready to go to sleep, when you realize you forgot to lock the doors or turn out all the lights in the house. "With a lighting control system, all you have to do is program a goodnight button by the side of your bed and you can do all those things without getting up," says Bret Fitzgerald of Vantage Controls, an Orem, Utah-based manufacturer of lighting control and home automation systems.
With an automated system, you also get rid of what Fitzgerald calls "wall acne" - the toggle switches that dot the walls in a typical home. Instead, streamlined keypads with up to nine switches each take up minimal space but provide maximum control.
That maximum control often includes one-touch convenience. For instance, with a system from the Salt Lake City company LiteTouch, Inc., you can touch a single Master Control button on a keypad and turn off every light in your home, or press a single button to light a pathway to or from anywhere in the house. You can also let automatic timers activate lights at preset times or based on preset conditions. In addition, you can create complex lighting sequences indoors or out to highlight your home's architectural features and create a festive mood for parties and get-togethers. And you can do it all easily, quickly and efficiently, says Doug Campbell, LiteTouch's director of sales and distribution.
Sounds great - but are these systems really that easy to use? Or will they be as confusing to set up as VCRs and DVD players can be, where even setting the clock can be tricky for some?
According to Axe, programming a lighting scene using the On-Q system is as easy as 1-2-3: Just manually set the lights to the desired levels (all lights in the system are dimmable) and press a button to record the settings. Reprogramming new settings is just as easy.
Most of these systems can be integrated into a whole-house automation system. Vantage Controls, for instance, is developing media center interfaces so lighting and automation can be controlled through the home network, providing several more control points throughout the home, such as TV screens and PCs, and giving you greater control of your lights, security, HVAC and more.
And don't think you need to be at home to be in control. Like other automated systems, lighting can be adjusted via the Internet using a computer and a standard browser, or using your cell phone.
Safety and Security
An automated home lighting system can also help make your home and its inhabitants safer and more secure. For instance, if you come home late at night, there's no need to walk into a dark house. With a system like the one offered by Lutron Electronics Co., a lighting control company based in Coopersburg, Pa., you can remotely turn on the house lights before you leave your car, notes Melissa Andresko, Lutron's media relations manager.
Hear a noise at night? Push a bedside button and lights come on throughout the house - the last thing an intruder would want. And should an emergency occur within the home, your automated system will light a pathway to the exit and flash outside lights to alert emergency vehicles.
If you're headed out on a business trip or vacation, it's simple to give your home that lived-in look without the need for old-fashioned plug-in timers. The automated system will turn lights on and off at varying times, creating the appearance of activity.
In addition, systems like those from Lutron, HAI, LiteTouch and Vantage Controls, among others, include a built-in astronomical clock, which can trigger lights to operate automatically at sunrise and sunset.
Installation and Costs
Generally, a lighting control system is personalized for your home and installed by a qualified lighting professional. Both new construction and existing homes can be enhanced with automated systems, which come in hard-wired and wireless versions.
New technologies that use existing wires in your home and those that use wireless technologies have brought costs down significantly. For example, PulseWorx lighting devices, from Northridge, Calif.-based PCS (Powerline Control Systems), use a home's existing electrical wiring, or powerline, to communicate control signals without the need for additional wiring.
Wireless devices, such as those that use Z-Wave technology, can also help keep costs down. If you install Z-Wave wireless devices throughout your home, they will integrate well together, even if they come from different manufacturers, says Michael Einstein, a spokesperson for the Z-Wave Alliance and vice president of Intermatic, based in Spring Grove, Ill. "Before the end of 2006, there will be as many as 200 different Z-Wave products available from more than 15 manufacturers that will all work together," he adds.
Across the country, automated home lighting is gaining legislative support, points out Axe, due to energy-efficiency issues. In California, for instance, all new homes are required to meet efficacy (efficiency) levels set by the California Title 24 requirements, which focus on two basic areas: replacing some incandescent lighting with high-efficacy lighting, such as compact fluorescent lights; and automating lighting in particular rooms such as bathrooms and bedrooms, so lights turn off automatically when the rooms are unoccupied.
New York and Massachusetts, among other states, have adopted similar legislation, says Campbell. "Using automated lighting control systems, in conjunction with occupancy and ambient light sensors, provides significant energy savings," he notes.
Energy savings, plus convenience and enhanced security - those are benefits any homeowner can appreciate.
A frequent contributor to Smart HomeOwner, Nancy Christie wrote about eco-friendly kitchen cabinets in the May/June 2006 issue. She's based in Youngstown, Ohio.