Lighting Control Systems
Lighting Control Does Matter.
We find that lighting control is still mis-understood by most homeowners and builders. We hear things like, “I’m not so lazy that I can’t walk to the wall and turn off my lights,” or, “That will make my lights too difficult to use.” Maybe that’s why here at The Audio/Video Specialists lighting control systems are one of our favorites. Keep reading, and we will try to cover many of the reasons that lighting control is for everyone. Find out what the advantages and disadvantages to various types systems as well as how they should integrate into the rest of your home.
Our designs will allow you to increase the beauty of your home with incredible illumination. Imagine being able to control everything with the touch of a button from you iPad or iPhone. Here are just some advantages to investing in a lighting control solution.
- Increases the beauty of your home by properly illuminating every room as well as the exterior.
- Saves energy, thereby reducing the amount of fossil fuels consumed and the amount of carbon dioxide released back into the atmosphere.
- Promotes safety in the event of an emergency such as a fire, burglary, or home invasion.
- Simplifies use with clearly labeled keypads and touch panels.
- Makes your life more efficient by making it easy to turn rooms or even the entire house off with the touch of a button.
- With our unique True Image control, we photograph your room, and when you touch a light on your interface, it illuminates on the touch panel and in the room at the same time!
Common Misconceptions of Lighting Control
I am not so lazy that I can’t walk to the wall and turn on my lights.
Although we can empathize with this initial reaction, we prefer to acknowledge that you are making your life more efficient and convenient. We live in a fast paced world that seems to get even faster every day. Think about the first time you saw keyless entry for your car. You may have said the same thing about that, and it isn’t necessarily untrue. But now that you have keyless entry (since it comes on about 90% of cars these days), would you ever by a car without it? It’s simply convenience. If you have a large home, do you have to walk around the house and turn lights off because family members constantly leave them on? Sure, you could put it part of your daily workout routine, but wouldn’t it be nicer to devote those 2-10 minutes toward something more productive?
It would be too hard to use.
A well-designed lighting control system makes your home significantly easier to use for you and your guests. Think about how many light switches you have at your entryways. What about your kitchen or living room? We have seen homes with as many as 10 light switches in a row or on top of each other. We have seen colored labels by each one, so the homeowner knows where to move the dimmer level in order to make the lighting look the way they want. Now picture a single keypad, like the one pictured above. Each button is clearly labeled as to what it does. And no matter what the lighting looks like at the moment, what if you could simply make it brighter or darker from the same keypad? Sound easier? It is, and it is more elegant, too.
Lighting control will not save me any money.
The answer here is both yes and no. Simply putting an incandescent light on one of our dimmers saves about 10% in energy cost and makes the bulb last twice as long. Dim the lights to 75%, and you will save 20% in energy cost and your bulb will last 5 times longer. Dim the lights to 50%, and you will save 40% in energy cost and your bulbs will last 20 times longer. Add other factors such as lights turning off when you leave the room or home and turning them off with a single button when you go to bed. That makes the short answer, yes. You will absolutely save money by having a lighting control system. How about ROI (return on investment)? That is where the no comes in. At this time, don’t expect the lighting control system to pay itself back to you any time soon. This is exactly like replacing your windows. They save energy, too, but not in proportion to the cost. Invest in a lighting control system for all the advantages it brings, and read below in our lighting control advantages section.
It will be too expensive.
In the past, choosing a lighting control system was all or nothing. That simply isn’t the case anymore, so you can control your costs easily by deciding where to add controllable dimmers and switches now versus later. A good start is always exterior lighting, pathways, and areas where you have more than four to five loads such as a kitchen, living room, or media room. With that being said, lighting control is best achieved when you are building new or remodeling, and planning the system well in advance of the electrician starting to wire. The next section discusses the three types of lighting control systems.
Types of Systems
Centralized Lighting Control
With a centralized lighting control system, you essentially have no dimmers or switches… at least in the traditional sense. All lighting loads are concentrated in one or multiple areas, depending on the size of the home. Each room is only equipped with a keypad to control all the lights in that area or the entire home, depending upon the type and purpose of that keypad. This is by far the most elegant way to do lighting control. It takes the most planning, and the most expertise to execute proplery. It is also the most expensive. It takes significantly more wire to run every lighting load down to the basement. Every room must have a keypad in order to control the lights. You must have a really good integrator that communicates well with the electrical trades to make sure the proper wire is run to the correct locations. You must have an excellent designer to make sure that lighting loads are divided properly for the best appearance as well as properly leveraged loads. The other negative to centralized lighting control is an outage. Well-designed, properly executed lighting control systems are almost bulletproof, but in the end they are still run by a computer. Computers break. And when that happens, none of your lights will work, unless you go down to the basement and turn them on manually, because keypads do not control lights directly.* This type of system can only work when building a home or during a significant remodel.
Hybrid Lighting Control
Hybrid lighting control systems offers a balanced alternative between centralized and decentralized system. Hybrid lighting systems usually have a wireless option as well, so when you add lighting to the home after it is finished, it can still be added to the system. With a hybrid system you have several “centralized” instead of a single area. Groups of lights in a similar vicinity are run to a common, hidden location such as a closet or pantry. Depending upon the design, you may still only have keypads in each room, but you would never have more than a keypad and a single dimmer that would control the primary lights in the room. This acts as an effective backup in the rare occasion where the lighting control system malfuncitons. It costs less because all of the local lighting loads are still run fairly close to the actual fixture location. A strong design and competent integrator is very important to properly balance the loads and make sure all lighting is taken into account. A hybrid system can be considered with most remodels and new construction.
Decentralized and Wireless Lighting Systems
Decentralized lighting is what everyone else has. The electrician runs the local fixture location to a place in the same room. Fortunately, most lighting control systems offer a wireless option. Therefore, if you are building your home, you can simply put in controllable dimmers and switches instead of the ones that the electrician or builder specified. If you are remodeling your home, you simply replace the existing dimmers and switches with our controllable versions. This is the most cost effective type of lighting system. It can be done in any home. Unfortunately, it is not pretty nor elegant. You will still be stuck with the same number of switches on the wall. Sometimes you will have more, depending upon how many keypads you want and how the switches were originally wired.
Things to ask yourself
- Do you want to simplify your life?
- Do you want to make your home more efficient, convenient, and fun?
- How important is the security of your home?
- Do you frequently turn lights off that others leave on?
- Do you travel frequently?
- Is the appearance of the inside of your home important?
- Do you hate wall clutter (excess switches, thermostats, etc)?
- Do you plan to illuminate your home in order to make it appear more beautiful (artwork, architecture, furniture, etc)?
If you want to see how a home automation system can really function, then check out our, “Day in the Life of…” Here you can see how all of your systems work together, but lighting has one of the more powerful impacts.
*Dimming keypads are a new entry into the wireless and retrofit category of lighting control. In the past you had to find compatible locations or add an additional gang to that wall plate in order to add a keypad. Now with our keypads featuring internal dimming, you can attach them to existing loads, enabling you to put them in many more places.