At our recent Ask the Experts seminar in August, Jack Hays of Lutron Electronics led a discussion on light control solutions for the home including lighting control systems and motorized shades. He did an excellent job of discussing the technology, the various solutions available and the benefits of controlling natural and electric light in the home. For those of you who missed the event, here is a brief recap of what was discussed. If after reading this post, you have additional questions and would like to learn more, please feel free to contact us.
The History Behind Lighting Control
In 1959, the founder of Lutron Electronics invented the first wall dimmer which fit inside a standard wall box allowing you to dim the lights in a home. Before this invention, big bulky rheostats had to be used. They generated a lot of heat and weren’t practical for the home so they were primarily used commercially. But this new switch allowed you to dim the lights without creating heat and actually saved energy. It was a hit. In 1961, Lutron Electronics was incorporated giving birth to the lighting control industry. Over 50 years and 2700 patents later, there is a vast array of solutions available for most every application and type of light.
The Benefits of Controlling Natural and Electric Light in Your Home
One of our very good clients once joked that he already had a lot of lighting control solutions- switches. It is true, a light switch turns lights on and off but does nothing to conserve energy, extend bulb life or minimize “wall acne”. Here are just a few of the benefits of a well-designed lighting control system. So why lighting control?
Large banks of lights are unattractive and can be confusing to use. A lighting control system allows you to take multiple light switches and consolidate them down into one attractive keypad. These keypads come in a variety of styles and colors to compliment any room and are custom engraved making them simple to use.
- Efficiency & Cost Savings
Dimmers save energy and extend bulb life. For example, dimming the lights by just 10% saves electricity by 10% and the life of a halogen or incandescent bulb lasts twice as long. Integrated with motorized shades and you’ll be reducing your heating and cooling costs as well.
Great lighting is essential to creating ambience. Integrated with shades and the HVAC system and it becomes an essential component in creating a comfortable environment by keeping the home at an ideal temperature.
Although light switches and manual cords for shades get the job done it is not convenient. A lighting control system allows you to quickly and easily control all the lights in a single room or throughout the home at the touch of a button. Room controls allow for scenes, a preset of lighting and shade levels, to create a scene ideal for cooking, watching a movie, watching TV or entertaining. Using an astronomic clock and conditional logic, lighting systems can be programs to automatically trigger based on different situations. For example, exterior lights that only come on once the sun has set. Finally control or check status of lights all from your mobile device- inside the home or away from it.
Finally, lighting system allows you to turn all the lights on in the home at the touch of a button. Integrated with a security system and, it can turn all the lights on inside and flash exterior lights during an emergency. Motorized shades can easily give you a little privacy while maintaining the exterior view.
Lighting control systems are very flexible, meaning they’re also scalable. Clients can choose to start with controlling one room, like a home theater and then grow the system, incorporating more spaces in the home as they desire.
The Basics of How it Works
Almost all dimmers today are solid state dimmers, which utilize a Thyristor electronic device to switch the flow of power on and off. This happens so quickly it is undetectable to the human eye. Dimming occurs by controlling “on” versus “off” time: the longer the “off” time, the more the lights are dimmed. Dimmers using this technology are 99% efficient.
The sun should be considered as a primary source of light right along with electric light. Motorized shades help to control radiant heat and UV rays produced by the sun that are not always desirable in the home. Motorizing and then automating shades makes it possible to control this and do it across multiple windows at the touch of a button. There are various ways to power these shades but most commonly it is through low-voltage or battery power. The battery powered version makes them perfect for a retrofit application because no new wires are needed. The battery on these shades lasts 3 years.
Scenes are pre-programmed modes that dim lighting and raise or lower shades to a predetermined level ideal for particular applications. In a single room, scenes like “movie”, “entertaining”, or “cooking” can create the ideal environment for these particular tasks. In a whole home scenario, scenes like “all off” or “emergency” can be programmed to affect every single light in the home, working together for a desired result.
Lighting and motorized shade systems can be integrated with a control system and the various other subsystems in the home (i.e. security system, HVAC, etc.) to create a unique automation system tailored to the homeowner and their lifestyle for increased efficiency, convenience, comfort and security.
Solutions for Different Applications
Lighting & shade solution options exist for virtually every application. For remodels, there are various wireless options that require no new wires to be added into the system. For new construction projects, consider wired solutions which give you complete flexibility on where to place dimmers and keypads. The homeowner can also use a combination of wired and wireless options for homes that are being partially remodeled or added onto.
If you plan to begin a new construction or remodel project in the next year and would like to know more about light control, please contact us and one of our lighting specialists will be in touch with you shortly.