Lighting the Way to Lighting Control
We all seem to have more lights in our house than we know how to control. Who, for example, doesn’t have at least a couple switches on their walls that they have no idea what they do?! And if, like me, you have teenagers, you probably have every light in the house on whenever they’re home. (Sometimes all night long, in my case – ugh!) Wouldn’t it be nice to have more control of your home’s lights?
Automated lighting control systems have been around for over 20 years, yet very few people enjoy their benefits today. The main problem is that, in the early days, if you didn’t plan ahead for a centralized lighting control system when you built your house, you couldn’t ever add a system to it. Now, with the advent of effective wireless control protocols, anyone can add lighting control to any house at any time.
Centralized vs. Distributed
There are essentially two approaches to lighting control: centralized and distributed.
If you’re building a house from scratch, or if you’re completely “gutting” your home for a full remodel, a centralized lighting system is by far the best way to go. This effectively puts all the control (on/off, dimming) in one centralized location (equipment closet, typically), and allows you to put only one small keypad at each location where you wish to control your lights. With this type of system, one small keypad can control 6 or more lights. You can eliminate the so-called “wall acne” that tends to clutter up larger homes – a row of 4, 5 or even 6 switches on the wall – required to control the lights in just one room! And, furthermore, you can control any light in any room from any keypad – provided those lights are on the system, of course.
If you have an existing home and don’t wish to take it down to the studs, there are still excellent distributed options for you. There are currently many manufacturers who make wireless light switches that allow you to control your lights from an app on your phone. These use various wireless protocols, such as “Z-Wave” or “ZigBee”. You don’t have to know anything about the protocols, just which one you’re using, so that all of your lights can be controlled with the same system. The best approach, in my opinion, is to work with your existing home automation control system (e.g. Crestron, Control4, etc.), using their chosen wireless protocol. That way you can integrate lighting control with the rest of your home control (audio, video, security, surveillance, HVAC, etc.), for much more effective overall system control.
Getting started with a distributed system in an existing home can be quite easy. If you already have an automation system, simply contact the professional who installed it and ask them add lighting control. Even adding a couple lights provides tremendous value. Think about how nice it would be, for example, to turn the lights on with your phone, before you came home, or while you are on vacation to keep burglars away!
Automated lighting control, like smart phones, seems like an unnecessary luxury until you’ve tried it. Once you have it, though, you’ll never be without it. Whether the reasons are safety for family entering the home late; energy savings to ensure lights are off when they’re not needed; or simply convenience when you don’t feel like getting out of bed to turn off all the lights, having an automated lighting control system will definitely improve your life!