26 Jul Lighting Control: Items to Operate Your Lights
For Lisa Montgomery. July 19 2016. By electronichouse.com
Items you need for effortless operation of your space’s lights. Hubs, keypads, apps and more, create a smart lighting control system that can save you time, money, and headaches.
Illuminating your home can be a real challenge if have yet to install a smart lighting control system. As you stroll around a big property, at 3 p.m. on a Thursday, you notice that two lanterns perched on each side of garage door are burning bright. The lights in your son’s bathroom are on, and so is the overhead fixture in the laundry room. There’s nobody outside, in the bathroom, or doing laundry. It’s just you at home working in your home office—and, yes, the desk lamp is on even though there is plenty of sunshine streaming through the windows. In about five minutes theses lights were extinguished. A simple flip of several switches took care of it, but in a household where two teenagers come and go on a whim and lots of multitasking happens during the workday (breaks involve folding laundry, watering the garden, and other domestic duties), the lights, no matter how good everyone’s intentions may be, often needlessly stay on … and on … and on …
Interactivity: Light only when needed for energy saving.
SEE ALSO: LIGHTING DESIGN TIPS.
This is one of the biggest reasons homeowners choose to invest in a lighting control system. In the time it takes to make a sandwich, you can switch off every single light in the house by simply tapping a button on your smartphone or some other device.
It takes a lot more than a cool smartphone app, though, to make this magic happen. At the very least, you’ll need a smart light bulb that’s been engineered to respond to signals sent to it via a mobile device. This is the simplest mode of lighting control, ideal if there are just a few lights that seem to always be on when they should be off, or vice versa.
To control every light inside, outside, and around your house requires a more robust system comprised of several pieces of gear. This gear can either be wired into your house or remain untethered, relying on wireless communications protocols like Wi-Fi, Z-Wave, or ZigBee to relay orders to your home’s light to brighten, dim, and turn on and off. Here are the basic components required:
Signal Shooter (aka Control Device)
The great thing about most manufacturers of lighting control systems is that they offer a slew of control options for consumers. There are apps that turn your phone into a device that can tell the lights what to do, elegant keypads that mount to the wall, and simple pod-like controllers that sit on a nightstand, kitchen counter, or table.
Hub (aka System Processor)
The hub is the piece of a lighting control system that receives signals from control device and dispatches the command to the appropriate lights. As the brains of the operation, it is able to take that one command and turn it into multiple commands that can affect a multiple lights. For example, when a lighting control hub receives a Welcome Home edict from a mobile app, it could instruct the lights in foyer to brighten to a 50 percent intensity level, the kitchen lights to 70 percent, and light a pathway from the kitchen to the master bedroom—but only if the sun has set (no need to illuminate the house when there’s enough natural light to do so).
Triggers (aka Sensors)
Tapping one button on a smartphone app, wall-mounted keypad, or remote control to choreograph the settings of several lights is convenient, but by synching a few sensors with the system hub (best left to a professional home systems integrator), the lights in your home can react to certain prescribed conditions without any button pressing required of you whatsoever. In this scenario, the lights are programmed to operate automatically, based on the time of day, the position of the sun, if a room is occupied, and any number of other factors. For example, the hub can be programmed to activate the kitchen and bathroom lights automatically at 6:30 a.m. and switch them off at 9 a.m. Or, you might have a closet light switch on automatically when it senses motion then off when the area is vacant.
Light Sources (aka Switches and Bulbs)
There are several varieties of light bulbs: LED, incandescent, halogen, compact fluorescent, etc. It’s important to know what sorts of bulbs you’ve screwed into your home’s fixtures, because some lighting control systems may not be able to fully control all types of light sources. And remember, signals from a lighting control hub typically travel to the light switches, not directly to the light bulb unless the bulb is smart and designed to respond on its own. In most cases, you will need to swap your existing light switches for smart dimmers and/or keypads. Don’t worry—this is usually a simple job and can actually enhance the beauty of your home. Smart dimmers and keypads are slim, low profile and available in a host of decorator styles, finishes, and colors.
With so many options available, lighting control is one of the best improvements you can make to your space and your daily routine. This one system can singlehandedly remember to switch off the lights for you, saving you precious time, money, and a lot of hassle.