Lighting is probably not the first thing you think of when contemplating the marvels of modern home automation, but, in addition to offering considerable convenience, today's lighting control systems can help conserve energy and contribute to household safety.
We caught up with Todd Sandler, president of the Overland Park, Kansas-based custom installation firm Naturally Wired, and asked him to talk about the potential for automated lighting in these areas.
Having one button that turns all of the lights in the house on or off is powerful and convenient, Sandler explains.
"If you hear a bump in the night you can turn on all the lights by pressing an All On button on a keypad in your bedroom instead of wandering around with a flashlight and turning one light on at a time.
"The opposite of that is families with kids who tend to leave lights on all the time. If you're getting ready for bed and wondering how many lights the kids left on today, just hit the All Off button to turn everything off and you won't have to worry about it."
Lighting control systems can be customized to suit the homeowner needs, too. An example would be a Good Morning button that turns the lights on in areas where you get ready for work - maybe the bedroom, bathroom, and kitchen.
Lighting control systems can also be tied into the home's security system to provide an added measure of safety, according to Sandler. "When the alarm system goes off, the system automatically turns on all of the lights inside the house and flashes the exterior lights so the authorities know immediately where to go," he explains.
An example of a feature that straddles safety and convenience is the ability to control home lighting from an app on your phone. "If you're on vacation and think you left lights on, you can pick up your phone, hit the All Off button and turn the hallway light on, Sandler notes.
"Or maybe you're expecting company or coming home late. You can turn on the porch light without having to walk into the house in the dark." Sandler says. A Welcome Home button that turns on outside and entry lights is another popular option.
Remember how your parents reprimanded you and your siblings for leaving the lights on when you were a kid? In addition to making it easy to turn off unused lights around the house, an automated lighting system can be programmed to save energy over time.
"We set up our systems so that lights turn on at 90 percent instead of full power," Sandler says. "Your eyes cannot detect that level of difference, yet you're saving 10 percent of the energy and doubling the life of that light bulb just by dimming it."
The bottom line: A properly set-up lighting system can help conserve energy, perhaps by as much as 20 percent or more.
As for the type of bulb - traditional incandescent vs. compact fluorescent (CFL) vs. LED - Sandler generally leaves that decision up to his clients and their lighting designer or electrician, but acknowledges that LED is "the direction things are going."
Of course, the type of bulb you use can lead to additional energy savings, with LED bulbs using 20 to 25 percent less energy and lasting up to 25 times longer than traditional bulbs. (Visit energy.gov for more on bulb types and energy usage and check out the Light Bulb Finder app.)
For anyone considering using CFL or LED bulbs, Sandler points out that they don't produce the soft, warm light we're used to from incandescent bulbs.
Automated Lighting Costs
So what does it cost to have a lighting control system installed and customized to your lifestyle? While prices vary from region to region and company to company, Sandler breaks it down by the light switch and offers his clients several price/performance levels. CEDIA's free Research & Budget Guide offers a starting point for homeowners looking to price out home automation projects.
To learn more about lighting control options, consult a CEDIA professional. Click here for a list of CEDIA-member home technology professionals in your area.