You walk into a room and flip a switch. The light goes on. The light goes off. Lighting is such an integral part of every home that we don't think about it, which is why it's so easy to overlook lighting if you're planning a home automation project.
The gee-whiz benefits of whole-house entertainment and security or heating and cooling systems you can monitor and control anywhere, anytime get all the attention, but today's central lighting systems offer amazing benefits in terms of convenience, security and energy efficiency.
Having centralized control over home lighting sets the stage for numerous possibilities, each of which can be customized to meet the unique needs of any household. Imagine being able to turn on interior and exterior lights as you pull into the driveway or control lighting throughout your home from a smartphone or wall-mounted keypad. And wouldn't it be great if you could walk through the front door and hit one button that turns on the foyer light and illuminates a pathway to the kitchen?
Other examples of super-convenient one-touch presets include:
- An "Away" mode that shuts off all lights except for those in the foyer and a few other strategic places to make the house appear occupied.
- Lighting scenes that evoke different moods, from intimate (think romantic dinner) to festive (think house party).
- A "Theater" mode that closes the blinds and dims the lights when you're ready to start a movie.
Lighting can be tied into other subsystems to provide the ultimate in comfort, convenience and security. Linking lighting with automated shades, for example, can create a perfect balance of natural and artificial light. Imagine a "Wake-Up" mode that slowly opens the shades and turns up the lights when it's time to get up for work. Going a step further, an automated thermostat can be integrated to keep room temperature just right.
Automated lighting can also enhance security and peace of mind. Imagine an all-lights-on "torch mode" that kicks in when the alarm is triggered or a Panic button that turns on every light in the house for those "home alone" moments.
Saving Energy and Money
Beyond comfort and convenience, automated lighting can lower utility bills through the use of occupancy sensors, which turn lights off when no one is in the room, and integration with automated window shades and heating/cooling systems. Automated shades alone can lead to significant savings by limiting sunlight during the summer and welcoming it with open blinds during winter months.
As with most home technology, the possibilities are limited only by your imagination and include decorative lighting options (star-lit ceiling, anyone?) and outdoor systems that will literally make your property shine.
Thomas Edison perfected the incandescent bulb 133 years ago, and it continues to serve us, but it is slowly giving way to more efficient light sources, including compact fluorescent (CFL) and, more recently, LED, which boasts high efficiency and an exponentially longer life. An experienced contractor can explain the costs and benefits associated with different lighting systems and help you determine which one is best suited to meet your goals and budget.
To learn more about home lighting options, click here for real-world examples and consult a CEDIA professional. Click here for a list of CEDIA-member electronic systems contractors in your area.
Chad Bowman, installation manager for Los Angeles-based DSI Entertainment Systems, winner of numerous CEDIA awards, provided background for this article.