Lighting control is something most people don’t think much about unless they’re shown a good demonstration. If you think plain-old light switches are all the control you need, then you haven’t experienced what light control actually is. Here we’ll specifically discuss pathway lighting.
When you get into or out of your car in the dark, do you need to reach overhead and flip on the interior lights? No, those come on for you automatically. Imagine that your house worked like that too. Automated pathway lighting is a convenience application, like your car’s interior lights, that allows you to get through everyday (or everynight) tasks easier and safer because pre-planned routes and scenes have been designed for you (and with you).
Here are the three most common uses of pathway lighting:
Outdoor pathway lighting is the most common, but it can go way beyond simply placing ankle-high lights along your front walkway. A remote attached to your car’s sun visor could simultaneously raise the garage door then turn on lights in the mud room and kitchen so you don’t have to walk into a dark house. If your property includes outbuildings (shed, barn, pool house…), then pathway lighting can help you and guests navigate your property safely.
Late Night Wandering:
Do you ever need to get up in the middle of the night for a bathroom break or a snack? Pathway lighting, especially when programmed at lower light levels, can be a lot less disturbing to the rest of the household than flipping on big hallway or bedside table lamps. Ron Rumer of World Wide Stereo in Montgomeryville PA, says applications like nighttime paths are popular, especially once people get accustomed to using them. “If you’ve never had a lighting system before it’s best to expect to take some time to get used to it and figure out how you will use it,” he says. His company will usually install a system with lots of options, then come back and fine tune it to the customers’ needs after the homeowners figure out what features and settings they like.
In this picture you see steps illuminated with LED lights to enhance night safety.
Families with babies and young children like having a low-light path to the kids’ rooms or nursery. Those are helpful in both directions—they can guide sleepy parents to their crying baby’s crib (and prevent stubbed toes in the process), or they can help half-awake toddlers with sleeping trouble find their way to their parents’ room. In situations like that, Rumer, says, light levels are as important as what lights get switched on. A light control system can include customized dimmer settings for each scene. For example, a nighttime pathway scene need only be bright enough to guide you to your destination, and not bright enough to disturb other people in the house.
In the Media Room:
Ideally, you want the lights all off when enjoying your home theater, but what if someone needs to get up? Finding the door, or even a light switch, in a dark theater room can be a hazard. You could trip going down the risers or step on a the pet cat (more likely a dog, because cats sleep on laps of course).
Small LED lighting around seats, risers and stairs can safely guide a person to snacks, bar or bathroom (in whatever order comes naturally) without ruining the picture experience for everyone else. A lighting system that’s connected to the homes’ security or telephone can also use light alerts (such as a brief flash) to let you know someone’s calling or approaching the front door.
The possibilities are pretty limitless, notes World Wide Stereo’s Charles Todd. He says lighting systems like that also aren’t restricted to new homes. Older homes can benefit from retrofit solutions, such as Lutron’s RadioRA2, that are easy to integrate.
These are some good starter ideas for pathway lighting, but Rumer and Todd say that each customer will discover their own applications tailored to the way they live in their home.
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Grant Clauser has been covering home electronics for more than 10 years with editorial roles in several consumer and trade magazines. He's done ISF-level damage to hundreds of reviewed products and has had training from THX, the Home Acoustics Alliance, Control4 and Sencore. His latest book is Necessary Myths
. Follow him on Twitter @geclauser.