Should You Set Lighting by Activity or Type?

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Owners of a beachfront home choose to organize the lights and motorized shading into activity-based scenes.


Feb. 12, 2013 — by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)

Ready to get the lights in your home under control?

There are lots of systems that let you can press one button on a keypad to operate several fixtures at once. The real challenge is figuring out exactly how you’d like to group the lights and how to label the buttons on your keypad. Just about anything is possible, as lighting control systems can be programmed by a custom electronics (CE) pro to your exact specifications. However, there are really two core concepts when it comes to the design of a lighting control system.

One popular setup is to categorize the lights by type and dedicate a button to controlling each type. For instance, you might have a buttons on a keypad, touchpanel or handheld remote that are labeled table lamp, overhead and sconces. This is a more traditional method of control, not that much different than the way we’ve always operate the lights, except that you’re doing it with buttons on one keypad instead of several individual switches.

Another, more global, approach is to organize the lights by activity. For instance, Party, Evening, movie, Bedtime, could be assigned as buttons to sweep through a room or the entire house, dimming and brightening a variety of different fixtures. Custom electronics (CE) professionals often these types of commands “scenes.”

In this beachfront home in Lakeside, Mich., the owners and their CE pro, Ed Buday of Buday’s Home Electronics Simplified, Kalamazoo, Mich., chose the second, activity-based setup. In addition to the lights, which include built-in step lights, decorative recessed ceiling fixtures and combination of incandescent, halogen and fluorescent fixtures, the Lutron HomeWorks QS lighting system integrates Lutron Sivoia QS motorized shading into the various settings, effectively combining natural and ambient light to create the perfect level of lighting for specific events. Some of the scenes utilized in this contemporary home include day, evening, late-night, party, dinner, goodnight, away, front, back, movie and art. Thirty-five Lutron keypads are positioned in key areas of the house for activating these scenes. The owners use a Lutron iPad app to set the lights individually or to modify the settings of the scenes.

While the automated lighting is a big part of this home’s appeal, many other elements are able to be controlled. An Elan g! system combines the control of the lights and shading with that of 30 thermostats, security alarms and various audio/video equipment. The owners use wall-mounted TS2 Elan touchpanels to summon music any room or the entire house from a docked iPod, satellite receiver or Apple TV—all of which are hidden away in a cabinet. The music travels from the components to in-ceiling Bay Audio speakers.

Learn more: How to Add Lighting Control to Your Home



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