Let’s face it. How and when you decide to illuminate areas of your home depends a lot on the time of day. In the evening, you likely ramp up the lights and close the shades for privacy; during the day you probably open the shades to let in the sunshine while in turn extinguishing almost every light fixture. This process of opening, closing, dimming and brightening in theory is easy enough to execute, but in most households it’s never fully realized. It’s simply a pain in the neck to manually synchronize the settings of the shades and lights throughout your busy day. Exterior lighting, in particular can be challenging to manage, yet is critical to a home’s aesthetics and security.
HomeWorks QS System Alters the Outdoor Ambiance
Fortunately, for one family a Lutron HomeWorks QS control system manages the adjustments all by itself, and does so with such elegance that the project received a Lutron Excellence award for “Best Engineered System.” The stunning outdoor area demonstrates the degree of engineering that went into the project, as the both the astronomical clock and scene setting capabilities of the HomeWorks QS system were employed to deliver an automated outdoor lighting presentation from sunset until midnight then adjust to an overnight level for energy saving until sunrise. Scenes designed for Grilling, Dining, Swimming, Entertain, Watch TV, and others were created so that the outdoor environment changes to suit the activity that’s taking place. Even the patio misters and ceiling fans are controlled via HomeWorks QS. By pressing a button labeled “Misters” on a Lutron seeTouch keypad, the outdoor misting system cycles on for 30 minutes and the patio ceiling fans spin at medium speed.
Sunshine Sets the Course for Lighting & Shading Control
Self-adjusting lights and shades was a concept the homeowners had contemplated even before the construction of their Arizona home had commenced; they contacted the home systems integrators at Electronic Lifestyle Associates (ela), in Elmhurst, Ill., for their expert advice on the most convenient and practical way to manage the various light fixtures and motorized window shades that would eventually be installed. Having used Lutron systems in their previous homes, the homeowners were already familiar with some of the capabilities of Lutron’s HomeWorks QS system, but for this project were ready to take things up a notch, and to also incorporate Lutron Sivoia QS wireless shading.
Rather than become slaves to dimmer switches and pull cords, they let the sun–and the intelligence of the HomeWorks QS system–guide the operation of their home’s specially engineered window treatments and elegant assortment of light fixtures, which included recessed, free-standing, accent, and landscape. For example, per settings that were programmed into the HomeWorks QS processor by ela, all west-facing window shades close 25 percent every 30 minutes starting 90 minutes before sunset.
Landscape lighting, meanwhile, turns on at sunset every evening, lowers at midnight, and shuts completely at sunrise, while the shades are programmed to maximize the view.
The kitchen serves up some intelligent light, too, thanks to a combination of control via the HomeWorks QS system’s astronomical timeclock and predefined scenes. The astronomical clock allows a single scene look different depending on the time of day. For example, pressing the “Prepare” scene button on a Lutron keypad during the daytime sets the lights at a brighter level than how the Prepare command arranges those lights after sunset.
Hands-Free Home Theater Setup
Even the owner’s home theater follows rules set forth by the astronomical timeclock that’s built into the HomeWorks QS system. When the A/V system is activated, the HomeWorks system checks the clock and will only lower the shades if the command was issued between sunrise and sunset. When the homeowners turn off the A/V system, the shades return to their exact last positions, but only during daylight hours. Lighting control in the home theater was of particular importance, as both natural and artificial lighting can impact the clarity of a video presentation. When the display is something as innovative and eye-catching as the “levitating” Zero-G screen from Screen Innovations, partnered with a 4K projector from Sony, video perfection is expected, and being able to easily darken the room ensures that the high-caliber equipment is able to perform to its full potential.
Smart Home Adapts Like Clockwork
Lighting scenes designed by ela for each room of the house self-adjust depending on the time of day, too, so even though the same lights in the living room might activate in the “entertain” scene, they are much brighter in the evening than they are during the day. All the homeowners need to do is tap the entertain button on a wall-mounted Lutron seeTouch keypad, a Lutron Pico remote, or a URC handheld remote to activate the time-sensitive scene and let the HomeWorks system to do the rest.
For even greater convenience, ela also put the astronomical timeclock that’s built into the HomeWorks QS system in charge of the home’s hot water circulation pump. Imagine having instant hot water for your morning shower—it happens at this house, as the HomeWorks QS system triggers the circulation system an hour before sunrise. And although the patio misters, ceiling fans, and A/V equipment don’t adjust according to the time of day, they can be easily controlled from any of 47 seeTouch keypads peppered throughout the house. A goodnight scene, for example, lowers the speed of the ceiling fan in all bedrooms and turns off the lights and A/V equipment.
Seamless Integration of Technology
Programming the HomeWorks QS system to automate the lights, shades, and other electronic components was a critical part of the project, certainly, but the effects evoked also required precise engineering and planning of their placement and installation. Thanks to ela’s collaboration with the builder, the headrail of every roller shade is completely hidden inside a custom-engineered pocket in the window frame. When the shades are retracted, none of the window pane is covered with the shade headrail. Ela designed the Lutron shade pocket and flap to close over the window frame cavity when the shade is inside—hand-painted to match the surrounding surface—for a clean, seamless disappearing act.
The architecture and design of the house dictated the integration of the lights, too.
“There is a dance that takes place between ela, client, interior designer, electrical, and even the HVAC and plumbing contractors,” says ela president and project manager Gregg Schwarz. “For us to achieve the exact placement of every recessed light, we must understand every vertical and horizontal plane, the positioning of HVAC conduit and plumbing, and features from cabinets to furniture before we can begin to design the layout of the lights.”
Execution of Proper Planning
Once installation allowances for the shades and lights had been made, ela ran 3.5 miles of low-voltage wiring and 2.5 miles of electrical wiring, connecting fixtures, headrails, keypads, A/V gear, patio misters, water circulation components. This wiring all terminates in the garage, where an entire wall was custom framed to accommodate the Lutron HomeWorks QS load centers, shading power supplies, processor panels, electrical breaker panels, and low-voltage lighting transformers.
This specially designed technology hub represents a culmination of the level of engineering and planning required for an automation project that makes this home run like a well-oiled machine. Technology stays under the radar, hidden within the home construction, and performs as a natural extension of its design. Moving, adjusting, and morphing as the sun moves across the sky and as day turns to night, the lights, the shades, the A/V equipment and more prove that a control processor like the Lutron HomeWorks system can have a huge impact on the convenience, efficiency, and enjoyment of a home.