Easy retrofit solutions for lighting control can be affordable, easy to use and simple to install. Lightolier’s Gary Meshberg spoke with Electronic House about the many benefits of having a system in your home.
Q.) Lighting control is often thought of as only for the “rich and famous.” Is that necessarily so?
A.) It was somewhat true in the past. Over the past few years however many lighting control manufacturers have developed systems that are scalable. This means that there are now lighting control systems that can meet a wide variety of needs, budgets, installation types and sophistication. This affords both the homeowner and installer the opportunity to select a system that suits their particular application.
I would also like to point out that lighting control is the fastest growing of all installed home technologies; even more than home theater, home automation and multi-room audio. So I am very excited that homeowners finally realize the great benefits of lighting control in convenience, security and energy savings.
Q.) Many homeowners are upgrading their current homes. Can a homeowner install a lighting control system for their current home without tearing up the walls or running new wires?
A.) Yes, you can now select from a wide assortment of lighting control systems that utilize power line carrier (PLC) or radio frequency communication. This means that dimmers and keypads talk to each other without the need for dedicated wires.
Q.) How do these systems compare with ones used in new construction? Do they cost more and do they work as well?
A.) Typically, retrofit systems tend to cost slightly less than the hard-wired types. Some of the savings is actually realized due to less wire being run which will often result in labor savings. Hard-wired lighting control systems provide the best and most robust performance. However, today’s retrofit systems provide most of the features of hard-wired systems and perform very well. Consider the application (building materials, walls, square footage, number of devices…etc) and then select a lighting control system that best suits the application. Most retrofit lighting control systems maintain the value and integrity of “hard-wired” systems.
Q.) What are the main benefits of owning a lighting control system?
A.) 1. The perfect lighting with just one touch. Simply tap a button to create, all off, pathways, or the perfect mood for entertaining. You don’t need to fumble around with different dimmers or switches in different locations of your home to achieve a beautiful look or to achieve all off.
2. Energy and Maintenance: Dimming saves a tremendous amount of energy. Dim your lighting by 25% saves 20% of energy, additionally your lamp life is extended by up to 4 times. Dim more and the energy-saving benefit increases proportionately.
3. Safety and Security: With a lighting control system you have the ability to instantly turn on your lighting and/or schedule the lighting to turn on/off at various times. This is a very nice feature, especially when you can control the outdoor lighting. Additionally, your home always looks lived in.
Q.) Do they really save energy?
A.) Many ways actually. Dimming alone greatly reduces energy consumption and may pay for itself through energy savings not to mention extending bulb life 10 times or more.
Lighting systems that combine occupant sensing can also turn lights on as someone enters a room and then off when they leave saving energy from leaving lights on when not needed.
Q.) But aren’t they complicated to set up and to use?
A.) It all depends on what level of control you want from your system. Typically the installer will work with you to set up the function of the system and the lighting “look” as part of the install. From there, a simple tap of a button will recall the look you want. Just like your car radio buttons. In many systems, simple changes can be made without the need of PCs or complex configurations. More substantial changes may require a visit from your installer.
It’s important to note that for the vast majority of installs, once the system is installed and programmed to the owners liking, there is very little to change. In fact most owners say that they would buy another lighting control system if they were to move and studies show it has the highest repeat rate of purchase of any installed home technology.
Q.) Can a lighting system be expanded or updated late on as my needs change?
A.) Yes, the scalability of systems generally allow for this. You can add dimmers, control locations, and accessories as your home or needs change. If your system choice is hard-wired, you may want to run communication wire within the walls to plan for this growth.
Q.) What happens if there is a problem with my system? Does that mean I can’t control my lights?
A.) Most systems allow for manual “take control” of the dimmer or circuit should a part of the system fail. Never fear, a lighting system cannot take control of your house.
Q.) Can these lighting control systems be installed by the do it yourselfer?
A.) Some basic systems can be installed on a DIY basis while more advanced systems are better left to professionals such as electricians, systems integrators and low voltage installers.
When handling 120V electrical equipment a licensed professional should always be hired to complete the installation.
- For more information on lighting control systems, check out:
- How to Install Simple Lighting Control
- Lighting Design for Every Room
- Lighting Control: Aesthetics, Convenience and Security
Gary Meshberg is Business Development Manager for Lightolier Controls, a leading manufacturer of lighting control systems for the residential and professional markets. Mr. Meshberg is also Chair of the Home Lighting Control Alliance, an industry consortium of lighting control companies, associations and professional integrators.