Automated lighting control for the home is no longer the province of the rich and famous. Product lines, reduced in cost and scaled to fit both simple and complex scenarios, have hit the market, favorably coinciding with several years of healthy consumer spending on residential real estate. 'Lighting automation systems are a growing area of interest for homeowners because they have a measurable impact on quality of life and home value,' says John Taylor, product line manager for the Watt Stopper (www.wattstopper.com). While the primary demand driver is lifestyle, manufacturers say the primary supply drivers are declining end-user cost, less upfront design, more flexibility, and seamless integration with other home automation systems.
Lighting automation can be as small as a one-room scene-control system or as complex as a whole-house system, managing both indoor and outdoor lighting, as well as the security, home theater, and home automation systems. The security benefits are particularly appealing to homeowners. 'Users can activate exterior and interior entryway lighting from the safety of a car using a remote control,' says Mark Cerasuolo, director of brand development for Leviton Manufacturing (www.leviton.com), 'or schedule lighting to automatically turn on and off during vacation. In an emergency, lighting can automatically activate to light a path out of the house.'
The growing popularity of lighting control systems has made them a promising source of revenue for manufacturers and potentially, for designers. An estimated 1.5 million homes were scheduled for construction in 2004. According to the NAHB/CEA State of the Builder Technology Market Study, about 7.4 percent of these new homes featured automated lighting controls, up from just 1.1 percent in 2003. And the pot continues to get bigger, with the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB) projects, projecting about 1.8 million housing starts for 2005. 'Consumers are now expecting this type of system to be installed in the home they are building or remodeling,' says Ari Supran, manager of residential marketing for Lutron (www.lutron.com). 'The more educated the designer is about the available systems, the better equipped they are to satisfy their clients.'
ADVICE TO DESIGNERS
As always, a successful solution begins with good designer-client communication. 'Understanding the experience a homeowner wants, the budget constraints, and the age of the home will aid in selection of the technology-for example, wireless versus hardwired-and the manufacturer,' notes Taylor. Also it is important to determine where the family spends most of its time, since these spaces will likely require more options and points of control.
Let the lighting system guide your lighting design,' Supran advises. 'Knowing that a home is going to have dimmers instead of switches may result in the use of additional task lighting or pin-spots.' He also notes that it is important to be consistent with the design and layout of the keypads. 'If every keypad consistently has four scene buttons, plus 'all on' and 'all off,' the homeowner will find it much more intuitive.'
Controls also allow for that lighting design basic: layering. 'You no longer need to run around adjusting dimmers,' says Gary Meshberg, director of marketing for Lightolier Controls (www.lightolier.com). 'One tap does it. So go ahead and use several dimming zones and layer your lighting. Break up the lighting so you can spot the silk flowers on the dining room table without lighting up the entire room.'
Lastly, designers try this at home. 'Like anything, specifying a system and living with one are two different things,' says Meshberg. 'Use your home and 'typical' lifestyle routines as a powerful way to talk and sell your system and service. Even if you are unable to live with a system, the 'after' installation flexibility encourages on-site changes, without taking off a faceplate.' craig dilouie