How To Enhance Your Life And Home With Lighting

Dated: 08/06/2014

Views: 192

Your home’s interior lights want to help you have fun, feel better, and save energy. Will you let them?

It used to be we’d walk into a room and flip on the light switch, maybe slide the dimmer up or down a bit to change the brightness.
But that’s so old school. Instead, press a tab marked “Cooking” on a wall-mounted panel to let all kitchen task lights come up to full brightness while lights in the family room dim so the kids can play video games.
Or hit the button marked “Romance,” and the lights throughout the house go out while the lights in the bedroom ebb to a soft glow that turns a sultry blue.
Household technology is undergoing a transformation that’s going to make lighting more integral to our everyday lives. Not only will we see better, but we’re going to use light to alter our moods, protect our well-being, safeguard our houses, and save bunches of energy.
“Home lighting today is about lifestyle enhancements,” says Paul Nagel, VP of lighting at Control4, a home automation company. “We want to know how to control light to create environments we’re comfortable in, and have energy efficiency while we do it.”

Lighting Our Homes With a Purpose
Today’s progressive lighting schemes aren’t about turning lights on and off; they’re about being partners in your lifestyle. The concept is simple: Imagine all your home’s light fixtures as a single system that can be programmed into a variety of zones. Each zone is dedicated to particular task or mood, and can be controlled by wall switches, a master wall panel, or a smartphone app.
So in addition to “Cooking” and “Romance” zones, you might have buttons for:
  • Outdoor Entertaining – patio and walkway lights illuminate.
  • Coming Home – triggered by a timer or a smart phone, the porch, entry hall, and kitchen lights come on.
  • Nighty-Night – lights in kids’ rooms slowly fade out as they fall asleep.
  • Vacation – lights turn on and off in random patterns.
  • Panic Mode – all lights in the house flash on and off.
If walking over to a wall panel is too much effort at the end of a long day, you can call up an app on your smart phone or tablet and control zones that way, all while curled up on the couch. If your app is voice-activated, you won’t even have to swipe a finger.
Easing the Fear of Lighting Technology
Do your eyes glaze over at the thought of yet another layer of hi-tech added to your everyday life? Fear not: In the hands of a pro, zone lighting systems are relatively easy to install. Home automation companies and lighting contractors can retrofit your house with a single-zone system in half a day for as little as $1,500, and a whole-house system for under $5,000.
You’ll get an easy-to-understand central control unit that “talks” with new switches, light fixtures, and bulbs that are specially made to receive wireless signals. You decide on your zones and, once everything’s set up, have the light throughout your house change intensity and color on command.
DIYers Can Zone Out, Too
Relatively low-cost mini-systems are coming to market that’ll let you install your own zones, even if your geekability quotient is near zero.
The Hue is a $199 do-it-yourself starter kit from electronic manufacturer Philips. It includes a wireless hub that plugs into your home router, and three LED bulbs that respond to wireless signals.

Once the hub and bulbs are installed, you control everything from your smartphone, setting up zones (called “scenes” by Hue), and choosing color combos from millions of possible hues. You can even add tricks, such as having your lights flash when one of your tweets is re-tweeted.
If you get hooked on your Hue, you can expand — additional bulbs are $60 each. And because it’s linked to your internet router, your hub can be accessed from virtually anywhere using your smart phone, tablet, or laptop. Working late? Delay your “Coming Home” mode for an hour — and save energy.
No Dim Bulbs Here
Other DIY smart bulbs are hitting the market. They’re made to replace any screw-in type light bulb — all you need is a free app you download to your phone so you can dim lights, change colors, and turn individual lights on and off.
(FYI: Smart bulbs also work via conventional on/off wall switches; you’re not locked in to controlling them with an app.)
ilumi bulbs come in two strengths — a 1,100-lumen bulb (100-watt incandescent equivalent) for down lighting is $94, and an 800-lumen bulb (60-watt equivalent) for lamps and sconces is $84. You’ll need to have your smart phone within range of ilumi bulbs (meaning within 100 feet) so that your phone’s Bluetooth network, with its short-range capability, can talk to them.
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