Lighting control systems complement great lighting design. Often described as Mood Lighting, lighting control systems are actually much more; they bring ease-of-use, energy efficiency, security benefits and of course they can add a real “wow” factor to a good lighting scheme.
What are Lighting Control Systems?
There are many lighting control systems on the market; for the last ten years we’ve mostly used Lutron’s Homeworks range and the wireless systems from Rako. Each system has its own peculiarities but there are common features across all of them:
- A lighting control system provides dimming or switching modules that sit between the supply and the circuit of light being controlled
- In a lighting control system there is no switch cabling to the circuit; the keypads, which replace conventional switches, communicate with a control processor or the switch/dimmer modules.
- A lighting control system opens up the relationship between the keypads and all the circuits in the lighting scheme; so a keypad by the front door can be programmed to turn on the external lights, or light a pathway through to the kitchen, or have a button that turns off the whole house when you’re going out.
- A lighting control system can be integrated into a wider home control or home automation system such as AMX, Control4 or Crestron
- A good lighting control system typically allows control by iPhone, iPad or Android tablet meaning that you have control of all of your home’s lighting in the palm of your hand.
In order to vary the focal point and mood in a room you need multiple circuits. With conventional controls you end up with a large grid of knobs and switches that you manipulate each time you want to recreate a scene. A lighting control system does this all for you with programmed scenes that set each individual circuit to a specific light level. A single press brings up your “cooking” scene, your “dining” scene, your “party” scene etc.
A lighting control system also enables you to have this same level of control from multiple points, eg; a large three storey hall, stairs, landing area might have 5 or 6 points from which you want to control the lights. Using conventional switching you’d have complicated two or three way switching, and only one point at which you can dim a circuit (always somewhere different than where you are…). A lighting control system gives you full control from any point.
Lighting Control Across the Home
Taking this concept further, you can have a ‘path of light’ button to light (eg:) from the master bedroom down the stairs to the kitchen
A keypad button at your main entry/exit door can be allocated to turn the “whole house off” or to put the house into a pre-defined “out for the evening” mode
Certain circuits or scenes can be programmed to be triggered automatically, eg; at dusk, and then programmed to dim down after a certain time, and switch off at a certain time.
Integrating the lighting control system with automatic gates or garage doors enables the lights up the drive or in the garage to come on automatically when you come home but only within the hours of darkness.
Blinds and curtains control
Blinds and curtains can be controlled on the same system as the lighting, giving ease of use (particularly for very high, hard to reach curtains) and seamless integration.
The lighting and curtains/blinds can be set to mimic your real pattern of lighting and curtain/blind movements to make the house looked lived in whilst away. We can edit the selection to remove circuits which cannot be seen from outside, or ask the overall scenes to be dimmed by a certain amount to reduce energy whilst replaying.
If a security alarm is triggered, the lights can be programmed to (for example), flash on the external circuits and come on at 100% for the ground floor circuits. Certain keypads can automatically be disabled to prevent the lights being turned off again until over-ridden at a master keypad.
Lighting Control Systems contribute significantly to energy saving in our lighting schemes. There is an almost linear relationship between dimming and energy saving when using electronic dimmers
Lighting Control Systems & VAT – Update August 2014
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