12 Jun 2014

Lighting: A guiding light

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When it comes to keeping up with developments in lighting technology, many self-builders are overwhelmed by the variety of options available. Phillip Pini, Residential Business Development Manager at automation system specialist Crestron, outlines the key elements you should consider when planning lighting control for your new home.

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Lighting plays a very important role in making a property into a home. It is often the first thing you notice when entering a room and can instantly change its appearance as well as your mood. A well-lit kitchen work-surface or a subtly lit dining table can make a massive difference to the look and feel of your home and having control over your lighting is becoming essential in today’s modern homes.

Ideally, lighting control should be considered at the beginning of any self-build project and discussed with a qualified lighting designer and installer. There are a number of reasons for this. By deciding where you need the lights to be at an early stage, you can plan where you will need to install required cabling and budget for an appropriate number of fittings and the control options you desire. The type of lighting you want in each room will also need to be taken into consideration as this has a dramatic impact on the look and feel of each room.

There are many different types of luminaires to consider. For example, downlights will create distinct areas of light onto the surface below. This can be particularity effective within a kitchen or bathroom where a high level of light is required over specific areas – and they can be used to create interesting light effects. Conversely, another option is using uplighters that create a much softer lighting effect by aiming light towards the ceiling, which is then reflected back down again. They are suitable for illuminating living rooms or studies which require a soft ambient light – and they don’t create glare off a television or computer screen.

A control issue

Once you know where you want your lights and what sort of lighting effects you want them to produce, you need to think about the level of control you want over them. Do you simply want to be able to manually dim the lights, or do you want to have a selection of pre-set lighting scenes to choose from? Do you want to be able to control them from a mobile device when you are away from home? The options are endless and today’s technology provides the answer. Lighting scenes can be programmed to cover everything from first thing in the morning, with lights gradually illuminating to a daytime level, to an evening scene, with certain lights being dimmed to create peaceful ambience to relax and unwind in.

By using presence/absence detectors you can remove the need to nag family members that haven’t turned off lights. Incorporating this technology will also cut energy bills as electricity won’t be wasted by supplying light in unoccupied rooms. Combining this with LED lights can make your home super eco-friendly and have a significant impact on the running cost of the property. The LEDs will last for 70,000 hours, so you won’t have to worry about replacing them for many years.

Finally, thought should be put into how you want to be able to control your lighting. Modern lighting control can be managed via useful touch panels, which can be handheld or installed in the wall, as well as more traditional on/off and dimmer switches. Many suppliers, such as Crestron, provide a dedicated app to turn your smartphone or tablet into a touch panel, providing lighting control even when you’re not at home. This technology means that you can turn lighting on or off, as well as open and close blinds, to create the illusion that someone is home, adding an extra level of security to your home.

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