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Leading with Lighting

Tightening budgets make lighting control a top sales pitch

When it comes to explaining one of the most important, but often underappreciated, technology options in the home, Dan Loncar says it best: “Residential integrators should always lead with a lighting control system.”

Loncar, who serves as area sales manager for Schneider Electric’s installation systems and control division, explained that, perhaps unlike music, video, or

Schneider Electric’s Square D Clipsal Color Touchscreen can be designed to control the company’s integration lighting control technology. obviously anything on the home network, “lighting can define a space, bring out an architectural detail, set a mood, and give us a sense of security,” he said.

Loncar makes the case that consumers are becoming better educated about the lifestyle and environmental benefits that lighting control brings to their home and have a certain expectation of the technology that they feel needs to be incorporated throughout the home. And although most of the sales in the residential integration channel are still driven from an entertainment perspective, lighting control is the technology most able to achieve the ultimate client goal of comfort, convenience, and security.

Lutron’s Andy Wakefield agreed that integrators would be hard-pressed to find products that offer their clients the same features and benefits of lighting controls. The director of the company’s home systems business unit often reminds his dealers of the many benefits that lighting control can offer their customers, including energy savings, enhanced security, and ambiance. As the manufacturer whose owner and founder, Joel Spira, invented the dimmer 50 years ago, Lutron offers everything from single-light dimmers, to custom lighting control products for single-room and whole-home applications, to automated shade and drapery systems.

Lutron offers the widest range of wireless, radio frequency-based products, ranging from its Maestro Wireless dimmer and car visor remote, to its whole-home lighting control and shade systems. Many integrators and homeowners hail Lutron’s RF technology for its robust quality and reliability.

Crestron’s Jeff Singer takes the importance of lighting control even further when he says that if an integrator “owns” the lighting control integration within a home, then you will “own the entire project.” Singer, who serves as Crestron’s VP of marketing, contends that the value of lighting control is much greater than just the hardware installed. “Lighting control can drive the overall sales process,” he said. “Lighting is the first system that must be designed, specified and installed in any new construction or renovation. Before walls go up, designers and homeowners must decide about types of fixtures and location, wires must be pulled and sheetrock cut for back boxes.

Crestron provides a fully integrated single-platform solution for touchpanels, keypads and handhelds to control audio/video, HVAC, security, pool/spa, shades/drapes, and lighting. For peace of mind to integrators and homeowners, the manufacturer also provides redundant processors, auto back up, and via its e-Control technology, auto e-mail notification regarding a prescribed alert condition.

Colorado vNet, a relative newcomer to the lighting control space, acknowledges the economic hardships facing many companies in the residential integration channel, by focusing on

Lutron’s stylish Vierti dimmers are available to control incandescent, magnetic low-voltage, electronic low-voltage and fluorescent lighting sources. more affordable options. The company’s marketing communications manager, Theresa Baer, said that while integrators may have been successful in the past by offering elaborate custom-programmed lighting and control systems, they now need to diversify for a broader customer base. “The entire Colorado vNet offering (lighting, complete home control and distributed audio/video) provides them a solution with low installation costs, low support costs, and low risk…which in the end will make them more profitable,” she said.

Specifically, the now more viable retrofit market is encouraging sales of Colorado vNet’s Wireless Lighting & Control System, Baer noted, which offer integrated Touchpad Dimmers, easy programming, and the ability to easily integrate the wired and wireless systems. The company, however, also offers a Wired Lighting & Control System that includes distributed processing, customizable capacitive touchpads, and simple design and programming. With distributed processing technology, each module handles its own processing, so there’s no central processor to bring a system to its knees if it fails.

Control4 also focuses on “economy” options for residential integrators. The company recently introduced its Home Controller HC-200, which retails for a MSRP of $499, explaining that lighting can be added to it for as little as $129 a room. The company focuses not only on low cost to the end user, but also “great margin” potential for dealers, easy of installation and programming. Co-founder and CTO Eric Smith added that automated lighting control is a great way for integrators to “strike a Green nerve” in their customers by pitching the energy saving that the technology can enable.

Green integration offers perhaps the most potential for custom integrators looking to remain viable as budgets shrink during the world’s economic crisis. Schneider Electric’s Loncar, who also manages his company’s residential sales team and runs its Clipsal Design Centre, is noticing “tremendous interest” in lighting control being generated by the “Green” movement. “[We’re] adding sensors, timers, relays, and dimmers to these projects without a consumer’s hesitation,” he said. “Once the lighting control keypad goes on the wall, it opens the opportunity to a single and simple control interface to access the multiple systems that will reside within that home.”

Schneider Electric’s light level and occupancy sensor products have been a strong focus for the company due to growing energy concerns, code mandates, but most of all the payback that these products bring to the end user,” Loncar noted.

Best known for its “green-friendly” occupancy sensors, Watt Stopper develops and markets lighting control products for application-specific scenarios. “Our products can turn lights off via sensing or timer, dim, include a built-in night light, provide wireless scene control, and more,” said the company’s VP of sales Steve Mix, “and all the products focus on providing energy savings.”

Vantage, a leader in lighting control for luxury homes for more than 23 years, is currently focused on energy management for lighting control and automation. “Energy management is a topic that currently resonates with homeowners, specifiers, lighting designers, and dealers,” said Vantage’s Tim Oloughlin, “but we’re taking it a step further by showing the actual ROI of energy management in both kilowatt hours and dollars saved.”

Jeremy J. Glowacki is editorial director of Residential Systems.