To the custom integration industry’s credit, former Vice President Al Gore’s nightmarish scenario as played out in his documentary, An Inconvenient Truth, needn’t become a reality; at least not on its watch.
Long before it was fashionable, lighting control companies like Lutron, Crestron, and Colorado vNet were putting out products aimed at giving end users the ability to consciously reduce energy consumption, while bringing pizzazz to the homestead.
“There’s no question that one of the biggest impacts on lighting control in the near future will come from the green movement and the increased use of high-efficiency light sources such as compact fluorescents and LEDs,” said Scott Stephenson, director of marketing and product development for Colorado vNet. “Even when cost isn’t a factor, people have a strong desire to be energy efficient for social responsibility reasons. This is both an opportunity and a challenge for the lighting control industry.”
LiteTouch has designed all of its products, including the new Hybrid Wall Box Dimmer, to be backwards compatible with existing field installations and upgradeable with the latest technology, including those geared toward energy savings
Coming into the second decade of the 21st century that industry meme—energy efficient, easy to use, good-looking products—continues to be the driving force behind the delivery of innovation to match ambition.
PRODUCTS LIGHTING THE WAY
“Lighting control is just one part of an intelligent environmental control system,” Crestron’s director of marketing communications, Jeff Singer, noted. “The home is a delicate ecosystem, balancing lighting, shades, temperature, and all the entertainment equipment, which often consumes just as much energy as the lights. All these systems must be managed in a way that optimizes overall energy efficiency and personal comfort. This takes much more than just a simple dimmer or switch on the wall.”
Crestron speaks truth to power with several of its products, most notably its Green Light line of environmental controls that contribute toward LEED certification. Homeowners can graphically and quantitatively view precisely how much energy they are using, allowing them to predict future usage and savings over time.
Lutron Electronics, with its dizzying array of products geared toward giving end users ultimate control of their environment, continues to deliver to a high standard with its RadioRA 2 lighting control system. Programmable via a PC, RadioRA 2 controls lights, shades, AV devices, and temperature via the company’s own Clear Connect Radio Frequency technology and is expandable and scalable for retrofits and new construction alike.
Vantage Controls’ Energy Management System enables consumers to take a pro-active approach to saving energy and understanding the exact savings they are earning.
The “designer flair” of Colorado vNet’s TS1 family of in-wall touchscreens is a bonus to their ability to provide control of not only a home’s climate and lighting features, but music and security systems as well. Available in 20 faceplate variations, the TS1 is notable for its ease of use, which extends to the creation of scenes—one of the many ways homeowners can monitor energy consumption even while away from home.
Sticking to a four-point principle list (affordable, scalable, easy installation, and feature richness) when it comes to creating lighting products, Control4’s Wireless and Wireless Outlet Dimmers extend the company’s integration with more energy- efficient lighting, such as compact fluorescent and LED lights utilizing low-voltage transformers.
MechoShade Home Systems has designed the SunDialer WindowManagement System to track the position of the sun and sky conditions in real time.
For Somfy Systems, the manufacturer of motors for shading systems, the goal is enabling a balanced lighting control system composed of artificial and natural light management. The company has added its Sonesse 30 RS485 and Sonesse 50 ILT motors, as well as the ILT Z-Wave Interface for integration of natural lighting control with other home systems.
“Somfy is committed to providing dealers, integrators, and end users with products that enhance the control and integration of motorized window coverings with various control system solutions,” Somby marketing project specialist Amy Passarella said.
MechoShade Home Systems, also a stand out for its focus on motorized shading systems that integrate with most lighting and home-automation systems, has designed the SunDialer Window- Management System, which tracks the position of the sun and sky conditions in real time, calculates the BTU load on the glass, and adjusts the shades accordingly. The system includes an event scheduler, generates a user log that allows for finetuning of its settings, and features remote support and network control via the SunDialer IP interface.
The “designer flair” of Colorado vNet’s TS1 family of in-wall touchscreens is a bonus to their ability to provide control of not only a home’s climate and lighting features, but music and security systems as well.
LiteTouch has designed all of its products, including the new Hybrid Wall Box Dimmer, to be backwards compatible with existing field installations and upgradeable with the latest technology, including those geared toward energy savings. Installed like a traditional wall dimmer, the Hybrid includes dip-switch settings for selection between either wireless RF or wired Cat-5 communication, as well as the flexibility to choose between dimming or switching functionality.
Vantage Controls has improved the features of its traditional lighting control offering, but also has energy management in mind with another new product. The company’s RP Touch Keypad is the first of its new button styles and offers several aesthetical improvements over previous models, like laser engraving, LED back lighting, true-type fonts, and new faceplates. Additionally, the company’s Energy Management System enables consumers to take a pro-active approach to saving energy and understanding the exact savings they are earning, enabling homeowners to see how much energy they are using, make changes, and see the impact of the changes in usage. “The EMS dashboard provides a crystal clear view of energy and costs savings, down to the kilowatt and cent,” Vantage Controls product manager Reid Cram said
Having had success with its Vizia RF+, Leviton has expanded the line with combination devices that allow installers to replace existing switches with a four-button zone controller, four-button scene controller, or a two-button scene controller with switches
Having had success with its Vizia RF+, Leviton has expanded the line with combination devices that allow installers to replace existing switches with a four-button zone controller, four-button scene controller, or a two-button scene controller with switches. With an eye on rapid developments in energy efficient products, Pamela Winikoff, PR manager for the company noted that Leviton’s research and development unit is focused on creating controls and systems that can support LED technology.
PCS Lighting’s RFI-E EnOcean Radio Frequency Interface and battery-less RF Switches and Remotes allows homeowners to put a switch anywhere in the home without running wires by utilizing existing power lines. The EnOcean RF switch sends out a radio frequency command to the RFI-E. The RFI receives this signal from as far away as 50 feet and then turns that into a UPB signal, thus transmitting it on the power line to one of the company’s devices.
Control4’s Wireless and Wireless Outlet Dimmers extend the company’s integration with more energy efficient lighting, such as compact fluorescent and LED lights that utilize electronic low-voltage transformers.
SPOTLIGHT ON MARKETING
With so many lighting products on the market, how all of these companies gain the spotlight has become as challenging as developing the products themselves. While the tradeshow calendar has always provided regular intervals for new product unveilings, manufacturers also have been increasing their exposure to the market in innovative ways.
For much of last year, Lutron took many of its new products on the road, in an RV no less at one point, to allow both its dealers and customers to get a hands-on feel of its products. “In addition to featuring these new products in our booth, we have been taking the show on the road, per se, with intensive, hands-on training programs designed to teach installers everything they need to know to successfully design, install, program and integrate these new products,” said Phil Scheetz, Lutron’s home systems marketing manager.
Lutron also hosted numerous specifier events and posted interactive demos and videos on its website to help customers experience the magic of these new products online.
Programmable via a PC, Lutron’s RadioRA 2 controls lights, shades, AV devices, and temperature via the company’s own Clear Connect Radio Frequency technology.
Road shows underscore a trump card that lighting manufacturers have with both its dealer base and conscientious consumers. It’s their power to educate. And, its not just dealers and consumers that need schooling. Colorado vNet, like Lutron and many others in the field are well aware that gaining the trust of architects and designers can open up entire avenues of revenue and innovation for their companies.
Control4, which also caters to the commercial market, has benefited from this broader outlook. The company’s Suite System has been installed in all of the guest rooms and suites at the ARIA Resort & Casino and the Mandarin Oriental at CityCenter, in Las Vegas.
PCS Lighting’s RFI-E EnOcean Radio Frequency Interface and battery-less RF Switches and Remotes allow homeowners to put a switch anywhere by utilizing existing power lines.
“Control4 Suite Systems can be programmed to automatically shut down a room when it is unoccupied, turning down or off the heating/cooling system, televisions, lights, and any appliances,” said Control4 CTO Eric Smith. “In addition, green settings on the remote control allow guests to voluntarily ‘green their stay,’ selecting their preferences for light level, room temperature, and the frequency of linen changes. After a guest has checked out, a room can quickly be put in “unoccupied” mode, which shuts off the lights, heating or cooling, entertainment systems, and any other electronic device in the room. Control4 Suite Systems contributed to CityCenter’s achievements in LEED certification.”
Somfy Systems has added the ILT Z-Wave Interface for integration of natural lighting control with other home systems.
ILLUMINATING THE FUTURE
It is easy to emphasis the impact that the green movement has had on the lighting control industry, but there is still much more that can be done. Like Stephenson pointed out, “We’ve gotten the word out that dimming a light by 10 percent saves energy by one percent, but that’s only a small part of the story. Innovation is still needed to make dimmable fluorescent lighting acceptable to our trained senses and LEDs, heralded as the future more than 10 years ago, are still too expensive.”