As more manufacturers offer lower-priced lighting-control products, builders and remodelers have the opportunity to make system packages an option or upgrade to their designs. According to the Consumer Electronics Association, 57% of home builders offered automated lighting controls in 2006, up an impressive 12 points from 2005, making it the fastest-growing home technology.
Plus, “It's something that has a tremendous impact on the value and luxury of a home,” explains Jay McLellan, president and CEO of Home Automation Inc. Homeowners can replace a bank of switches lined up along a wall with a single scene switch, he says, and dim or brighten their lights via a handheld remote or keypad. The company's Omnia and Lumina controllers now support Z-Wave technology, a wireless network protocol that's gaining popularity.
Vacancy sensors and dimming devices are also energy-savers, manufacturers say. Dimming a home's lights by half saves 40% of the electricity, and makes the bulb last 20 times longer, according to lightingcontrol company Lutron. “A lot of customers buy systems based on the energy savings they give them,” says Phil Scheetz, Lutron's marketing manager for residential systems. The company's AuroRa lighting controls (shown, above right) are available in an easy-to-install package of five dimmers, a master control, a wireless control, and a central antenna. The dimmers can be operated individually or, at the touch of a button, users can initiate pre-set room scenes.
Construction professionals are also seeing the marketing benefits of installing electronic lighting controls, especially in a declining housing market. “Builders are looking at how they can differentiate their properties from others on the marketplace,” says Ken Fairbanks, general manager for SmartLabs. He says the “iPod generation” is expecting to see technology in their houses. “The idea of, ‘I'm buying a smart home,' is an attraction to them,” he says. “The cost of putting in lighting control is minor to get that marketing capability.”
—Jeff Lee. This article first appeared in BUILDING PRODUCTS magazine, a sister publication of REMODELING.