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The Modern Estate
The Total Light-Control Experience
By Tom Howard

For lighting specialists, there’s always a challenge to be met—a complex problem that requires a unique solution.

Lighting_MainImage.jpgIn even the most modest homes, owners can adjust the heating system, the water temperature, the heat output of the stove, the coldness of the refrigerator. But the lights? No calibration there: All you can do is turn them on or off.

By adding a sophisticated lighting-control system, however, you can enhance the beauty and functionality of your home. At the touch of one button, such a system lets you adjust light levels, set the perfect scene for entertainment, control many lights at the same time, light up a pathway through the home, turn on all the landscape lighting, lower the blackout shades, drop the projection screen, or dim the lights so you can watch a movie—yes, all at the touch of that button.

But that’s not all. You’ll be able to set the driveway lights to come on at dusk every day and shut off four hours later. Hit the “All Off ” button when you leave for work, and every light in the house will shut off. Push the “Home” button when you come home, and the main living areas will be illuminated. “Landscape” mode turns on all the landscape lighting. Keypads located in multi-purpose rooms (like the kitchen) can be used for local scenes like “Food Prep” or “Dining” or “Homework.” In the bathroom, the keypad buttons might be labeled “Down Lights,” “Vanity,” “Shower,” “Fan.” You can even set the system to “Vacation Mode” so that your lighting patterns are followed while you’re away, making the house look occupied.

And you’ll get a sleeker-looking home in the process. You needn’t put up with that ugly, 7-gang switch plate in your foyer—you can simply replace that bank of switches with simple, elegant, low-voltage keypads. Lutron’s SeeTouch keypad has backlit, engraved buttons that clearly indicate what lights you are controlling; it even has a Raise/Lower button to fine-tune your settings. Any keypad in the residence can control one light or switch on hundreds.

One of our customers had those hideous 7-gang switch banks by each entrance to the family room (which they were renovating). No one had any idea what the switches controlled—so family members ended up using stick-on labels on all the switches, just to know which switch controlled which lights.

The renovation included the installation of new lighting. Both the new and the old lighting circuits were run back to the lighting panels, and the ugly switch banks were replaced with single-gang, low-voltage keypads with backlit, engraved buttons. We also installed motorized solar shades and a plasma screen/surround sound system with a Crestron touch screen to control everything. When the family members wanted to watch a movie, one button would turn on the plasma screen and music, lower the shades, and dim the lights. The new system really added a wow! factor to their beautiful new family room.

For lighting specialists, switch banks are a routine job. But there’s always a lighting challenge ’round the corner—an unusual problem that requires a unique solution. One of our clients asked us to connect the lighting in five separate, ultramodern buildings on the family’s 200-acre estate. That was complicated enough, but, because they were in a lightning alley, we didn’t want to connect them with direct burial copper, because lightning can hit the ground and follow the copper into the buildings and cause serious damage.

We ended up connecting all the buildings with direct burial fiber optic cable (which is immune to lightning) and linking the Lutron panels and processors, so the entire estate could be controlled from the low-voltage keypads (and Crestron touch screens) in any of the five buildings.

There was also a design issue, since all the hardware and fixtures in the buildings were made of brushed stainless steel. We complemented that look by using the Lutron satin nickel metal finish for all the keypads, electrical outlets, and data-plates for phones, computers, and televisions.

For homeowners, an integrated light-control system is a sophisticated (but deceptively simple-looking) way to put your lighting system, in its many manifestations, under easy control.
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