The way conventional lighting works is the power comes from the breaker panel runs into the switch and controls the lights. If you wire 5 different lights to the same switch it will all turn on together.
What Makes Centralized Lighting Special?
Centralized Lighting is run from the breaker panel to a lighting panel. The lighting panel is like computerized light switches all in a single panel. From there you connect the loads and allow the control system to flip the switches for you. Either from a switch, keypad, phone or touchscreen. You could even setup motion sensors to have your lights turn on automatically.
The biggest benefit of a centralized lighting system is that you don’t need so many switches, just pick and choose a few switch locations for convenience and control all your lights from fewer switches.
Additional Cost of Centralized Lighting
To have an electrician wire lighting loads to a panel both adds and reduces cost at the same time. It may cost a bit more on wiring, but should cost less on the labour and parts. Each retrofit Control4 light switch costs quite a bit compared to the panel. They need to put in fewer switches and wall boxes, no 3-ways are needed with a central system. This reduces complexity for the electricians. However if the home is larger and the wires have further to go it could cost significantly more. It depends how important it is to have fewer switches on the wall for aesthetic reasons. It will also depend on how many of the lights you want automated. They will likely need to be automated if you want the lights to come on in groups, with motion and/or with a schedule.
Different Methods of Lighting Control
Each switch can have upto 6-8 buttons (depending on the models you choose). You can set it up anyway you want. There are various methods to choose from, you can mix and match to meet your personal tastes.
Load based control
Load based control is like conventional electrical systems. You press a button to turn on and off a light. You can press and hold to dim the light. Just remember you need a button per light in the room. If you have 10 lights in the room you’ll need at least 2 switches by the entrance to the kitchen. Not to mention if you want to control your blinds you’d need a switch per blind, and another few buttons if you want to control music or TV’s.
It might get a bit crowded and we’re back to our original problem, 3 or more switches on the wall. It’s best to use scene based control and add additional load based control to the featured loads such as a chandelier. Doing things this way will be familiar which is nice, but inconvenient. As the systems change so should the way we think about controlling them.
Scene based control
Scene based control is becoming more common in modern homes. You pick about 6 scenes for the room and customize them to your preferences. Scenes are like the radio presets in your car, but for lighting. You can always change them at anytime you want.
In the front foyer you can have scenes like Welcome, Goodbye, Dim, Bright, Day and Night. In the kitchen you might have Kitchen On, Kitchen Off, Morning, Afternoon, Evening and Night. I would recommend 1 switch by all entrances of the room with scene based keypad. You can use a second keypad for other buttons for a feature light, fireplace, music or blinds. Even if you go completely scene based you’ll still have individual control of the lights with your touchscreens and phones/tablets.
System based control
The benefits of system based control is that you will have full control of individual lights, scenes, blinds, music, video, even temperature but its a bit more complicated to use. It’s for the technically inclined people. The simplest, and preferred form of control is by using scenes.
Automation based control
I find a majority of our clients don’t like things happening on their own. People are still unsure about giving full control to a computer. The few who do get a real taste of the future. If you want, you don’t need any switches on the wall at all. You can have the lights turn on (and music) and stay on while in the room and turn off once you leave. You can have outdoor lights turn on at sunset and turn off a few hours later. Using IFTTT you can have the lights turn on when you’re close to home via GPS. You can have the system open blinds to let in natural light and only dim up the lights as much as needed.
Most of these methods are available whether you use centralized lighting or not. As I said before the biggest benefit of using centralized lighting is to avoid clutter on the walls. You’ll want a few strategic switches throughout your home for a few reasons. Let the guys at SASA explain the situations where centralized lighting is beneficial and work on a plan to save you cost as best as we can.