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It's kind of been a theme lately. Smart offices, smart buildings … and smart homes. Believe me, I'm all for it. It's not that I'm to lazy to turn off lights. It's just that, well, sometimes I forget. Automation and voice control help overcome my forgetfulness.

Smarter Lighting for Smarter Homes

Steve Maurer, IME
It's kind of been a theme lately. Smart offices, smart buildings … and smart homes. Believe me, I'm all for it. It's not that I'm to lazy to turn off lights. It's just that, well, sometimes I forget.

Automation and voice control help overcome my forgetfulness.

But aside from that, smarter homes and buildings are, in many ways, better for the environment. Another step forward to going "green."

As more homes and buildings embrace wireless technology, the path toward "smart" gets easier.

It's not just the energy efficiency that benefits from it. It's personal safety and security as well. From the building owner's viewpoint, wireless lighting both inside and out just makes sense.

In a recent article, I talked about wireless nodes for outdoor lighting. Very cool tech if you ask me. And not only does it save energy and allow for various lighting configurations, but it does more. It helps keep buildings in compliance with energy codes and the ever increasing "Dark Sky" regulations.

But what about smarter lighting for the homeowner? If you're a contractor, you have several options to offer them.

But be careful to make sure you understand your customers' preferences. The wireless technology is often divided into two distinct camps.

More on that in a minute.

Would you like paper or plastic?
Wait a second … that's what they ask me at the grocery store.

But interestingly enough, that's actually where I got my first exposure to smart lighting. In one of the aisles, there was a display for the Google Minis. And being the nerd I am, I bought one.

Then … another. And … you get the picture.

I wanted to do more, so I found LED smart bulbs that synched with the Minis. I could turn them on and off, and even dim them with the sound of my voice.

The Google Home app allowed me to automate the lighting schedules or even control from far off lands. Well, states anyway.

Talk about a king in his castle!

Eventually, I switched over to Alexa home control and a different bulb that added color temperature to the mix. And their phone app gave me the same wireless remote control.

Some of my fixtures don't accept smart bulbs, even though their LEDs. The kitchen light, for example, looks like a UFO and has LED strips inside.

So for that and a few others, wireless switches were necessary for that touchless control I craved so much.

With options available for either on/off only or dimming control, your customer can choose what they need. Dimming switches allow for "scenes" or mood lighting. From a comfy warm glow to deer in the headlights bright (well, maybe not THAT bright), you can install whatever their hearts desire.

The good thing is the switches may not need any bulb or lamp changes. Some folks still hold onto their beloved incandescents. But they'll work with the wireless smart switches.

One caveat … if your installing dimming switches, make sure any fluorescents and LED fixtures or bulbs are labeled dimmable. Good thing to know.

Of course, even outlets can be wirelessly controlled. That means table and floor lamps can join in the automated fun.

Cool.

By the way, RF (radio frequency) control is another option you can offer.

Now … for the two technology camps.

Not paper or plastic. Android or Apple may be the factor.
Make sure you understand what your customer's preferences are. That may make a difference in what switches and receptacles you quote for the installation.

Android works with almost anything. I've got an Android phone. And both my Google Minis and worked with everything, although a network bridge is sometimes necessary.

Apple can be a whole new ballgame. The Apple Home Kit and associated hardware and software might be necessary. Apple can be a little proprietary at times. They want to keep the playground to themselves.

If the homeowner want to use an Apple watch for lighting control, make sure you quote compatible products.

Many devices, like smart bulbs, are easy for the homeowner to install. But when it comes to smart switches and receptacles, they'll be looking to you for guidance, installation, and servicing.
Photo courtesy of Legrand North America
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