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And with the news, weather, and sports too. We've certainly come a long way from the days of getting up early in the cold, stumbling through the house, and lighting an oil lamp.

The Halls Are Alive With the Sound of Music!

Steve Maurer, IME
And with the news, weather, and sports too. We've certainly come a long way from the days of getting up early in the cold, stumbling through the house, and lighting an oil lamp.

Yeah … I've done that a time or two. But mostly when the power was down during a snow 'event' as the weather folks are fond of calling them. But up until recently … well a few years ago, anyway … I still had to stumble around to find the light switch in the dark.

Ouch! Who put that danged old chair in the way?

I finally remedied that so some degree with lighted switches.

Anyway, we've come a long way, baby.

As technology steadily advances, so do improvements in home and office automation. What used to belong to the realm of science fiction is now a very genuine and present reality in your own domicile. Or, of course, that of your customers if you're an electrician.

I was an early adopter of LED lighting, both for home and business use. And most of the automation technologies, particularly in the lighting category, work best with them. But others can work as well. Before I switched over to about 97 percent LED lighting in my home, I'd already made the switch from inefficient incandescent lighting to CFLs or compact fluorescent lamps. Even had some tube lamps where appropriate.

Of course, dimmer switches could be problematic with most fluorescents unless the fixture was equipped with dimming ballasts. But as time marched on, dimming capability was baked into CFLs, alleviating the problem to a large degree.
Even with first generation LEDs, dimming was sometimes a problem. But, as always, the market dictated that dimming fixtures to set the mood was the order of the day. So most LEDs these days are, as a result, dimmable.

But as they often say … change is the only constant!

Computer … start my engines! I mean, my lighting
Along came the dawn of 'smart' devices, mostly voice activated. And to enhance the technology, connections to Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, and the internet expanded our electronic reach into our world. While voice communication was possibly first (not really sure), audio expanded to video and beyond.

In fact, as I'm typing this article, words spilling forth out of the old gray matter, my wife is in the other room, conversing with our granddaughters via video feed. Something about upcoming Christmas plans or thoughts along those lines.

Oh yeah … back to smart lighting, right?

My first foray into smart digital lighting control came through Google Minis and smart bulbs. It worked fairly well, but was kind of glitchy. The following year, Alexa became my new digital friend. I switched to LED bulbs that allowed me to not only control on and off state, but dimming and color temperature as well.

Cool .. or … warm. Depends on how you want to look at it.

Anyway, retrofitting almost every bulb in the house was a little pricey. Didn't do them all at once, but at least one room at a time. I would have them all controlled via smart tech save for one thing. Some fixtures in the house aren't upgradable to the technology. The LEDs are integrated. No Alexa control possible.

Or so I thought, anyway.

But now there is a way, thanks to smart switches. As mentioned in the title, you can even have them sing you to sleep (or wake you up), and even get the day's news and sports scores.

Newer high-end switches come with Alexa built into the device. You don't even need other Alexa products. And they have a speaker included to boot. Granted, it may not be top notch stereo sound. But it's still good enough to blare out reveille to wake you up in the morning.

With the newer switches, you don't just turn lights off and on, and have them dim to comfortable levels quickly. You can even control the fade rates to make it less jarring to the senses. I like that.

With an app on the phone, lighting control can be done from literally anywhere, not just at the old homestead. And with scheduling, you can make it look like you're homebound while on the road.

At any rate, lighting automation technology marches onward. And voice control is just one aspect of the advancements.

"Alexa, turn off my office lights. Ouch …

Who left their toys on the floor, dadburnit?!"
Photo courtesy of Leviton
Non-metallic QuickLatch™ with installed strut clip
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