Lighting isn’t just a matter of illumination—it's a central component of home design, energy efficiency, and personal comfort. As electrical contractors and home lighting designers, embracing innovative smart lighting systems can offer your clients intelligent solutions without the need for smart bulbs. This article explores the advantages of these systems and how to effectively market them to consumers.

Intelligent Home Lighting: Smart Systems Without Smart Bulbs

Steve Maurer, IME
Lighting isn’t just a matter of illumination—it's a central component of home design, energy efficiency, and personal comfort. As electrical contractors and home lighting designers, embracing innovative smart lighting systems can offer your clients intelligent solutions without the need for smart bulbs. This article explores the advantages of these systems and how to effectively market them to consumers.

Energy Efficiency & Sustainability
Smart lighting systems shine in reducing electricity usage—a key concern for environmentally conscious homeowners and a significant selling point for your proposals.

  • Automated Adjustments: Unlike traditional lighting, smart systems can adjust brightness based on ambient light levels, substantially reducing power consumption.

  • Occupancy Sensors: These systems incorporate sensors that detect presence, ensuring lights are only on when rooms are occupied, which leads to further energy savings.

  • Longevity: Smart controls can extend the life of existing bulbs by preventing overuse, translating to fewer replacements and less waste.
According to an article by Utilities One, embracing smart lighting systems is a practical investment in reducing energy bills and carbon footprint.

Security & Safety
The integration of smart lighting systems enhances security and safety measures within a home, offering peace of mind to homeowners.

  • Simulated Occupancy: Programmable lighting patterns can mimic occupancy, deterring potential intruders.

  • Geofencing Capabilities: Smart lighting systems can leverage geofencing technology, allowing lights to automatically turn on or off based on the homeowner's location. This not only enhances security but also offers convenience by eliminating the need to manually control lighting settings.

  • Pathway Lighting: Smart systems can illuminate walkways or staircases when movement is detected, reducing the risk of accidents.

  • Emergency Response: In the event of an emergency, smart systems can facilitate quicker navigation through the house by automatically lighting up escape routes.

As reported by the New York Times, using wireless smart switches can maintain smart lighting functionality even when manual switches are turned off, ensuring safety protocols remain active. It also means that you don't necessarily need to invest in expensive smart bulbs to get the benefits in energy savings and efficiency.

I wish I'd thought about that sooner. All the ceiling lamps, fans, and freestanding lamps in our house have smart bulbs. And they weren’t cheap. At an average of 15 bucks per bulb. For example, my office alone has 5 bulbs, for an estimated cost of $75. With seven ceiling fans in the house, each with 4 bulbs each, that alone cost me $420 just to have, uh, cool lighting.

In fact, I just did a walkthrough of our house and we have 41 smartbulbs, at a cost of about $615 plus tax. They do last a long time... I've been using them for several years. But to keep things working properly and in sync, if one does burn out, I need to replace it with an identical bulb.

LEDs have come way down in price... smart bulbs, not so much.

Smart bulbs require that the switch remain on to function. The reason is quite simple: turning off the switch cuts the power to the bulb. With no power, the bulb can't maintain a connection to the Wi-Fi network—or any smart device for that matter.

As a result, the smart capabilities of the bulb, such as remote operation or automation, become non-functional. Therefore, for a smart bulb to offer its full range of features, it's important to keep the switch in the 'on' position even when the bulb itself is not in use.

Our kids don't always remember that when they come to visit. There are the times I've shouted myself hoarse  for bulbs to come on, only to find out one of the kids has turned off the switch.


Lutron Caséta Systems: An Overview
Lutron Caséta is a leading brand in the smart lighting market, offering intelligent, flexible, and user-friendly solutions for homeowners. These systems employ wireless technology, allowing users to control their home's lighting remotely via a smartphone app, a Pico remote, or through voice commands with compatible devices like Amazon Alexa, Google Assistant, or Apple HomeKit.

The operation of Lutron Caséta systems begins with the Caséta Smart Bridge, which serves as the hub of the system. This bridge connects to your home's Wi-Fi network and serves as the primary communication link between your lights and the Caséta app. When a command is issued through the app or a connected device, the Smart Bridge receives this command and sends the appropriate signals to the respective light switches or dimmers.

Caséta systems are especially noteworthy for their ability to function seamlessly with existing bulbs – eliminating the need for specialized smart bulbs. This feature results in significant cost savings for homeowners, as they can retrofit their homes with smart lighting capabilities while utilizing their current light fixtures and bulbs. Moreover, like most smart systems, Lutron Caséta also offers customizable scenes, schedules, and geofencing capabilities for maximum convenience and energy efficiency.

A huge benefit is this type of system works with or without internet integration. Many routers have a limit to how many devices can be connected to them. Smart switches cut down on network traffic. And they work great, even if there is no internet available. The lights come on .... and your movie or gaming streaming doesn't slow down.

Don't get me wrong. I love the convenience of walking into a room and telling the lights to come on. My system of smart bulbs works adequately… most of the time. And the ability to light up a room I’m heading to in advance of getting there is the Cat's Meow. But...

When the internet goes down, so does my smart lighting system. Sure, I can turn the switch off and on and the lights will come back on. But usually at a setting I didn't want. Waiting for the internet to come back on is the only way to gain back control of my lamps.

Enhanced Daily Living
The daily convenience of smart lighting systems is beyond compare, as they effortlessly integrate into the homeowner's lifestyle.

  • Customizable Scenes: Residents can create lighting scenes for different activities, such as reading, entertaining, or relaxing.

  • Voice Control: Integration with voice assistants allows for hands-free operation, adding a layer of convenience to everyday tasks.

  • Health Benefits: Smart systems that mimic natural lighting can support healthier sleep-wake cycles, contributing to overall well-being.

The Dusk-to-Dawn feature in smart lighting systems harnesses the power of light sensors to automate the operation of lights based on natural light levels. As daylight fades and dusk sets in, the sensors detect the diminishing ambient light and trigger the connected lights to switch on.

Similarly, as dawn breaks and natural light levels rise, the sensors recognize the increase in ambient light and automatically dim or turn off the lights. This intelligent feature ensures optimal lighting conditions throughout the night while conserving energy during the day, enhancing both the convenience and energy efficiency of any home.

Marketing Smart Lighting Systems
Selling the concept of smart lighting systems without the need for smart bulbs to your customers requires a strategic approach:

  • Illustrate Cost Savings: Break down potential energy savings and the return on investment over time.

  • Highlight Convenience and Comfort: Use specific examples of how smart lighting systems can simplify life and cater to personal preferences.

  • Stress Safety and Security: Be sure to hit hard on geofencing, simulated occupancy, and well, not worrying about stubbing your toes in the dark while hunting for a switch!

  • Demonstrate Ease of Installation: Emphasize that these systems can be integrated with existing fixtures, avoiding the hassle of replacing every bulb.

  • Lights and Blinds in Perfect Harmony: Explain that some systems even allow the homeowner to integrate motorized blinds into the mix, giving them more control over every aspect of lighting and privacy.

  • Leverage Testimonials: Share stories from satisfied customers who have experienced the benefits firsthand.

As you advocate for intelligent home lighting systems, remember that you're not just selling a product; you're providing a sustainable, safe, and sophisticated lifestyle upgrade.

There's one more advantage to smart systems controlled by smart switches. With smart bulbs, I had to assign each bulb a name and location, right down to the fixture, to get the most precise control. Putting them in a "fan group" and also a "room group" was necessary if I wanted to shut down some, but not all of them.

With smart switches, commissioning is much easier. And the homeowners won't need to remember what a bulb was called or what group it was in should they need to replace one. In fact, it's as easy as... well … screwing in a light bulb.

Brighten Your Business’s Future… Today
In the rapidly growing field of home automation, intelligent lighting systems present a unique opportunity for electrical contractors and lighting designers. They can offer cutting-edge solutions that resonate with modern homeowners' desire for sustainability, security, and enhanced quality of life.

By harnessing the power of smart systems without the need to replace every bulb, you can provide cost-effective, eco-friendly, and convenient lighting solutions that set you apart in the marketplace.
Photo courtesy of Lutron
Lumaris Tunable White Tape Light
Install receptacle in a concrete floor box, the NEAT WAY
Newsletter Signup