We have been performing custom residential electrical work and home automation system installations since 1971. Back then the most complicated off-the-shelf system was Touch-Plate. There were no computer driven systems. Generally you would press a button and turn on and off the loads period. If you got really innovative (and had the resources) you could use an SCR dimmer, and motorize same so that when you pressed and held the button, a motor would actually turn the remotely located dimmer knob to raise the lighting level, and then press a second separate button and hold to lower the lighting level. These dimmers were over $600 each, not including the motorized operation.
The 120-volt wiring ran from the lighting fixture to a rather large relay cabinet containing 40-60+- separate relays. (And you always heard the very loud clacking of the relays.)
The low voltage switch wiring was a multi conductor cable, all run home to the low voltage side of the relays mentioned above. It was a complicated installation, with limited (by 2002 standards) capabilities.
Connecting of thermostats, draperies, garage door openers, etc., was remotely possible, but with a great deal of additional interface equipment and wiring, and all with limited potential.
The buttons on the switch stations were also single buttons in a rather long and cumbersome plate.
So much has changed!
Our installations now consist of Vantage System enclosures, (about the size of an electrical panel) and switch stations. All of the control is pretty much electronic, and computerized.
The 120-volt wiring runs from the lighting fixture to the enclosure containing 4 dimming modules, each capable of handling 8 loads, or a total of 32 dimmable loads per enclosure. Now you can also easily dim incandescent, low voltage, electronic, fluorescent, and fiber optic loads.
The low voltage switch wiring is a two conductor cable, all daisy chained from switch station to switch station, no long home run wiring is required from each switch station to the main brain.
Connecting of thermostats, draperies, garage door openers, audio/video, etc., not only is possible, but very practical, with a minor amount of additional interface equipment and wiring, and capable of a variety of options.
Furthermore up to an 8 button switch station can be utilized, with the total space required, one single gang!
There are now even RF (radio frequency) operated switch stations, where no low voltage wiring is required!
As far as loads connected and programming, in addition to dimming, scene capabilities (several independent loads put on/off at distinct %’s via the same button), and multi-location control, we specialize in the novel.
For one client during only the winter months we simulate sunrise. We’ve programmed the lights in several of their bedrooms (all at different selected times, and never on weekends) to go on at 1% just prior to the alarm going off, and over the next 20 minutes the lighting level raises slowly to 30% of full value. Boy, in the dead winter, with such a late sunrise, this really eases the owner (and his children) into waking up. (Of course over-ride switches are available to pre-cancel this event on non-working or non-school days.) And also at the same time, the radiant heat under the bathroom’s tile floor preheats the floor, their favorite soothing CD starts in the bathroom only, the drain in the bath tub closes & the water fills the tub to 92Âº & stops when filled, and the bath towels slowly heat. (This was actually done on 2 separate projects.)
For another client we set up programming so that when the owner enters the elevator in his home and selects the intended floor, a path of lights go on, on that floor.
And for another, when he/she leaves the house and presses the ‘away/return’ button, several selected lights go on/off (after sunset), leaving the house looking lived in until they return, (the thermostat also puts the temperature in the house on energy savings, the drapes are closed, and the security system arms.) Upon their return, they press the same ‘away/return’ button, the house reverts back to normal mode, and one light in each room in the house goes on for 10 minutes, and shuts off automatically unless this room button is pressed. Thus when they return all possible pathways are illuminated.
Exterior lighting can be turned on at sunset, (the equipment has an astronomical timer with local sunrise/sunset times built-in), dimmed at 10:00PM, dimmed again at 11:30PM, and either shut off at midnight or at sunrise +- a selected amount of time.
We’ve even utilized fiber-optic picture lighting as night-lights in hallways, with a setting of only 5%. Not only does it provide economical night lights (2.5 watts/hr), but it looks fabulous!
The capabilities now are bountiful; one’s imagination is the only limitation. We tell our clients that if the load is connected to the system, we are 99.9% certain that we can program same to their specifications. (We haven’t been stymied yet.) We also urge our clients to ask for the impossible, you never know!
Over the years we have performed our services on residences ranging from 5,000 square feet to over 35,000 square feet and for clients such as Kenny Rogers, Lionel Richie, Lisa Hartman, Al Jurreau, Georgia Frontiere, and several other well-known personalities. We are presently completing a home with an underground tennis court, pool and spa. We eagerly look forward to what the future will bring.