So what are homeowners looking for in a lighting control system?
Most homeowners simply desire the same basic level of sophistication from their home?s lighting system as they have grown accustomed to from their cars. For example, for the sake of convenience and safety, many vehicles today provide automation features?like courtesy lights that come on when the doors are opened, lights that automatically dim-to-off when the doors are closed, lights that turn on automatically when the engine is started and lights that turn on when the owner presses a button on the vehicle?s keychain remote control..
Lighting control within a home is all about convenience and safety as well. With the proper lighting control system, lighting within a room or even throughout and entire home can be controlled automatically when a single lighting control button is pressed, when a button is pressed on a remote control, when a door is opened or even when the sun rises and sets each day.
What are the common lighting system technologies?
There are a few different system technologies available for mainstream lighting control applications; ?Power Line Carrier? or PLC, ?Radio Frequency? or RF and Hardwired Communications.
Power Line Carrier lighting control systems provide flexible and relatively simple installation. However, since these systems utilize the home?s electrical wiring to transmit their communication signals, system reliability can be compromised by appliances that generate noise as well as outlet strips and consumer electronic devices that provide electrical filtering and suppression. In larger homes, signal strength may be lost when transmitting from one end of the home to another.
Radio Frequency controlled systems also provide relatively simple installation. However, the reliability of these systems can be compromised since these systems frequently operate at the same frequencies as many of today?s consumer electronic devices e.g., wireless telephones, remote controls, security cameras, baby monitors, etc..
Hardwired Communications lighting control systems typically communicate over a low voltage cable that has to be run during the homes construction phase. Hardwired systems typically provide the best reliability. Hardwired systems commonly provide operating speeds much higher than traditional power line carrier technologies. Due to the fact that hardwired systems are conducive to high speed communications, hardwired systems can be expected to respond instantaneously to system events e.g., a button press or door sensor activation, whereas traditional power line carrier systems may require multiple seconds or even minutes to respond in larger systems.
What are other factors in choosing a lighting control system?
_ Programming Simplicity – another consideration in choosing a system is the controller itself. Lighting systems are traditionally controlled from a dedicated controller or PC. The programming of individual lights or entire groups of lights (lighting scenes) is commonly performed via a menu driven keypad or software program running on a PC. The most user friendly systems can be programmed directly from the light switches themselves in a simple 3-step process.
In this type of programming scenario, the homeowner would simply place the system into program mode by pressing and holding the switch or scene button that they?ve selected to control lighting levels in an area or room. The homeowner would then simply go around and set lights to their desired levels. This programming method is the simplest and provides the additional benefit of allowing the homeowner to actually see first hand, all of the desired lighting levels. Once the homeowner has set all lighting levels to their satisfaction, they simply press the scene button one more time to complete the programming.
_ Flexibility ? a lighting system should support control of anywhere from 1 to over 100 lights. The system should provide the ability to control the homes lighting from various input sources including multi-button scene switches, remote controls and programmable inputs that can be connected to sensors within the home. Even though all programming could be performed directly at the lighting switches themselves, in some large scale installation scenarios, programming software could make programming more efficient. A flexible lighting system will support both programming methods.
_ Cost Effectiveness ? the purchase of a lighting system should only require the user to pay for those features they desire. The system should be modular and scalable. That is, if additional features like programmable inputs and outputs are desired for interfacing to sensors or controls (e.g., sprinkler systems), then those features should be purchasable as a separate module. If interfacing or programming via PC is desired, then the interface should be purchasable as a separate item and the software should be economical as well. The modularity of the system should enable it to support basic lighting functions as well as expanded functions that enable it to work with sensors in the home as well as with automation systems.
The On-Q Home Lighting Advantage
The On-Q Home Lighting system meets all these essential criteria. The On-Q Home Lighting system communicates over low cost category 3, 5 or 5E wiring to provide absolute reliability and instantaneous control response. No special AC wiring practices are required. The system supports cost effective, modular and flexible installation. Programming can be completed without the need for special programming tools. Although the system has been specifically designed to support cost sensitive lighting control for mainstream homeowners, the OnQ-Home lighting system can be expanded to provide automation functions or it can be interfaced to 3rd party security or automation systems to provide advanced lighting control functions.
Figure 1. ALC Switches
120 VAC Load Ratings
Table 1. ALC Switch Assortment
Figure 2. On-Q Home Lighting Controller
Programmable 2-Input/2-Output Module
Serial Interface Module
Remote Control Interface
Lighting Expansion Module
Lighting Automation Module
Wiring Distribution Module
Table 2. Available On-Q Home Lighting Expansion Modules