Research indicates that people are staying home now more than in the recent past. As a result, we’re also spending more money to make our homes the comfortable havens we want them to be. While structural upgrades such as room additions, new windows or better heating and air conditioning systems have always been a primary object of home improvement dollars, people are paying more attention to security and decorative elements, as well as how technology can simplify, not complicate, their lives.

Thanks to recent advances in innovation, lighting controls can do it all-enhance security, enrich home d?cor, and add convenience.

Aesthetics, functionality, security, and convenience are perhaps the most prevalent trends in the recent history of lighting controls. Manufacturers are constantly rethinking, redesigning and reinventing in order to produce lighting controls that look great and offer more features for even the most technologically challenged among us. The result is sleek looking controls that can be easily installed in any home and provide a wealth of benefits.

Lighting controls, or dimmer switches, as they are commonly called, can be used to control one light, like a chandelier or table lamp; and to control every light in a room, like in the family room or kitchen, with a room dimming system; as well as to control every light in a home with a sophisticated whole-home dimming system.

A combination of “linked” dimmers, switches, and keypads, whole-home dimming systems have become a popular option in recent years. Taking the principles of the basic wall dimmer to a much higher level, home dimming systems bring the futuristic, James Bond-esque possibilities of modern technology to the fingertips of any homeowner. And increased security and convenience are but two of the features inherent in their design.

Whole-home systems integrate all of the lights throughout a property to streamline operation and provide maximum control options and increased benefits. Suppose you are suddenly awakened at 3 a.m. by a bump in the night. Simply press a button on your nightstand keypad to instantly turn on every light in the house. Once you feel secure again, simply touch an “All Off” button to restore lights to their “off” positions. Whole-home dimming systems can also be linked with security systems so that lights automatically turn on or flash in the event the security alarm is activated. In addition, a Car Visor Control from Lutron Electronics lets you turn lights on from the comfort and safety of the car so that you are always entering a safe, well-lit home. And if that’s not enough, imagine this: you’re away from home one evening later than you expected. You’d like to turn on a few lights so the house doesn’t look deserted. Simply pick up a phone and dial into your lighting control system to operate any, or all, of the lights.

To control landscape lighting, use an astronomic timeclock or a photocell to automatically operate lights in conjunction with sunrise and sunset so the lights are only on when natural sunlight is not available. This is a common feature for exterior lights so a home can be illuminated at night (for increased security) but not waste energy by having the lights on during daylight. Likewise, motion detectors can be used to ensure that lights for the driveway or garage entry are only used when someone is arriving at or leaving the house.

In addition to increasing the feeling of security, dimmer switches create moods. The ability to quickly and easily control the lights is key for creating ambiance. Adjustable lighting makes a room more versatile and better able to accommodate any number of activities than the standard on/off switch. Consider the variety of functions that take place in the average living room these days. It serves as a combination playroom and study hall for the kids. It’s a ballroom for party guests. It’s a theater for those quiet nights at home. It may even serve as a hospital room during cold and flu season.

Each of these activities requires a different light level. Certainly, the bright lights that make it possible to do homework aren’t appropriate for a dinner party or movie night, or vice versa. From a number of conveniently-located keypads, you can control a single light, every light in a room, or every light in a home. Lighting scenes, or moods, can be set and recalled with the touch of a button. Once you find the perfect light level for a particular activity, simply press and hold a button on your keypad to “set” the scene. Preparing for a dinner party? Simply press the “Entertain” button on your lighting keypad to set the lights just right for guests. Need a more intimate lighting scene for dinner for two? Touch the “Dining” button to create the perfect mood.

In addition to enhancing home security and creating moods, dimmer switches save energy and increase the life of your light bulbs. The relationship between lighting controls and saving money is rather fundamental. As you dim the lights in your home you use less electricity. The less electricity you use, the lower your electric bill. It’s that simple. As light levels are lowered (dimmed), less and less energy is consumed. For example, dimming a light an average of 10 percent–which is barely perceptible to the human eye–saves 10 percent of energy and will actually double the life of an incandescent light bulb. Dimming your lights an average of 50 percent will make your bulbs last up to 20 times longer.

The features and advantages of modern lighting control systems are truly incredible. Technological advancements have given us comprehensive and affordable home lighting controls that can do things Thomas Edison would have never dreamed were possible. And more and more people are realizing-and taking advantage of-these benefits.