As LEDs change the lighting landscape, the role of lighting in our home is expanding. In addition to lighting up our homes by flipping a light switch, LED technology is enabling lights to alter our moods and protect our houses.
LEDs (light-emitting diodes) have entered the residential market slowly due to higher purchase costs than the CFLs (compact fluorescent lights). Roughly 49 million LEDs were installed in the US by 2012, mostly in commercial applications. They provide enormous savings in electricity costs and last longer than CFLs.
What We've Learned About LEDs
While LEDs got off to a slow start due to color choices and price, they're now the light bulb of choice. Here are a few facts from the Energy.gov website:
- Quality LED bulbs have a useful life of 25,000 hours, or 25 times longer than traditional light bulbs.
- LEDs use significantly less electricity to provide the same amount of light given off by incandescent light bulbs, which released 90 percent of their energy as heat.
- Unlike compact fluorescent lights (CFLs) which cost less, LEDs contain no mercury.
- LEDs have unique characteristics, like their compact size and ease of Internet connectivity. This makes it easy to add functionality like automated and remote control of your lights.
So let's explore reasons why it's worth considering how you'll adopt LEDs for your home and family.
Today's light switches turn your lights on, off or you can dim the lights. Tomorrow's automated houses will integrate your lights into zones dedicated to an activity or mood you want to create. You'll be able to control these lighting zones with traditional light switches, a master wall panel (think programmable thermostat) or a smartphone app. That's because LEDs are smart bulbs, with sensors and they can even make you look younger at your next dinner party because now you can install dimmer switches on them, and who doesn't look better in dim vs harsh light?!
You'll define your lighting zones, which might include:
- Arriving home zone – can turn on lights on the porch and entry hallway, or the garage and kitchen if that's where you enter your house.
- Cooking zone – can turn on not just the kitchen's ceiling lights, but also task lighting under the cabinets.
- Kids's zone – can turn on lights in areas designated for homework and/or playing.
- Night time – can be set to light up bedrooms and the bathroom, and slowly fade as the kids fall asleep.
- Outdoor entertaining – for outdoor lights on your deck/patio, and walkways for guests to walk around safely.
- Away from home – can be used on work days, or reserved for vacations. Here you can randomly turn lights on and off (like timers today) to make people think someone is home.
You can create your own lighting zones with a do-it-yourself starter kit like the Hue Personal Wireless Lighting, manufactured by Philips and available on Amazon. You can start with a kit that includes a wireless hub that plugs into your home's router, and several LED bulbs controlled through the hub … and add bulbs as you identify other zones you want.
If you don't have the time or interest in setting up your own lighting zones, you can hire a home automation company to install a single zone or a whole house system. This can be a large investment, so consider what other home automation systems you can get at the same time. These might include home security and raising/lowering window coverings for energy savings.
LEDs and Home Automation
It's natural to want to jump in and start replacing your lights with LEDs. You can do this with new fixtures or smart bulbs that plug into your existing lights, it's that easy! But wait …
Think about the number of apps you already have on your smartphone. Do you want to end up with twenty, thirty or more apps to control individual lights in your home? Probably not. I don't know about you, but it's time to get rid of all the remote controllers (TV, cable, Wii, air conditioner, etc) lying around the house, not add any new ones.
Are you laughing yet? I just hope I can find the right remote when I need it. More often though, I grab a book to avoid dealing with all the remotes. It's also nice to escape technology for a while given the amount of time spent on the computer. But wait … am I really escaping technology?
Not really. More and more of the products in our homes are connected. Who would have imagined even a few years ago, that you could turn lights on by talking to them. That's what you get with connected light bulbs like the Phillips Hue above or the GE Link shown here. You can control them by talking to Alexa (Amazon Echo). That's a simple example of what's evolving, and it's called the “Internet of Things (IOT)”.
We haven't done enough research yet to give you advice on how to put together a home automation strategy, so here are a few teasers to help you grasp how much exciting new technology is heading towards our homes. Watch our blog as we've got the Internet of Things (IoT) on the calendar to research and write about … and please, if you've done some research or installed some products, share your experience below.
- Dynamic lights can follow the natural rhythms of daylight to help those with seasonal affective disorder (SAD). These light bulbs are also called full-spectrum bulbs.
- The Pulse is a smart bulb from Sengled, that combines a dimmable LED light with the high-quality audio of a 13-watt JBL Bluetooth speaker.
- Digital doorbells like SkyBell (Read: Digital Doorbell for Smart Homes) and Ring that have combined doorbells with cameras, accessible via your smartphone.
- Digital door locks connected to smartphones are offered by Schlage and KwikSet.
Let us know what functions you want in your home automation solution, so we can prioritize the information we share here. We wish you well as you navigate your way to a smarter home, one that supports the lifestyle you've always dreamed of.