Lighting Control Systems Buying Guide

Lighting Controls
After entertainment centers, lighting controls are probably the next most common candidate for automation in the home. Before deciding what features are important to you for controlling your lights at home, we encourage you to first review our discussion on lighting control systems in the home automation primer. This will provide you with base information helpful in defining your own key buying decisions.

Lighting controls have been popular with homeowners since the introduction of X10 circa 1980. X10 is still being used for home lighting controls today because it is relatively easy to install for many homeowners and cost effective. Other home automation technologies such as UPB, direct connect, and wireless are all used in lighting control systems available today.

    Start to define the key buying factors for your lighting control system by answering these questions:

  1. Do I want to self-install my lighting control system?
  2. Do I just want to control my lights on/off state and brightness using a handheld or tabletop controller?
  3. Do I want to control my lights using lighting scenes?
  4. Do I want to control my lights using the same remote or user interface controlling my entertainment system?

You Answered YES to Question 1 and 2 Only

You should consider lighting control solutions using X10, UPB, and wireless technologies. Use the links above for more information to compare these technologies. X10 plug-in devices and wall switches/dimmers range in cost from $13 to $40, UPB equivalent devices range from $55 to $85, and wireless equivalents range from $35 to $65. Note lighting devices for loads of 1000 watts or more are at the high end of these price ranges, while plug-in lamp modules are at the low end.

If your cost constrained consider an X10 lighting solution, otherwise we recommend a wireless solution. For more information on wireless technologies see our comparison table in the home automation primer.

You Answered YES to Questions 1, 2 and 3 Only

    To deploy lighting scenes in your home the system must:

  • support the definition of scenes,
  • be able to turn the lights on/off,
  • be able to control the brightness level of each light,
  • be able to detect the state of the light,
  • vary turn on/off times within a time period each day (often called security window),
  • and detect or calculate dusk/dawn times each day.

We recommend you consider an Insteon or ZWave wireless lighting solution (see comparison table above) with HomeSeer or equivalent software. HomeSeer also supports X10 lighting devices enabling lighting scenes to be defined as "events".

You Answered YES to Questions 1 and 4

We recommend you consider an Insteon or ZWave wireless lighting solution (see comparison table above).

You Answered NO to Question 1

You can still consider any of the lighting solutions we have discussed above by using the manufacturer's website to locate an installer/dealer in your area and also by checking our Dealer Directory. To locate an Insteon installer visit www.smarthome.com, and for a HomeSeer installer visit www.homeseer.com.

You'll also want to review the additional buying decisions associated with whole-house automation systems. Especially if you want to control your entertainment system and your light system with the same user interface.

For relevant Lighting Control Systems product reviews click here.