This article while specific to C-Bus (by Schneider Electric) lighting control can be applied to most wired lighting control systems as they are generally quite similar.
We do appreciate that there are a number of lighting control solutions or systems on the market that use wireless communication technologies, these are still considered by most to be second rate to a wired system when considering lighting control for a new construction project.
Going wireless for a retrofit style implementation has its cost advantages, however we suggest that if you have the ability to run cables and the luxury of time for good design and approach then wiring for a complete solution is the way to go.
So if you are building a home and are thinking about a controlled lighting system as a part of your smart home requirement, this article will assist you with prioritising some aspects of your design to focus on what is necessary during construction and what can be upgraded later on after completion.
A few key points:
Light Switches (also called input units as they take input from the user) - In a lighting control installation these devices may look and feel like ordinary switches however they are wired quite differently. All switches within a lighting control system generally wire to the nearest switch, called daisy chaining and never wire directly to your light circuits.
C-Bus switches wire onto what is called a BUS (the Bus in C-Bus), a BUS is simply a communication system that transfers data between components, in this case, data is transferred between the light switches and the control hardware that drives your lighting circuits.
There are some limitations as to how many devices you can add to this BUS, but let's just say unless it's an especially large home there is ample capacity. The only consideration that a designer has to make is ensuring there is enough power or current on the BUS to power all the switches.
This allows switches to be changed much later down the track, say you allowed for a single button switch in your bedroom for controlling the bedroom light, later on, you could change it to a 2 button switch and with a little software programming have it control the ensuite light.
Savings Tip - Limit the number of individual light switches in your home!! With 2, 4, 6 and up to 32 functions on a single switch, a smart home is about automation, things doing things on their own and you as the home owner doing much more with less.
Motion Sensors - YES, these are input units as well, treated much like a light switch, except your movements are the trigger. Areas like the Pantry, WC, WIR, Garage and even Hallways and Stairwells are places where you can remove light switches altogether.
Savings Tip - Motion sensors are cheaper than wall switches, they also have a slim profile and can be flushed into drop ceilings for a neat look and are key for managing energy costs.
Dimming and Relay (on/off) circuits - We often have potential clients make sweeping statements like "I want to dim everything", all we see when we hear that is a whole lot of costs. The truth is you can get by without dimming everything and you will often find having dimming everywhere is a simply something you will not ever use.
External, pool, strip, stair, garage and WC areas are places where dimming is not essential if you are not concerned about the costs you can pretty much do anything but given the title of this article we are focusing on cost savings.
Savings Tip - Allocate dimming to entertainment spaces, entry lights and hallways, alfresco, dining and even master bedroom areas only. It's not totally impossible to change circuits from relay (on/off) to dimming later.
Quantities - Relay (on/off) and Dimming lighting circuit control hardware (C-Bus specific) come in even quantities, typically 4, 8, 12 (number of channels controlled per unit). So say you have three lighting circuits you want to dim remember that with that quantity you will have a fourth spare so adding a fourth dimming circuit to that particular area is not going to cost you.
Savings tip - If your quantities of lighting circuits are odd it can mean you have some spare capacity, filling spare capacity or managing what is or isn't on a dimming device can offer savings.
There are additional design tips that can be used to allow you to implement a wired lighting control system on a budget that gets you the essentials while allowing an upgrade path as you go.
Your integration designer or supplier should be presenting you with a set of drawings showing you how your system is going to be implemented. This information is key for getting the most out of your dollar when considering a lighting control system.
Surrounds has many years experience with lighting control and we display our solutions throughout our display centre in Nedlands - come have a chat with us about effective design and implementation.