LEDs have been the bane of the lighting control business for some time. They’ve been difficult to integrate into control systems; tough if not impossible to dim; and with such a huge range of styles available, getting them to all work in unison and without flicker has left many home systems integrators scratching their heads.
The incorporation of LEDs into an overarching home control platform, however, has become a critical skill set to master with the ever-increasing adoption of LED light sources. And thanks to companies like Lutron, it’s become a much less daunting task to tackle. Take it from Jeff Nale, a lighting systems designer at Gramophone, of Timonium, Md., and the recipient of the Best Interior Lighting Design award from Lutron’s annual Excellence awards program.
LEDs: Divide and Conquer
Gramophone’s winning project is a prime example of the stunning effects that can be created by bringing a myriad of LED and low-voltage light sources under the aegis of a lighting control system like the HomeWorks QS from Lutron. As Nale explains, it allowed him and the Gramophone team to “divide” the award-winning 1,650-square-foot area into several distinct entertainment zones, but to also have all areas function as one huge hangout for the homeowner and his family and friends—all with the tap of a button on a keypad or tablet.
By incorporating HomeWorks QS third-party control and multiple Digi-One interfaces, the Lutron HomeWorks QS system controls nine NuLED SpectraDrive RGB LED tape light controllers to provide color-changing illumination within the ceiling coves of the billiard, bar, and home theater areas that make up the made-over basement.
For example, the homeowners can showcase the billiards area by activating three separate RGB LED tape lights around the ceiling cove. Each of the three lighting strips is 20 feet in length and can be controlled individually: The owners might choose red for one strip, blue for another, and green for the third. Similarly, they can select red for the entire billiards area, blue for the bar, and green for the media room. Or, they can unite all three areas by choosing one uniform cove color for the entire space.
A Dozen Scenes Accessible
“While the HomeWorks QS-controlled cove lighting effectively defines the individual spaces that make up the renovated basement, they just as aptly elicit mood and ambience. We crafted numerous scenes, any of which can be engaged from any of eight keypads or from a Savant mobile app on a tablet or smartphone,” says Nale. The Savant system is the overarching control system of the entire house, and lets the owners monitor and manage the lights, A/V equipment, motorized draperies, and thermostats.
“The bar area can become a disco; the billiard room can go from a bright, cheerful area to a more reserved, subdued space in the blink of an eye … or, more accurately, the touch of a button on a tablet or keypad,” says Nale.
Lutron Lends Valuable LED Advice
Although the HomeWorks QS system enables the basement to transition smoothly from one look to another, integrating a few of the specialty LED lights selected for the project proved an engineering challenge. But again, says Nale, Lutron stepped up to the plate. “One fixture in particular, a recessed MR-16 downlight from Juno, which is able to provide the same light output of a 4-inch fixture from a 2-inch platform, was the perfect source to showcase a piece of wall art as you descend the stairs,” Nale says. Unfortunately, the product was so new that Lutron hadn’t yet created a driver to allow it to be integrated with its systems. With help from Lutron engineers, however, it didn’t take Nale long to design his own solution, and since then the Juno recessed fixture has become the most widely used LED light in his arsenal at Gramophone, not to mention a fixture recommended to other dealers by Lutron.
Although Nale did the heavy lifting for the Juno integration, he notes that Lutron “goes to great lengths to test the compatibility of a wide range of LED bulbs with its systems. I wouldn’t have trusted any other company or system for this project. Lutron can recommend which lights work well and which to steer clear of to avoid flicker, and if you send them a bulb, they will bench test it for you.”
In addition to the extensive colored LED cove lighting and the pint-size Juno fixture, Gramophone also tied to the HomeWorks QS system Juno’s two-inch adjustable gimbal lights, Seagull’s Ambiance Mini-Recessed art accent, and six 5-foot-square Numinus starfield panels backlit with dimmable LED tape light in the theater portion of the basement. By dimming the LEDs, different effects can be achieved from these “clouds”: a bright night to a dark sky with twinkling stars. “We found that if you dim the tape LEDs enough, they look as if they are twinkling,” says Nale.
Photo Gallery: Go Inside This Beautiful LED-Lit Home
Marriage of Old and New Systems
The HomeWorks QS system was equally accommodating of systems that had been installed years ago by a different integrator in the upper levels of the 8,000-square foot home, including an older Lutron HomeWorks lighting system and Elan control system for whole-house audio and CCTV. “We married old and new together so that the owners could operate the systems upstairs and the electronics downstairs from the same Savant app,” says Nale. “But still, we credit much of the success of the basement renovation to the HomeWorks QS system and its ability to control such a wide variety of LED lights. Without the QS processor this project wouldn’t have come together as well as it did.”