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Remember those old sixties’ movie comedies depicting men in their “bachelor pads,” blithely flipping a few switches to make the place transform into a den of romance? Music would begin playing, lights would dim, drapes would close, and a fully stocked wet bar would appear from behind electronically controlled doors.

Today’s homeowners need not collect old movies to experience automatic systems such as these, particularly in lighting their homes. Programmable lighting is alive and well in the American home, becoming more and more sophisticated as our ever-technical world goes ‘round.

Of all the reasons consumers would consider installing a programmable lighting system, one of the most popular has to do with the “night owls” among us. Safety and theatrical effects notwithstanding, who wouldn’t want to be able to press a single button and light a path to the ‘fridge at 3 a.m.? And how many times do we yell at our kids to turn off lights, realizing that our requests are falling on well-intentioned deaf ears? Lighting control systems enable homeowners to control lighting use, its intensity, and its schedule to achieve a heightened sense of security as well as more dramatic and practical uses.

As an example, GE’s SmartOne system allows the homeowner to control groups of lights or all the lights in a home from a single switch. The “entertain” scene will illuminate landscaping, highlight living areas where guests will linger, and turn off lights in areas the homeowner considers off-limits to guests. Different lighting levels are programmed into the system and can be made to brighten or dim at different rates. Some of the other modes it employs are vacation modes, sleep modes, party time settings, home theater levels, romance-time, emergency programs, relaxation time, and reading modes. Other companies that provide programmable lighting systems are Vantage Controls, LiteTouch, PHAST and Lutron Electronics.

With energy concerns permeating our daily news, any low-voltage lighting used as part of a programmable lighting system can also contribute to conservation efforts nationwide. A lighting contractor’s installer can set the programs for each different scene so that they are easily recalled, and sequencing can be set up as well. Installing controls on wall-mounted keypads, the consumer can select how many buttons they want included, and how many keypad locations are appropriate for their home.

Still want to play out the movie scene? These systems can include the automation of functions such as curtain closing or shade lowering, home theater screen operations, and other creature comfort uses.

For security purposes, the technology can be set up to network with a home’s alarm system, with lighting becoming an important element in a home’s safety and defense. Special sensors are activated, transmitting signals to the lighting system, resulting in flashing lights and a fully illuminated house. The system can also be programmed to respond to fire alarms so that frightened occupants needs not hunt for light switches in the dark to escape.

Although the average consumer may think programmable lighting as affordable only to commercial businesses and high-rise office buildings, the newer programmable lighting systems are not as out-of-reach as one may assume, considering how much homeowners now spend on other extras on their homes.

And with conveniences such as this at our fingertips, perhaps we can create our own generation of romantic comedies, espionage tales, and elegant entertainment scenes.

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