Lighting control systems are a part of every home systems integrator’s product portfolio, and a growing number of homeowners are putting it on their home improvement wish lists. Right there with audio, video, and security, systems that control a home’s light fixtures based on certain scripted parameters have become increasingly popular elements of a smart home. But are you maximizing all that this type of lighting has to offer? Just because a light fixture is smart doesn’t mean that it’s doing its job completely.
And no matter how much intelligence is built into a lighting control system, it takes the right type of fixture, the right positioning of those fixtures, and the right design to maximize the full benefits of smart home lighting.
For this reason, AV professionals who also design and sell lighting fixtures–in addition to lighting control systems–stand to boost revenues and differentiate themselves from their competition. For homeowners, buying both the control system and the fixtures from one source – as well as AV systems and other smart home solutions – can save a lot of home construction headaches.
Rolling light fixture supply and installation into an AV professional’s scope of work may seem like a really good idea in theory, but the lighting business can be tricky. Lighting touches every aspect of a home building project: the electrical and low-voltage wiring, the architecture, and interior and furnishings can all have an impact on a lighting design, so the more you know about these areas of expertise, the better you’ll be at selecting the appropriate fixtures, positioning them for the desired effect, and developing good working relationships with everyone on the jobsite.
Depending on who brings an AV specialist onto the project–the architect, interior designer, or builder–you’ll want to align the lighting design with their individual expectations. For example, if it’s the architect, pay close attention to the structural details of the home when specifying and installing the fixtures. Interior designer? Know what colors, furnishings, and other décor are planned for the space.
What’s the Trick?
In his presentation at the CEDIA Leadership Conference, held in Chicago recently, professional lighting designer Peter Romaniello of Conceptual Lighting, LLC, South Windsor, Conn., offered advice on how to create and implement a lighting plan that enhances every aspect of a home–its design, functionality, and the lifestyle of the people who live there.
“It’s an interesting time in the lighting market,” he remarked. “There is a great opportunity for AV professionals to get into the business of designing and supplying lighting, but if they approach it in the wrong way, it can turn out to be a real mess for everyone involved.” Here are some of his tips to ensure profitability for installers and satisfaction for their clients.
Know Your Fixtures
“You can have the greatest, most expensive light fixture in the world, but if it’s placed in the wrong spot, it offers no benefit,” Romaniello said.
Consequently, anyone who sells and installs lighting should not just know about the fixtures’ capabilities, but also how to best integrate them into the design of a home. By the same token, you can have a great lighting design, but if you put in cheap fixtures, you are also missing the boat. Fixture selection and lighting design must go hand-in-hand to enable elegant, useful, and easily controllable illumination.
Know Who’s in Charge
Lighting supply and design can fall into the lap of a variety of different contractors, each of whom approaches the project with different objectives in mind. Generally speaking, if an architect is in charge, his main goal is to ensure that the fixtures line up with moldings, doorways, and other structural elements. The interior designer, meanwhile, might focus on finding fixtures that are as small as possible to pose less visual conflict with the furnishings, artwork, and other decorative features. An electrical contractor looks at cost, a lighting showroom consultant weighs his/her choice of fixture on what’s in stock, and a professional lighting designer selects fixtures based on what will get the job done right regardless of cost.
AV professionals getting into the business of lighting supply and installation often come at it from an angle of “which fixtures are compatible with my chosen smart dimming system?” There’s nothing wrong with this manner of thinking. After all, it’s important that fixtures can be easily dimmed to the appropriate levels to achieve the right effect. But, an AV professional can bring so much more to the table by mastering the selection and design of those lights.
Can the “Can” Reference
Architectural blueprints pinpoint the locations of all the recessed light fixtures planned for a home. It is a necessary part of the home design and construction process but can backfire if the exact types of fixtures for each location aren’t clearly specified.
“Saying just ‘recessed light’ leaves too much to interpretation,” Romaniello explained. “It’s like saying we need a subwoofer, without specifying the exact make and model.” You might end up with a cheap $50 fixture when you really need a $150 unit to get the job done right. Or you might get a recessed downlight when you need a recessed wall washer.
Another tip from Romaniello: Stop calling recessed lights “cans.” It demeans the capabilities and sophistication of today’s top light fixtures.”
The Waiting Game
Don’t expect recessed light to wind up on your doorstep the day after you order them. They take a long time to get from point A to point B–as long as four weeks after the lighting distributor orders them, according to Romaniello. “Light fixtures aren’t just sitting on a shelf; they go through many channels to get to the jobsite. Homeowners might expect to wait several weeks for custom cabinetry; it’s the same for quality light fixtures.”
Talk Percentage Not Price
Sticker shock happens during the construction of a home. For many people, $3,000 for light fixtures might be a tough pill to swallow, but when it’s stated as one percent of the overall cost of a home, it goes down a lot easier.
“Always talk in percentages,” Romaniello advised. “It gives homeowners a good idea of where lighting sits in comparison to other amenities, like AV equipment.”
Another way to soften the blow, he suggested, is to make lighting a part of the FF&E (furniture, fixtures, and equipment) budget rather than the construction budget. “Items included in the construction budget are often perceived as commodities–something to try to save money on.” When lighting is part of the FF&E budget, along with things like AV, it’s seen more as a luxury item, something that’s supposed to be expensive. “AV can often be 10 percent of an FF&E,” Romaniello said. Why not include something as important as light fixtures?
Play Up the Importance of Lighting
Everyone knows their home needs lighting. What homeowners and even home building professionals may not realize is that all fixtures are not created equal. The range of capabilities, styles, and prices run the gamut, and proper design of those fixtures–even the very best ones on the market–can be the difference between mediocre and magnificent home illumination. By understanding the tricks of the lighting selection and installation trade, both AV integrators and homeowners stand to reap the benefits of home lighting that’s functional, elegant, and easy to operate.