Remote-Controlled Lighting

Get all the info you'll need on remote controlled lighting for home automation, and get ready to create an efficient and economical lighting system in your home.


Photo by: Photographer: Ryan & Jennifer HeCopyright: 1 Sound Choice, LLC.

Photographer: Ryan & Jennifer HeCopyright: 1 Sound Choice, LLC.

By: Sean McEvoy

If you're in the market for a new home automation system or looking to upgrade an existing one, you've likely given some thought to a remote-controlled lighting feature. One of the most popular home automation system components, remote-controlled lighting allows homeowners to control the operation and intensity of a home's internal and external lighting by using any of several remote technology choices.

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When the mercury climbs and the sweat is never-ending, we’ve all heard someone remark that it’s “hot enough to fry an egg on the sidewalk.” But with solar cookers, you don't need a scorching hot summer day to harness the sun to cook your food. You don’t even need summer … or above-freezing temperatures. You just need the sun’s rays and the right equipment. In as few as 20 minutes, solar grills like the GoSun Sport (pictured) will reach temperatures of 550°F / 290°C, cooking your meal through the power of the sun.

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Inflatable Solar Emergency Lantern

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Solar Garden and Patio Fountains

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Artistic Garden Light Fixtures

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Solar-Powered Outdoor Audio Speakers

Whether you’re camping, hanging out at the pool or working in your garden, it’s nice to have the sound and security of a radio with you. What’s not nice is having to worry about its battery life. Solar-powered speakers take that concern away, and many, like the Eton Rugged Ruckus (pictured) can even act as a portable battery and allow you to charge small devices like mobile phones.

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Your attic space is one of the hottest areas in your home, and your roof takes the brunt of the sun’s rays. Add those two factors together and suddenly it’s clear why a solar-powered attic fan makes sense for a lot of homeowners. Attic heat barriers and insulation are critical parts of energy efficient homes, but solar attic fans can further lower temperatures in your attic space, taking a load off your AC … and as a result, your pocketbook. 

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Solar-Powered Pool Heaters

For in-ground pools, solar-powered pool heaters are panels installed on the roof similar to solar panels. Water moves through small tubes in the panels and is constantly heated and redirected to the pool, and cool water is recirculated through the panel, keeping the pool warm via the solar array.

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Solar-Powered Water Heaters

The two main types of solar water heater systems, active (which has pumps and controls) and passive (which doesn’t), both include the same basic parts, such as storage tanks and solar collectors. While active systems are somewhat pricier, they also allow for more flexibility in design, like hiding the storage tank. Because solar-powered water heaters have a variety of options and details, such as water needs, geography and aesthetic concerns, it’s best to research and then discuss your interest with a contractor experienced in installation and maintaining solar water heater systems.

Roof-Mounted Photovoltaic Panels

Roof-mounted solar panels are nothing new, but if you think your options are relegated to the same chunks of black photovoltaic cells from 20 years ago, here’s news to brighten your day: solar panels have come a long way, baby. Not only are the current thinner-profile residential solar panels less of an eyesore, they’re also much more efficient at soaking up the sun’s rays and converting them into energy, which means you’ll need fewer of them to meet your home’s energy needs. 

Solar Shingles

If you still can’t see yourself as a solar panel person, but you live in a sun-drenched climate and love the idea of lowering your energy bills with solar technology, things are looking up for you. Literally: up on the roof! No, not PV panels, but photovoltaic shingles. That’s right: Solar shingles that double as energy-savers and roofing material could be the next big thing in rooftop solar savings. This low-profile, high-tech roofing option can typically handle between 30-60% of the energy consumption of the home it’s installed on.

The first thing you'll need to do as you plan a remote-controlled lighting scheme is determine which control system is best for your home. There are several to choose from, and each type offers varying levels of complexity, ease of use and reliability.

At the most basic level, plug-in light control allows homeowners to control lighting function and intensity easily from within the home. Plug in light controls work simply by plugging directly in to the home's electrical grid—a radio frequency (RF)-controlled module plugs into an outlet, and the homeowner can manually control the intensity and operation of any lighting connected to that outlet (generally up to around eight individual lamps). A remote control is used to control the lights, and can generally function from up to 150 feet away. This simple system may be appealing for smaller spaces and can also be set up to operate automatically via a timer, but it should be noted that RF-controlled remote schemes are often subject to interference, signal failure and range issues.

The next level of complexity involves using your TV's universal remote to control your lighting scheme. Usually, this simply involves plugging the radio frequency controlled hub and an accompanying sensor into an electrical outlet near your TV. You'll need to set up your universal remote with a pre-programmed code to control the hub, and replace any wall switches in the area with remote-controlled switches able to communicate with the hub, and program each switch as well. Once the remote, hub and switches are communicating with one another, your in-room remote-controlled lighting scheme is ready for duty.

Finally, the ability to take advantage of wireless technology is always an appealing feature of any home automation system. It's no different with remote-controlled lighting, and the latest products will almost always include the option to operate wirelessly. One of the most popular features of these products is the ability to control the lighting inside or outside your home with your smartphone or other wireless device. To utilize this feature, it's usually necessary to connect a light control hub to your wireless router, which will then relay lighting control information to your smart device. This way, you should be able to send information to your lighting automation system from anywhere with internet access.

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