Lighting Control Design

Lighting control seems to be one of the must have options for the educated homeowners and the market is just exploding with new products. My questions and comments lie with trying to take my lighting control offerings to the highest level of benefits possible for my clients.

1. Very low mounted keypads, do any of you spec keypad height? While a normal toggle works at lower heights because all that is involved is the hand with very little eye contact. But with a keypad it is an equal task between eye and finger and in MHO requires a higher mounting height. I think while 48" will work, about 55" works better and this depends on other items. (Dist. Audio and etc.)

2. Scenes vs. Loads? Now I know that you can't say "in all cases†But in MHO buttons that turn on a single load should be used very little in good lighting control design. I recently was having a conversion with a client that I was working with on some scene settings and the original layout has 4-8 button keypads with no scenes just individual loads such as: recessed, sconces, art, fireplace and etc. you get the picture. While the wall was cleaned up and nice looking the lighting levels were awful and you still had to press all those buttons. I think a keypad should have an all on 100% and an all off along with 2-3 scenes that the customer really uses and has the ability to ramp those scenes up and down together as a group if needed.

3. Do you guys make adjustments of the levels in the real world environment for each scene? I try to go through the house after dark and work with the client on each scene with maybe an end result like this: Dining scene-Under cabinet 75%, Fill light recessed 60%, Table Lamps 60%, Art 80%, and Table recessed 50%. On many of the homes that I get to work in that maybe I wasn't the controls designer. I see the above loads done this way: Scene 1 all lights 80%, 2 all lights 50% and etc. Maybe I am just crazy, but isn't this what it’s all about?

4. Do you have a repetitive and easily learned layout to as many of the keypads as possible throughout the home? This is something that I am really working on and I continue to struggle with. I like the top button all on and off 100%, second button most used scene, third button second most used scene, and then maybe control of single loads if needed. Also I like a ramp up and down for the last scene selected in some cases. Do you have a most used keypad layout?

5. Outside the home theater and maybe an input from the home security during an alarm do you normally integrate lighting with any other systems? Home theater IR or other input control is normal for me along with the lights should do blank during an alarm but that's it for me. I have to admit that I do mostly lighting and Controls so are my customers missing out on something since I might be a little biased in the area? What do you pull in to the lighting controls?

6. Do you use motion sensor control inside the home? I like it for control of pathways after say 11:00. Example would be hall and bath on to 20% after 11:00pm and before dawn upon motion. I also use them in stairways and just use door jambs in closets. How much or where do you use motion control of lighting?

7. Most customers don't know much about lighting control and in new construction a lot of the time there are no lighting design plans or specification of loads. So how to you give estimates in the early stages? Per square foot, Per load, or what? I have done lighting designs for the plan, but that is a hard sell just to get an accurate estimate or have the electrical contractor and homeowner walk the home and mark the plan. Do any of you have a system that works for early estimates?

8. The keypads look is what sales, what is your favorite? I like the Colorado Vnet touchpad, the Lutron keypad, and the New Clipsal line is pretty slick.

9. Number 9 is just a comment and goal of mine in lighting control that is very hard and has to be a constant task for us that stay up all night learning these systems and think or clients will understand also.

"Any intelligent fool can make things bigger and more takes a touch of genius and lot of courage to move in the opposite direction."
Albert Einstein

Thanks for taking the time to read this and any comments would be greatly appreciated and respected.
Excellent points. I'd like to see the comments from other people as all points are very interesting. I have a couple of questions/comments:

3. Where can I learn more about lightning design? Are there good references/guides in internet? My knowledge in this area is extremely limited. Were I live (Puerto Rico) even mid-to-high class residences have only a single light per room, usually in the center of the room (ceiling), so no scenes are possible unless specially ordered lighning is installed. And, since all houses are in concrete (no wood or gypsum board), we are talking about big money.

4. I have tried to make my keypad design visitor friendly. Especially in the common areas. Visitor need to know which is the main button to press when they enter to a dark room. Otherwise they might feel threatened by the many similarly looking options. For this purpose I have choosen the 1-rocker+4-buttons faceplates. In this configuration the rocker controls the main load/scene why the buttons support more advanced functions. I definitively would not use a keypad in which all buttons look the same regardless of how nice do they look.