• 03.12.2013
  • mission

Automated Lighting Systems: Unnecessary Luxuries OR 21st Century Home Standard Necessity?

Automated Lighting Systems: Unnecessary Luxuries OR 21st Century Home Standard Necessity?

“Cripes,” I mumbled below my breath, stumbling out of bed. “Always the spritely firecracker by day, but an insidious sleep-killer by night.”

It was 2am, and having stayed up late to work around the house, I was trying to get enough sleep to function in the morning. My younger daughter, who recently graduated from wearing pull-ups at night, cries out in the darkness. My dream of playing limbo on rollerskates with John Elway and Carmen Miranda fades to my familiar bedroom scene. The Sleep-Killer needed to go to the bathroom again.

Three-year-olds, you see, are short. Light switches are, well, less short. This means that when this toddler needs (or, as I suspect, arbitrarily decides) that she needs to go potty, she needs me to turn on the bathroom light. It’s undoubtedly pure coincidence that this invariably happens either when sleep is at a premium or when I’m:

on an important phone call taking a shower elbow-deep in wall paint weaving a tapestry of live electrical wires inside a thimble-sized junction box located in a remote, dimly-lit basement crawlspace

Enter a current advertising buzzword: solution. You may have noticed that many companies no longer offer products, services, or goods; they offer web security solutions, kitchen solutions, home entertainment solutions, etc. It makes sense, because we usually buy things that fit specific needs or wants, rather than for which we might later find a use. In my case, I sought a solution to my need for fewer sleep interruptions and my want to make her bathroom experiences much more autonomous.

Solution #1: stool.

Simply put, stools make kids taller. Result: she was able to reach the switch, but also the medicine cabinet, sink, soap, etc. This might sound good in theory, but it wasn’t too long before my crafty offspring discovered that new elevations afforded the freedom to “clean” the vanity countertop. If her intent was to use toilet paper, bar soap, and water to simulate how the Rolling Stones would do as a cleaning service, she nailed it. The stool also blocked the bathroom door from opening or closing, so between that, a few tripping incidents, and the clogged sink, it was clearly time to consider other options.

Solution #2: move the light switch to a lower position.

This would’ve been a simple enough solution, but cutting a new hole in the wall, patching and painting the old one, installing the junction box, and possibly fishing longer wire in the wall to reach the new box? That’s a hassle, whether for me or an installation professional, especially for something I’d want to reverse once the kid is knee-high to a slightly larger grasshopper.

Solution #3: replace the old light switch with an occupancy sensor.

Here, it seemed, was a solution so obvious that I should’ve thought of it first. The light would sense movement and turn on, and my groggy tot wouldn’t even have to break stride in her toddle to the toilet. I decided on a Lutron® Maestro sensor, and tested it before introducing her to it. Because it was on the same wall as the bathroom, I was concerned that it might not sense a body until it was well into the room, or possibly not sense small children at all. I crawled into the bathroom to probe this, and before my waist had even crossed the threshold, I found myself bathed in vanity globe lights. My concerns? Alleviated.

Allowing the unsuspecting toddler discover the bathroom herself, I observed as she walked into the bathroom. Before her hand was anywhere near the switch, the lights came on, and her eyes widened. She rushed to tell her sister of this fantastic sorcery, and I scored it as a success. Save Energy With LutronJust as wonderful is that I can set the switch’s automatic shutoff time, so no more will I return home to find that bathroom lights have been on for hours or even days.

All told, automated lighting once seemed an unnecessary luxury, but now I can hardly walk through a room without seeing a way an occupancy sensor, automatic dimmer, or whole-house control. My foyer (which I believe is actually pronounced “place where I trip over the slightest thing while carrying armloads of groceries or sleeping kids in from the car at night”) shall be forever changed by a wireless remote in my vehicle. When I stay out later than planned, and want a light to come on for my dog or give the false impression that someone is home, I’ll use a phone or tablet app for iOS or Android.

“Unnecessary luxury”? I think not. Try “new staple in my home security, safety, and sanity.” And, as a week of anecdotal testing with the toddler has shown, a sleep-saver. Contact The Guest Author: Brad Smith Contact Gramophone about getting a lighting system like this in your home!