Month: February 2010

Controls Friday: Creating a True Home Theater Experience with Lighting Controls

Home theaters are a popular addition to many homes, according to the Consumer Electronics Association, which estimated that by the end of 2004, one-third of U.S. households owned a home…

Home theaters are a popular addition to many homes, according to the Consumer Electronics Association, which estimated that by the end of 2004, one-third of U.S. households owned a home theater system, up from about one-fifth at the end of 1999.

The addition of a home theater creates special demands on the lighting and controls. A good lighting and control design can dramatically enhance the convenience, comfort and atmosphere of home theater viewing.

Below are several tips for ensuring the lighting and control system helps produce the highly desired home cinema experience.

Layer the lighting
The first step to designing the lighting of a home theater space is to remember that it will first be experienced as a non-theater space. The lighting must therefore be flexible enough to perform two very different tasks.

Good residential lighting design typically involves layering ambient, accent and task lighting to create interesting contrasts and establish focal points, or points of interest where attention is focused. Remember: The eye tends toward the brightest object in the field of vision.

For example, when guests enter the home theater space, their eyes can be drawn to movie posters or some other art displayed on the walls, punched by recessed “accent” lighting. Similarly, decorative wall sconces provide ambient lighting and can serve as wall art; some sconces are specially designed to add a decorative touch and enhance the theater atmosphere for home theaters. Recessed downlights also provide ambient lighting and should not be mounted directly over the seats, as this may cause discomfort; choose small-aperture recessed light fixtures that feature aiming adjustments. Ceiling lighting can be decorative, such as a fiber-optic starry sky, indirect or colorful LED lighting. Steplights can be included, which should be on all the time during viewing for safety purposes. And task lights, which can be a simple table lamp, enable the home theater to used for reading, sewing or other intensive tasks during non-theater times.

For all layers, the lighting equipment should make sense—that is, be placed within a total design that does not appear cluttered or overdone (lighting is a supporting actor and a foil at that, there to make everything else in the room look good). The light distribution should be muted, soft, so as to avoid glare and excessive contrast between the lights themselves and surrounding dark surfaces, as we will likely be using dark paints.

Most people associated the experience of being at a “theater in the home” with watching media in virtual total darkness, just as would happen at a movie theater. This is especially desirable when a front-projection system is used, as too high an ambient light level can wash out the image; total darkness is often recommended.

Note, however, that a bright screen in a very dark room may appear too bright due to excessive contrast and result in eyestrain, particularly if the contrasting light and dark are in direct view. In this case, additional lighting producing low ambient light in the space such as wall lighting or wallwashing— as long as it does not interfere with the video presentation—can reduce contrast and increase visual comfort.

Lighting controls take center stage
Each layer (called channels or zones) in the design should be separately controlled by a lighting control system to create scenes or moods for different space uses and give the homeowner convenient ability to set optimal conditions for media viewing.

Because designing to produce perfect lighting conditions can become difficult, the lighting should be dimmable, which allows occupants to reduce light levels until the ideal balance between viewing and visual comfort is achieved. Incandescent or halogen lamps are recommended for their trouble-free dimmability, high lighting quality and ability to create a warm and inviting space. Dimmable compact fluorescents are not recommended for this application because of dimming performance and lighting quality issues.

The lighting can be controlled by a wall-mounted keypad or a handheld remote that communicates to the dimmers and can also control motorized wall coverings and the media system. This will not only impress the homeowner’s friends, it will dramatically increase convenience and ease of use: Ideal lighting scenes can be recalled from memory at the press of a button. It’s also green: Dimming reduces wattage, which saves energy.

For example, we press a button labeled “Movie” and: Wall sconces that are on at full light output during non-theater use of the space can be dimmed but still produce low-level ambient light for media viewing. And: Overhead lighting, which normally is on at full light output, slowly and gently fades to off (or a very low level). And: Steplights, which are normally off, come on at 75-100% light output and stay on throughout media viewing.

This one scene quickly establishes a cinema atmosphere before the show even begins.

Paints and finishes matter
Room surface colors and finishes should be considered carefully as they relate to both the lighting design and also the media itself as a light source.

Regarding finish, paints can be gloss, semi-gloss, eggshell (or satin) or flat, with each progressively less shiny than the previous. If a glossy finish is used for walls, light from the screen can be reflected on adjacent walls, which can be very distracting. Additionally, if a front-projection system is used, light striking glossy room surfaces can be reflected back onto the image on the screen and reduce image quality.

As a result, it’s recommended to use a non-reflective (flat) finish for walls adjacent to the viewing screen and also ceilings.

Regarding color, note that light is made up of colors; shine a flashlight through a prism and a rainbow will be emitted from the prism. One of light’s color properties is to absorb color from surfaces it is reflected from. As a result, a blue wall reflects bluer light and bright movie scenes will assume a bluish hue.

As a result, it’s recommend to use a very dark or neutral finish for the walls, while the ceiling should be very dark.

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Taiwan International Lighting Show Set for March 12-15, 2010

The Taiwan International Lighting Show will be held March 12-15, 2010, with more than 150 exhibitors presenting their products in 390 booths. The event will include market promotion activities including…

The Taiwan International Lighting Show will be held March 12-15, 2010, with more than 150 exhibitors presenting their products in 390 booths. The event will include market promotion activities including Procurement meetings, Lighting Industry Elite Award, New Products Display and other networking and marketing opportunities. The Forum will feature experts from Philips, GE LED Asia, Future Electronics, Tridonic and others.

For more information, and to register, click here.

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52 SSL Product Designs in 52 Weeks

My friend and colleague, LED expert Kevin Willmorth, recently told me that he has set an ambitious goal of designing and producing 52 all new solid-state lighting based product designs…

My friend and colleague, LED expert Kevin Willmorth, recently told me that he has set an ambitious goal of designing and producing 52 all new solid-state lighting based product designs over the 52 weeks of 2010.

“The idea is to demonstrate that LEDs are not only here and now, but far easier to design around than many are making of them—as well as just exploring the design possibilities of this new technology,” he says.

He’s already got some great new designs completed. Get caught up, and then follow his progress, here and here.

Got your own idea you’d like to see him build? Let him know!

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People: North Star Lighting Appoints Tom Rotkis President

North Star Lighting, Inc. has announced that Tom Rotkis, formerly Vice President of Marketing and Sales, has been promoted to President. In addition to his new responsibilities, Tom will continue…

North Star Lighting, Inc. has announced that Tom Rotkis, formerly Vice President of Marketing and Sales, has been promoted to President. In addition to his new responsibilities, Tom will continue to lead North Star Lighting’s market expansion in the areas of solid state lighting, sports and architainment, tunnel, bridge marine and
hazardous lighting applications.

North Star Lighting, Inc. has developed and manufactured lighting products for over 37 years for commercial, industrial, architectural and specialty areas including sports, tunnel, bridge, marine and hazardous lighting applications. North Star Lighting
also represents Thorn Lighting in the North American market.

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Cooper Lighting Announces 2010 Class Schedule for the SOURCE

Cooper Lighting has released the 2010 SOURCE calendar of educational classes for the lighting and design community. The SOURCE lighting education facility is located at Cooper Lighting’s headquarters in Peachtree…

Cooper Lighting has released the 2010 SOURCE calendar of educational classes for the lighting and design community. The SOURCE lighting education facility is located at Cooper Lighting’s headquarters in Peachtree City, Georgia, and offers a wide variety of seminars designed to broaden the understanding of lighting and its applications. The SOURCE has been servicing the lighting industry for over 18 years and to date.

This year, the SOURCE will be hosting seminars in a few off-site locations including Chicago, Illinois and Houston, Texas as noted below. Current available seminars/workshops for 2010 at a glance are:

March
IDEC Fundamentals for Lighting Educators – $150
March 23-24

April
Advanced IRiS Solutions – $350
April 8-9

Healthcare Lighting Solutions (Houston, Texas) – $350
April 15-16

Lighting Fundamentals/Lighting Basics – $500
April 28-30

June
Lighting Fundamentals/Lighting Basics – $500
June 2-4

Energy Solutions for Commercial and Industrial Lighting Design (Chicago, Ill.) – $350
June 21-22

Healthcare Lighting Solutions (Chicago, Ill.) – $350
June 24-25

August
LED Exterior Lighting Design Solutions – $350
August 10-11

LED and Control Basics – No Fee
August 17

September
Lighting Fundamentals/Lighting Basics – $500
September 15-17

October
Healthcare Lighting Solutions – $350
October 4-5

Energy Solutions for Commercial and Industrial Lighting Design (Houston, Tex.) – $350
October 21-22

LED and Energy Efficient Retail Lighting Solutions Workshop – $500
October 27-29

November
LED Exterior Lighting Solutions – $350
November 11-12

December
Fundamentals and Lighting Basics for Contractors and Distributors – $500
December 1-3

Residential Lighting Solutions Workshop – $350
December 6-7

For more information, click here.

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NEMA’s Business Confidence Indexes Post Positive Results to Kick Off 2010

NEMA’s Electroindustry Business Confidence Index (EBCI) for current North American conditions rebounded in January, rising nearly 9 points to 57.1. The index is derived from responses to a survey circulated…

NEMA’s Electroindustry Business Confidence Index (EBCI) for current North American conditions rebounded in January, rising nearly 9 points to 57.1.

The index is derived from responses to a survey circulated to senior executives of NEMA member companies, and a value above 50 indicates that more respondents reported that the business environment improved from the previous month than reported that it worsened. The index had fallen below 50 in December for the first time in five months, but this latest reading suggests that the modest improvements in conditions that characterized much of the second half of 2009 have persisted into early 2010.

Moreover, the EBCI for future North American conditions pushed further upward in January while posting its second consecutive monthly gain. Rising 14.3 points to 78.6, the index recorded an eleventh straight reading above 50, and reached its highest level since December 2004. This result reflects widespread sentiment that business conditions will improve over the next six months.

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Code Watch: Green Construction Standards Enter National Code Stage

Green construction codes and standards are beginning to emerge on the national code stage. The standards go beyond energy standards such as 90.1 and the International Energy Conservation Code (IECC)…

Green construction codes and standards are beginning to emerge on the national code stage. The standards go beyond energy standards such as 90.1 and the International Energy Conservation Code (IECC) to cover additional areas such as site sustainability, water efficiency, indoor environmental quality and materials and resources.

This is the subject of a new whitepaper I have authored for the Lighting Controls Association, available for a free read here.

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Advanced Energy Design Guidance Offered for Small Hospitals and Healthcare Facilities

The Advanced Energy Design Guide (AEDG) for Small Hospitals and Healthcare Facilities is designed to provide recommendations for achieving 30 percent energy savings over the minimum code requirements of ASHRAE/IES…

The Advanced Energy Design Guide (AEDG) for Small Hospitals and Healthcare Facilities is designed to provide recommendations for achieving 30 percent energy savings over the minimum code requirements of ASHRAE/IES Standard 90.1-1999.

The Guide focuses on small healthcare facilities up to 90,000 sq.ft., including acute care facilities, outpatient surgery centers, critical access hospitals and inpatient community hospitals.

The energy efficiency recommendations in the Guide were developed based on design experiences from members of a project committee made up of healthcare facilities design professionals, combined with the insight gained from modeling the energy performance of these specific recommendations.

Some tips that the Guide offers include carefully laying out lighting design to meet recommended lighting power density by space type, while maximizing the use of daylighting and daylighting-responsive controls through both sidelighting and toplighting strategies in all space types that do not have air change requirements.

Learn more, and download a free copy, here.

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Finally, Something Most Americans Can Agree On

Sorry, this post has nothing to do with lighting, but is of vital importance to every citizen of the United States. According to a new Washington Post-ABC News poll, a…

Sorry, this post has nothing to do with lighting, but is of vital importance to every citizen of the United States.

According to a new Washington Post-ABC News poll, a large majority of Americans–Democrats, Republicans and Independents–strongly oppose the Supreme Court’s decision last month to allow corporations to spend as much as they want on political campaigns.

Let’s hope Congress can do something right and fix the nightmarishly wrong Supreme Court decision before our republic is completely corrupted.

Click here if you want to get directly involved.

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