Words by Tracy Nicholson & Jamie DeJean
Photography by J. Alan Paul Photography

In new construction homes, options like centralized lighting are often overlooked. With the potential to drastically reduce the number of light switches and increase functionality, lighting systems offer a wide range of options and benefits. To help homeowners break through the wall clutter, we contacted Jamie DeJean of Smart Home Technologies to shed some light on the benefits of a Centralized Lighting System. To show how these systems work, DeJean took us on a tour of a Heritage Homes stunner belonging to builder Tyrone Leslie. Located in South Fargo’s Rocking Horse Farm development, this home is full of bright ideas you need to know before you build.

What is Centralized Lighting?
“Centralized Lighting Systems allow us to replace groups of light switches with a single lighting control keypad. We do this in an effort to eliminate banks of several unlabeled light switches at every location where the ability to turn on lights is desired. This reduces the amount of wall clutter and makes your lighting easier and more intuitive to operate,” said Jamie DeJean, owner of Smart Home Technologies in West Fargo. “In Tyrone’s house, there are multiple lights in the great room. For this room, he simply needs to push one button, labeled “Great Room” and it will turn off the recessed can lights, fireplace accent lights and the cove accent lights. This doesn’t take away your ability to still run individual lights separately, there are other buttons for each of these different lights as well. It does provide simplified, labeled and illuminated buttons that allow for a better user experience whether you are a homeowner or a guest in the home.”

“Lighting control is one of the unique home features that Smart Home Technologies offers our clients,” said DeJean. “There are other places that offer home music, TVs and surround sound, but lighting control is one of the things we take a lot of pride specializing in. We work closely with several Fargo-Moorhead and lakes area electricians. We provide the lighting control equipment and programming. The installation is completed by a licensed electrician, such as JDP Electric who wired the Leslie home.”

The Outdated Alternative
As DeJean explained, the outdated alternative is to do things the traditional way by including a light switch for every location control is needed. In a typical kitchen and great room, that means a separate light switch or dimmer for the recessed lighting, cove accent lights, fireplace accent lights, pendants, under-cabinet lights and the list goes on. “For an area like this, you would typically need eight to ten unlabeled light switches, all of which require wall space and can take away from the aesthetics of the room,” said DeJean. If this sounds cumbersome to you, a Lighting Control System may be just the thing for you.

Simplify & Set the Scene
In order to simplify and declutter, DeJean’s team installed a system where the Leslies have the ability to either turn on whole scenes in a room or control individual fixtures. “It’s so much easier to just turn the whole kitchen on or the whole great room from one location, instead of searching for light switches spread around the room. As you move around to each of the keypads, the functions change based on the room,” said DeJean.

“You can also set up scenes, so if you want to have an evening scene for entertaining, you can program it so everything comes on to a certain level. You might have the island lights a little brighter, dim down the recessed lights, or bring up the accent lights to emphasize the stonework of the fireplace wall a bit more.”

How do I set a scene?
“There are a couple of different ways to set a lighting scene,” explained DeJean. “During the initial installation, we set the original keypad layout and scenes based on our experience of what past clients have enjoyed. We have two different systems. One is for the client who is hands-off and wants us to handle everything. Then there’s one for the homeowner who’s a little more involved. We give those clients the ability to set everything themselves. They’re able to pick what the buttons are, how they’re labeled, and everything they do.”

“Homeowners are also able to control everything from their iPads, iPhones, Androids or dedicated touch panels,” said DeJean. “The touch panels are built into the wall. They have a dedicated purpose, controlling the home automation system. They act much quicker than tablets and phones and they’re always in that consistent spot where you can find them.”

Motion Sensing Light
Arriving home with a Centralized Lighting System is probably a feature you’ve always wanted but never knew existed.”When you walk in the door into a dark entryway, it can sense motion, so the lights in the buttons will illuminate so you can read them. When you come in the door with your arms full of groceries, there’s a “Home” button you can push that will illuminate the mudroom into the foyer, down the hallway and into the kitchen and great room. On the way out the door, Tyrone can simply push the “Away” button and it will shut all of the lights off at one time.”

Managing Media
The Leslie home also has whole-house video and audio. Instead of having equipment in all of the different rooms like a Blu-Ray player, a media streaming piece like AppleTV, cable box or satellite box, it all goes downstairs into a central equipment rack. “Having a central rack allows the different rooms to have access to all of the home’s sources,” said DeJean. “It eliminates clutter and having multiple boxes in each of the rooms. It also helps parents do things like monitoring what their children are viewing. If you’re in the master bedroom and you want to see what the kids are watching in the theater, you can easily do that.”

Theater Room

On the lower level, the Leslies opted for a state-of-the-art theater room with a projector and 120” screen. “We have it set up down here so if it’s game day you can have the same game playing on the projector and the pool room television or you can have two different games playing at the same time,” said DeJean.

“There are multiple interfaces that can be used to control the home’s entertainment systems. You can use your iPhones, iPads or the Universal Remote Controls. The remote control is the interface that anyone could operate, even a guest who has never used the system. If you want to watch TV, all you do is pick the remote control and select TiVo. This turns on the projector and surround system, selects all of the correct inputs and then gives you only the controls you need. No matter what room they go into, the remote controls operate the same and they have access to all of the same sources.”

Setting up your System
If you’re not interested in adding this feature to your entire house, DeJean suggests starting with the primary living spaces of your home including kitchen, living room, and master suite. These are the areas that tend to have the most light switches, so they benefit the most from a simplified Lighting Control System. “With three light switches in the great room, four in the kitchen, two in the dining room, the number of light switches can really add up fast. Managing your lighting on the main floor makes a lot of sense. Then, from there if you wanted to add on things like the family room or other bedrooms, those can always go in later. If the home’s already built, it obviously doesn’t reduce down the number of switches on the wall, but they still can tie into a similar system with the same level of control.”

Alexa Integration
Adding one more feature to simplify everyday tasks, the Leslie home has Alexa Integration. “Their Alexa device has the ability to control an array of functions in the house. We can control the lights, music, heating and cooling,” said DeJean. “It’s as easy as telling Alexa what temperature you want her to change the room to. You can also use this to turn music on and off in different rooms.”

“We’re no longer in the early stages of voice control with devices like Amazon Alexa and Google Home to control our homes. This is now a feature that clients are specifically requesting. This gives you the ability to turn on a series of lights with a simple voice command. For example, you could tell Alexa to turn on the “Home” lights and it would turn on main lights in the mudroom, hallway, foyer, kitchen and great room as you walk in the door.”

Astronomical Timers
As DeJean will tell you, a truly smart home is high-functioning on both the interior and exterior. Leslie’s Centralized Lighting System also runs the outside lights on what’s called an Astronomical Timer. “Instead of turning on at 6:00 p.m. every day and turning off at 11:00 p.m., it looks for what time the sun sets and rises for the area,” said DeJean. “So, for Tyrone’s house, we have it set for sunset to turn on the lights on the outside of the house and at 11:00 p.m. it turns off the exterior lights on the front of the house and the exterior on the back of the house if they were on. Then we have it programmed to leave the landscape lights on until sunrise.”

About the Home:
Tyrone Leslie’s home was built by his company, Heritage Homes and completed last April, just in time to be featured on the HBA’s 2017 Spring Parade of Homes. The home’s layout is a customized version of Heritage Homes’ Tuscany plans.

For more information, contact:
Smart Home Technologies
3306 Sheyenne Street. Suite #212, West Fargo