Lighting and shading can lead to a green revolution

Embracing smarter lighting and integrated control can save your clients cash and reduce their overall energy consumption. Steve May talks to CI industry leaders keen to turn your business green.

With the green agenda never far from the news, just how is the custom install industry responding to the challenge of creating a more sustainable business?

We ask luminaries in the lighting and shading sector how they’re pursuing energy efficiency, and selling the benefits to clients.

“Lighting control is an essential part of the custom install mix, and it’s become a powerful tool in reducing energy consumption,” says Peter Broome, director at Rako Controls.

The benefits of control are many and various, he says. “There’s the option to personalise lighting to suit individuals within the home, and enhance user comfort. Timed events that bring lights on at dusk and turn them off at dawn ensures that lighting is never left on unnecessarily, and ‘All off’ commands at the exit of a property, or at the bedside, also ensure that unwanted light sources are not left on unintentionally.

“The lighting industry has evolved dramatically over recent years and it’s a great time to be part of it,” he says.

“In fact, I would argue a lighting control system is one of the most powerful factors in reducing energy consumption. For instance, simply dimming the lights can save energy – even supermarkets are taking this approach with Morrisons, Co-Op and Waitrose dimming lights in their stores to cut energy costs.

“When linked to motion occupancy sensors, a control system like Rako can also switch off the lighting completely, if rooms are left unoccupied or no one is at home.” 

Buildings are known to be a huge contributor to global carbon emissions, and residential dwellings and lighting have a significant impact on those emissions. According to the UN, cities account for more than 70% of global greenhouse gas emissions.

Broome cites research that suggests residential properties are responsible for 17%-21% of all energy related carbon emissions globally. In terms of commercial buildings, lighting accounts for around 20% of all the energy consumed, so there is clearly a huge opportunity to improve efficiency.

According to the Energy Saving Trust, lighting makes up 11% of the average UK household electricity consumption. In a time when prices have increased, reducing the energy used on lighting can only be a good thing.

Energy efficiency within the home starts with the fabric of the building, it’s not just about dimmable LED lighting, cautions Stuart Tickle, MD of distributor AWE.

“While LED lights make a massive difference over older style lamps, in terms of building design it is about how you make the most of natural sunlight when it is available, to avoid using as much artificial lighting and heating as possible during daylight hours. Big windows are great for that, but actually they also can add too much thermal gain in the summer. So winter or summer, decent and convenient window shading is key, which is why we have partnered with Silent Gliss and offer its full shading range to UK integrators.”

So how is the shift toward energy and efficiency impacting Crestron’s product development roadmap? We asked Phillip Pini, director of residential sales (UK) for an update.


“The biggest is the reduction in wattage needed to power a luminaire. The old dimming technology based on handling a 50-watt halogen lamp in a chandelier or a focal light needs to be adjusted so that the minimum load is vastly lower for LED solutions, they’re more energy efficient,” he told us.

“But there’s so much more in the works than refreshing our lighting line-up. We always strive for newer, better functionality in our products. That includes energy savings, and that’s especially true when it comes to automation.”

Pini concurs that control and remote management are important to the greening of custom install.

“When it’s programmed properly, automation should be the most energy-efficient way of running your house. Systems that aren’t in use are shut down or put on standby, whether that’s HVAC or AV. One can also install timers in smaller spaces, such as corridors, and common areas.

“Now you don't want your house operating like a disco, but at the same time, if you've got a complete second floor of a house that the kids go up to and play, they’ll always leave stuff going when they're not in there. The wonders of a control system like the Crestron Home OS means that you are able to actually see what's on in any of your rooms. So if all the kids are downstairs at the dinner table, yet the touchscreens still say that the media room is still active on the second floor, you can turn all that off.”

Shading can significantly reduce requirements for HVAC, says Pini.

“When it comes to HVAC efficiencies, something as simple as a window covering can be quite effective. Some of the research I’ve seen finds that heat loss can be diminished by up to 25% with just a heavy curtain, even with an old, single-glazed window pane on the other side of that fabric. That is, of course, a two-way street: by adjusting shading opacities and adding materials that let light in but keep heat out, shading can assist with cooling a room while preserving the view.”

Shading specialist QMotion EMEA says its entire range of shades are predicated on energy efficiency.

“All QMotion blinds are ultra-energy efficient thanks to our patented spring-counterbalancing system which keeps battery power consumption to an absolute minimum and delivers near silent operation,” explains MD Ian Claxton.

QMotion EMEA systems also integrate natively with Control4 and Rako, another significant plus for installers.

“We’ve also introduced a Crestron Home driver recently that can be configured within minutes to give users control of blinds, curtains and groups through mobile and touch panel controls on the Crestron Home system,” says Claxton. “Similar drivers for integration are available with Elan, KNX, Loxone, RTI, Savant and URC to make the installation process as fast and efficient as possible.”

Personalised automated routines can reduce energy consumption by triggering blind operation in response to time schedules, natural daylight conditions, occupancy and room usage.   

The simplicity of QMotion’s energy efficient shading solutions has won over UK based Oldfield Electrical.

“I was first introduced to QMotion at a trade show in 2017 and we immediately found the brand and products to be a perfect fit for us. We have worked on many projects where contractors and designers have included automated window treatments that required specialist cabling,” MD John Thompson told HiddenWires.

“By having QMotion in our product portfolio, we are able to offer motorised solutions as part of our custom installation package and even retrofit them to already completed projects. Since we don’t need specialist wiring, we can complete the main part of the installation work and when all trades have left, we can return to measure and install the battery-powered QMotion blinds with minimum fuss.”

One of Oldfield Electrical’s first projects was for a client who wanted automated shades in three locations within their home. The first fix had already been completed and it was not possible to get any cables in.

“The client lived in an area with spectacular views and wanted the freedom to enjoy the vistas but retain an element of privacy. The fabric chosen complemented the décor in the room, helped with solar gain and allowed the client to still enjoy the amazing views outside the home. The customer was sceptical to begin with when I said the batteries would last four to five years. But, I returned in 2022 to change them, and they were pleasantly surprised. As a result, they’ve ordered four more QMotion shades for a games room extension.”

So how can the industry convince homeowners of the benefits of energy efficiency?  

“Cost savings and the reduction in energy bills are important for many,” reasons Rako’s Broome. “Long-term savings shouldn’t be forgotten either. While there is an upfront cost, the resulting energy savings will have benefits for years to come.”

Customers are canny, agrees Crestron’s Pini. “One of our higher-end clients has multiple properties all over the world, and they are very conscious about what they are consuming in those places, down to things like TV subscriptions, air conditioning, and plant equipment. The reason: If you've got that many homes, it doesn't mean that you've just got infinite amounts of money to throw at them. It actually becomes more problematic because your utility bill could be tens of thousands of dollars a month really quickly. A typical Crestron client sees the value of investing in a reassuringly expensive control system. And we are reassuringly expensive because we are an incredibly well-engineered brand with products that stand the test of time.”

“The good thing is that window shading and lighting generally comes from a different part of the homeowners budget from AV and tech,” points out AWE’s Tickle. “Everyone needs it. The question is more whether the homeowner can be shown the benefits of paying more than a purely manual system, which. With Silent Gliss we offer both automated and manual, but automation is where the full benefits of utilising the integrator can be realised due to their interoperability with other systems in the house.

“Like all things, there is always a cheaper way, and not all have the budget for automation, but where the benefits can be shown and the budget is available, homeowners often go ahead with the premium option.”


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