Wireless lighting controls provide some great benefits for retrofit applications. The obvious selling point being the luxury of not having to drill holes, tear down walls, or delve into other generally destructive projects. But it might also be time for new home builders to reconsider wireless as the option of last resort.
In recent years, as electronics have become ingrained to our way of life, builders have sought to wire homes for anything and everything before the drywall goes up. This trend speaks to how fundamentally undesirable it is to rewire a home, but ignores the added costs to the homeowner. After all, this future-proofing will likely require hours if not days in added labor. Wiring itself also drives up costs, and with copper in increasingly short supply, prices aren’t likely to go down.
The preference for wired lighting systems owes largely to the fact that builders and homeowners alike still don’t fully trust wireless solutions. Yet, at the same time, a great deal of faith is placed in similar technologies. Few people doubt that their cordless phones will work in an emergency situation, for example.
Because wireless lighting systems rely on radio signals, it is true that obstructions can affect their performance. Yet, in a new home, these problems can be easily addressed at the planning stages. For example, not using metal switch boxes can extend a wireless switch’s range an additional 30 percent. This is hardly a different concept, though entirely more economical, than planning ahead by wiring a home for every upgrade the occupants could ever want.
Mesh technologies like Z-Wave or Zigbee also allow signals to be routed around obstructions since communication isn’t confined to two fixed points. And even the most challenging installations can usually be tackled by adding another device to the network.
Essentially, today’s wireless lighting controls are every bit as practical as wired systems (and, in some ways, more). Since there’s no need to pack the walls full of wiring that may never be used, wireless can save on expenses. Add-ons aren’t complicated, so the homeowner is also has the option to start small. In terms of reliability and features, the technology is there. It’s just a matter of time before people see the light, so to speak.