June 05, 2009
by Steven Castle
This homeowner’s dream was to color his home Las Vegas-style at night, but the initial plans didn’t work out so well.
An electrician installed 18 different fixtures to illuminate the house and the five ponds, waterfalls and sculptures in the front—with 27 different timers that were soon out of sync. Even worse, the exterior lights used a total of 11 kilowatts of power. And the homeowner was blinded just by walking to his car.
So custom electronics company ForTech Solutions, of Granada Hills, Calif., set out to simplify the system, while giving the homeowner a dazzling light show. The metal halide exterior lights were replaced with energy-saving and long-lasting LED (Light Emitting Diode) fixtures from Philips Color Kinetics. The 23 new LED fixtures use a total of 875 watts, just a fraction of the 11,000 watts used previously.
Several of the Color Kinetics ColorBlast LED floodlights were placed not on the ground, but 25 feet high on palm trees so the light from them would show off the front and sides of the house without “polluting” the inside with a light show. Four ColorBurst lights are flush-mounted in concrete and point up at the front columns. And 12 C-Splash LED fixtures are submerged in the ponds to color them dramatically.
ForTech used Color Kinetics’ iPlayer 3 processor to program light shows, which can be enacted on an RTI T4 remote or K4 touchpad by the front entrance. The lights are also controlled by a Lutron system with a Chronos astronomical time clock that acts as a single master timer, with wireless RadioRA switches for the garden and structural lights. In addition, the pond pumps are also controlled by the electronic systems.
With the iPlayer processor, each LED fixture has its own address, and ForTech can change combinations of the red, green and blue LEDs on each to create different colors.
From 8 p.m. to 10 p.m., the LEDs cycle through a rainbow of colors on the house and ponds, changing every 60 or 90 seconds. Then from 10 p.m. to sunrise, only some soft gate lights and two incandescent lights by the front door remain on. Special scenes for Halloween strobe the lights on the columns, and for Christmas the house is decked in red and green.
In the back of the house are four zones of audio, including a rock-formation-like gazebo area with a TV and accompanied by StereoStone rock-like speakers. Other StereoStone and two pairs of Elan wall-mounted weatherproof speakers serve the barbeque, pool and patio zones.
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Steven Castle is Electronic House's managing editor. he has been writing about consumer electronics, homes and energy efficiency topics for two decades. He is also the co-founder of GreenTech Advocates