Low Voltage lighting is the future of residential and commercial construction due the the low wattage requirements of LED and the high cost of copper cabling. Using low voltage for lighting allows for wiring as small as 24 gauge (cat-5) which can save money on copper and increases design flexibility. The main vendors we are looking at today are LumenCache, Loxone, and DMX.
Lumen Cache is the new kid on the block and has been manufacturing low voltage lighting systems since 2012. Their approach is a bit different in that the LEDs are powered using constant current instead of constant voltage. This allows the fixtures to run cooler with better dimming and less flicker. These advantages help the LED light to last longer and to run more efficient. Lumen Cache integrates well with Control4 and other lighting systems and has local control in case the Control4 system goes down for any reason.
DMX is a true lighting standard that has existed since 1986 and originated from the theater and arts field. DMX is still widely used commercially and is starting to make its debut in the residential market due to its reliability, flexibility, cost, and interoperability. We love using DMX on our lighting projects as it integrates really well with Control4 and allows a powerful whole home lighting system. The main downside of DMX is that there isn't a direct connection from the wall switches to the lights themselves as all lighting control is done through programming Control4 to operate the lights. Control4 is very robust and reliable, but this allows for the possibility of losing control of your lighting from the wall keypads if the Control4 system goes down. In these installations, it is wise to put in a secondary DMX controller that allows for backup control in this scenario.
Loxone is an Austrian smart home systems manufacturer that has their own low voltage lighting system. Their lights wall controls are elegant, but what you gain in elegance, you lose in choice. There are very few fixtures currently manufactured by Loxone. That being said, you can use other manufacturers fixtures along with Loxones dimming module for expanded lighting options. The other areas of concern with Loxones lighting system is the frequency at which it dims the lights which has been linked to some health and/or mood related issues. I recommend that they increase the dimming frequency or allow the programmer to control the frequency through programming.
Matthew Mathis designs home entertainment and automation systems for clients in the Dallas and Ft. Worth area. Split between the world of high tech and an affection for the simplicity of life, Matt spends his days in the future of home technology and his off time in the past running a small permaculture farm.