Experience Lighting and Shading at Lutron's New Experience Center

One feature of a smart home that I love is automated window treatments. The phrase "window treatments" is an unfortunate one, though, because it's so boringly dry and clinical. It makes it sound like the windows have some sort of disease that requires "treatment". For normal folks, such as you and I, "treatment" is what's known as blinds, shades, and curtains—and watching your automated blinds, shades, and curtains lower/close or raise/open is something that never gets old.

Of course, there are more impactful benefits of automated window treatments, that include control of the amount of light coming into the room, privacy management, and temperature control. But saying that automating your blinds, shades, and curtains will save energy (and money) and make your home more comfortable doesn't do it justice. It's a concept that you have to personally experience in order to truly get it.

Lutron, a giant company heavily involved in lighting control and automated window treatments, knows how difficult it is for people to feel, on a gut level, how (in many ways) life-changing—yes, life-changing—lighting and window treatment control can be until you personally experience it. As a result, last week, Lutron opened the doors to a "newly reimagined Experience Center and training facility in the Decoration and Design Building in New York City."

I was one of the fortunate few journalists, along with a multitude of integrators from the tri-state area, who were able to attend the opening of Lutron's new Experience Center. The first thing I noticed was how incredibly large the place is—nearly 5,000 square feet. In a brief speech, Ed Blair, Executive Vice-President at Lutron, said Lutron created this amazingly beautiful space to—spoiler alert—help integrators sell more Lutron stuff. “Lutron’s experience centers help you close more jobs by providing your clients a rich, fulfilling experience and authentic understanding of a day in the life with a Lutron system," Blair said. "This new space is nearly three times the size of the previous New York space, giving you additional ways to tell the story and delight your clients in the process.”

I normally cringe when I hear the term "delight your clients", but in this case that's exactly what the Lutron Experience Center does. Short of taking a potential client and barging into a previous customers house to show off the lighting and shading control, this is the next best way to help potential clients get a "feel" for what automation control of lights and shades is all about. At the Experience Center, in a series of residential vignettes, Lutron has packed the place with all kinds of Lutron products, including everything from the company's Caséta Wireless and HomeWorks QS systems, along with "a full range of Lutron shading solutions, including the luxurious new Palladiom shades, plus samples of shading fabrics and keypad finishes."

Also on display at the Experience Center are a variety of Ivalo and Ketra high-performance LED fixtures. Recently acquired by Lutron, Ketra is on the forefront of color-tunable LED lighting; and you'll be hearing a lot more about color-tunable LED lighting in the near future. The benefits of having color-tunable lighting in your home (or business) are huge, and that's not an exaggeration. Typical LED lights, for instance, emit a large amount of invisible blue light (at about 460nm), which happens to be the same wavelength of light that our bodies rely on to regulate our circadian rhythm (the waking/sleeping cycle). Too much "light" at this wavelength in the evening confuses your body into thinking that it's still daytime, and it throws off the body's production of certain hormones. This internal biological mixup has been linked to all kinds of health-related issues, most notably sleep deprivation, problems with cognition, and possibly obesity. In a lighting control system with color-tunable LED lighting fixtures, the color of the light emitted from the fixtures can be changed, depending upon the time of day, to eliminate the harmful blue light while producing a warmer, "more natural" light.

The value of having color-tunable lighting is something that's even harder to grasp than automated shading control. At the Experience Center, the Lutron folks can demonstrate the effects for clients who might be wary or simply unaware of the technology. It has such an immediate, visceral effect, though, that it doesn't take much time at all for people to understand what it's all about. In fact, at CEDIA 2018 earlier this year, the Ketra folks were able to do a stunning demo of how important color-tunable LED lighting can be for your psyche and physical comfort in under 2 minutes. Unfortunately, it's not an inexpensive technology at the moment, so it's use will be limited to high-dollar homes until the prices begin to fall to levels ordinary mortals can afford.

Lutron's Experience Center is open to the general public (even low-lifes like me can get in) and is located at 979 Third Avenue, Suite 319, in New York City. The Lutron Experience Center is open Monday-Friday, 9am-5pm with private tours available for integrators' "most distinguished clients." According to Lutron, "Appointments are preferred, but walk-ins are always welcome. To schedule a visit, please call your local Lutron representative or call (212) 752-1214."

If you're in the area and have time to stop in for the experience, it's definitely be worth it.