Tech Upgrades – 3 Quick & Easy Upgrades to do Now

Think all technology updates are involved and complicated?  Think again.  Here are our top three picks for tech upgrades that are quick and easy:

Tech Upgrade #1: LED Lighting

Updating your existing recessed, linear and/or outdoor lighting may be easier than you think.  Many homeowners are moving to LED because these are more energy efficient, easier to maintain, and with the proper LED fixture – have better color temperature and accuracy than ever before.   

“Can’t I just run out to a big box home improvement store and purchase some LED bulbs?” No!  The key to controlling and dimming lights – especially LED lights – is to make sure the driver of the lights is compatible with the dimmer. The driver inside the fixture is what dims the LED – if that is incompatible with the dimmer controls, the lights won’t dim low enough or will flicker.  With Mills providing the fixture, we can make sure the driver is compatible with dimmer controls.

Additionally, many of the LED replacement bulbs (such as the ones you might find at big box stores) don’t have great color accuracy and consistency (see photos below), and they aren’t great at dimming in a fixture designed for incandescent light. For retrofit situations, Mills offers LED bulbs that are designed to work with many existing (S38, S30 and A20 lamps) fixtures.

Finally, let’s say that you don’t just want to match the quality of your existing lights – you want to improve them!  Imagine your indoor lights matching natural outdoor lighting at all times of the day.  Imagine changing the ambiance in your Kitchen from bright, task-oriented lighting while cooking, to dim, warm lighting while serving your meal.  Imagine changing the color of your lights for parties or just for fun.  While it may not work for all existing lighting fixtures, Mills has offerings to install such a lighting system in your existing space. 

Read more about our retrofit lighting solutions. 

Image courtesy of DMF Lighting
Color accuracy: The higher the CRI, the better the bulb is at rendering colors accurately. At lower CRI values, colors appear unnatural. That affects how everything looks in the space – from finishes to people.
Color consistency: When color consistency is poor, many shades of the same color can be seen fixture to fixture.  In the image below, the “warm white” bulbs from the same production line have a varying color temperature (between 2580K and 4260K) – the difference in temperature is quite noticeable and something you want to avoid

Tech Upgrade #2: Wireless Shades

You love natural light, so much so that every morning you manually raise the shades in your Living Room to let in light, and then close them again in the evening.  Or perhaps you think to yourself, “this bedroom would be a lot brighter if I bothered to open the shades every day… but it’s a lot of work.”  Or maybe even, “If we could just block light in the Family Room during the summer, our air conditioning bill wouldn’t be so high!”  

If the house is finished… what are my options? While it is great to run wiring for shades to power them remotely, that’s not always possible – especially in existing homes.  Battery-powered shades are ideal for retrofit applications and for windows located on surfaces where wires can’t be pulled. There are more battery shade options than ever, and both Crestron and Lutron – two manufacturers that Mills has worked with for years – have added new battery-powered options to their motorized shade solutions.  Amazingly, most battery-powered shades last anywhere between 2-5 years on a single battery charge.  

If you are concerned that battery-powered shades look clunky, then check out the new Lutron Palladiom Wire‐Free Shading System.  It features an exposed roller shade with a minimal profile that is completely wire‐free. Palladiom wire-free shades feature replaceable batteries that are completely concealed within the shade, but accessible when needed, an integrated RF antenna for wireless communication, and a remarkably efficient drive that can run longer on fewer batteries.  

Palladiom wire-free shading system

Tech Upgrade #3: Outdoor Audio, Video, and Lighting

Get your outdoor living space ready for the season! Technology can enhance your outdoor living and entertaining just like it does indoors. 

Outdoor Television
The outdoors can be a great place to get together for TV – an outdoor movie night with the family, watching a game at a barbecue with friends, or just watching a favorite show while enjoying the warm weather for the short time that it’s here in the Midwest. Outdoor TVs are much brighter than their indoor counterparts – generally speaking, if you put an indoor TV outside, even in the shade, all you will see is a black screen. Outdoor televisions are rated for shade or direct sunlight, depending on your application. They are also designed to withstand the elements, so they can be used and left outside year-round.

Outdoor Music
High-quality speakers are key to outdoor audio systems – they need to sound great, but they also need to withstand the elements. There are a few types of outdoor audio solutions, depending on your space.
For smaller areas like patios, courtyards, and outdoor rooms (less than 750 square feet), a pair or two of outdoor-rated speakers will work well.  Outdoor speakers come in a variety of shapes and sizes.  These can be mounted on walls or ceilings, in walls or ceilings, or even hidden under eaves.

Another popular option: “bollard” and “tower” style speakers.  These are freestanding speakers in an attractive industrial design, which sound great.  In fact, the new Outdoor Tower Series from James Loudspeaker and the Coastal Source Line Source Bollards may be the best speakers you’ve ever listened to – inside or out.

Landscape systems are completely scalable and suitable for everything from patios to rooftop decks to yards of any size. The speakers and subwoofers are generally finished in a neutral earth tone and are easily camouflaged into plants and foliage.  Subwoofers can be below-ground and seamlessly blend into landscape, or can be built into patio furniture or planter boxes.
Pre-configured landscape systems are ideal for spaces up to 2,000 square feet with little or no ambient noise. These systems are flexible for configurations of eight satellite speakers and one subwoofer up to sixteen speakers and two subwoofers. For high-quality sound covering over 2,000 square feet where there is a high level of ambient noise (party decks, spaces adjacent to the lake, commercial rooftop decks), a configurable high- performance satellite system is the best option

Low Voltage Lighting Fixtures
If you’re installing some new speakers and perhaps a new outdoor TV, why not install some new outdoor lights too?  Mills offers a number of outdoor lighting fixture solutions, including the design, installation, and control of the lights.  Even a small number of outdoor lighting fixtures can radically change the feel and ambiance of an outdoor space

Outdoor lighting
Courtesy of Coastal Source

We work with our clients and our design community partners to provide high-performance technology solutions.  To learn more, please contact us – we look forward to working with you!