In my experience, no Smart Home system has more impact or wow factor than Smart Lighting. Well designed and implemented Smart Lighting can instantly change the feel of a space at the touch of a button.
When I started writing this post I tried to cover all aspects of Smart Lighting. This made a very long post and I hadn’t covered half of what I’d intended. So I will cover this over a few posts; this is number 1.
What makes a Smart Lighting system?
More than just good looking fixtures and dimmers, Smart Lighting enables multiple circuits or individual fittings to be programmed to work together and can recall preset scenes. The best systems can also be integrated with other Smart Home systems (see my article on Integration).
These systems require little to no electrical knowledge and are based on changing light bulbs and in some cases switches to build the system. They are often Hub-based, meaning that they have some wireless communication to a central Hub that does all the smart stuff.
DIY smart lighting is perfect for small properties or single rooms as the requirement for a Hub can limit the range and the number of lightbulbs that can be used.
Philips Hue is a good option in this arena as it is very simple to install and setup is easy. The drawback is that it doesn’t include keypads so all the scene recall is done via an app. This can feel slow and clumsy when you have to wait for an app to load to change the lights. It is also not appropriate for larger properties as there is a limit to the number of bulbs you can use. Also, you must use fixtures that can fit a Hue bulb further limiting your choice.
Professional Smart Lighting systems offer more features than their DIY counterparts. Pro systems are expandable to hundreds or even thousands of circuits and each circuit can include many lighting fixtures.
Some of the features that professional Smart Lighting systems include are:
- Compatibility with almost any light fixture. With the exception of those cheaper colour change LEDs that include their own remote, almost any light can be used with a pro system.
- Advanced scene-setting. Your lighting needs can be very different during daylight Vs night. Pro systems know when the sun rises and sets and can change which scenes to recall on button presses accordingly. Scenes can also be automatically recalled when certain conditions are met.
- PIR integration. Some DIY systems do include PIRs but the pro systems take it a step further, they don’t just sense movement the sense presence. This means the lights don’t go off when you stop moving, only when you leave the room.
- Integration with other systems. Pro keypads can be used to control other systems, you can use spare buttons to turn on music, open garage doors or even combine lighting and audio into a party mode.
- Shade control. Pro systems also include the ability to control shading, in fact, the premium system includes their own motors for precise and absolutely silent operation.
- User editable scenes. Gone are the days when you would have to get your programmer round to change your scenes. Nowadays you have this option within the app for most systems, some allow this from control system touchscreens as well, making changes has never been easier.
There are many options for professional systems, the ones I know the best are Lutron, Crestron and Rako. These will be used in my examples but there are other options, each with their own pros and cons.
Smart Lighting is an excellent place to start a Smart Home system. Whether DIY or a professional system you can make an instant impact.