Smart Lighting Systems Part 2: DIY

As the title suggests this is the second part of a series on Smart Lighting Systems. If you haven’t read it already the first part can be found here. In this installment, I will cover some of the best known DIY systems and what to look for when choosing which to opt for.

DIY Smart Lighting

There are loads of options for Smart Lighting out there that you can do yourself. Probably the best known is Philips Hue, but there are others, Ikea has a range called TRÅDFRI there’s Hive and many others. They all have something in common though, they use a hub and communicate wirelessly. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, though there are drawbacks to a purely wireless system (see my article on Wireless). The biggest issue with hub-based systems is that hey nearly always have a limitation on the number of bulbs or fittings you can connect. Now for the majority of us, this isn’t an issue as we are not likely to run out of capacity before we have upgraded all of our lights. But for some, larger properties, this does become an issue.

Lutron is bucking the trend in this area with their RA2 Select system. It’s a really basic Lutron Wireless system that uses the same dimmer technology that pro systems use. There’s still a limitation but on devices rather than bulbs making this a much more expandable option.

So which one would be right for me?

When choosing which system is right for you there are a few things you may want to consider.

How much do you want to do or can you do with electrics?

Some systems require you to change bulbs, this is very simple. Other want you to change switches, not too difficult if you have a little knowledge and a screwdriver. A few want you to install dimmers, this can be a little daunting and unless you know what you are doing I’d suggest getting an electrician to help.

What do you want from smart lighting?

Do you simply want to control dimming from and app? Would you want the system to recall scenes? Do you want to integrate with other systems i.e. control music from lighting keypads or control lighting from other systems. Different smart lighting systems offer some or all of these features deciding up-front what you want will ensure you get the most from your investment.

What is the interface like?

This is an often overlooked aspect if you have the app or find it confusing you won’t want to set scenes or avoid using it. The system needs to be inviting and fun to use, not a source of frustration.

Does the system offer any energy savings?

Look carefully at the dimmers, resistive dimmers convert unwanted power to heat and sound, they offer little to no energy saving and will make a buzzing sound. Triac or wave trimming dimmers work by trying the power sign wave. This refugees the power to the light this saving energy and they produce less heat. The downside is that not all bulbs like this technology. 0-10 dimmers vary the output from a transformer, no energy savings here but the energy use for this type of lighting is very low anyway.

Smart lighting can be a costly exercise, making energy savings over the long term can help offset that cost. It’s worth noting that pro systems may have a higher initial cost but can offer a greater saving over the long term and can include features not found in DIY system. That will be the subject of the next instalment.

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