Why make your Lighting Smart?
Standard lighting is a little boring. You turn it On, you turn it Off, maybe you've got a dimmer to add a little variation, or a couple of table lamps for accent lighting, but that's it.
Using Home Automation adds new life to your lighting and propels your home into the 21st Century, bringing comfort and convenience, as well as reducing your energy usage and increasing your home's security.
This guide will discuss some of the key benefits of Smart Home Lighting along with various ideas to inspire you. It will also offer some guidance on how to begin your Smart Home Lighting journey!
What Can Smart Home Lighting Do For You?
You might think that it's not worth updating your existing lighting system to be Smart, perhaps you're happy with the current setup - after all, it's working fine and nobody is complaining that the lights are inadequate or unsuitable. That's completely understandable, but knowing what areas a Smart Home Lighting System can cover and how they work might just change your mind!
Broadly speaking, how you use Home Automation for your lighting can be broken down into the following areas - Comfort, Convenience, Saving Energy and Security.
With that in mind, let's answer few simple questions up front and, if we've peaked your interest, you can read on to find out more information.
Do Smart Lighting Controls Save Energy?
Yes, it's a proven fact that using Home Automation to control your lighting system will reduce the amount of energy you consume. Even simple automatic events like turning off lights when a room is empty, or adjusting the dim level of lighting to suit the time of day can make a huge difference.
Will I Save Money By Using Smart Lighting
Yes, reducing the energy you consume will naturally have a knock on effect on your energy costs. It may not seem much but lots of small changes to how you use the lighting in your home can add up to a big saving on your monthly bills, especially with energy costs at an all time high.
How Difficult Is It To Install a Smart Lighting System?
This really depends on a number of factors, but the great thing about Smart Home Lighting (and indeed any "Smart" technology) is that you can start simple and progress from there. For example, swapping out a normal light bulb from a table lamp for a Smart Device such as a Smart LED Bulb or perhaps changing the lamp for a Smart LED Strip takes just a couple of minutes - but that easy to make change can begin your journey.
Can I Control My Lighting From My Phone?
Nearly all Smart Home Lighting Systems will offer Apps for your smart phone, smart tablet or even PC. A few taps on the screen is all it takes to make changes to your lighting - adjusting the dim level in each room to suit your needs or even changing the colour of the lighting itself, switching between vibrant tones for party mode and subtle shades for relaxation and meditation.
Is It Possible For Alexa To Control My Lights?
Absolutely! Any voice assistant such as Alexa, Google, Siri or Cortana can control your Smart Home Lighting System. So you won't even need to reach for your smart phone, you can simply bark orders at your Smart Speaker or Smart Screen.
With natural language recognition and machine learning, you can even make inferences rather than direct commands. Tell Alexa or Siri that it's too dark and they'll automatically raise the lighting level accordingly.
Even better, create lighting "Scenes" that can be set automatically - tell Google Assistant "It's movie night" and sit back as the TV turns on, the AV equipment powers up, the curtains close and the lighting dims down. All without lifting a finger.
How Do Smart Lighting Systems Work?
The simple answer is - exactly the same as your existing lighting system. You'll still be able to control the lighting as you always have done, turning it on and off or adjusting the brightness if it's dimmable.
The difference is that you'll be able control the lighting more accurately (for example by setting the dim level to a specific percentage like 60%), make changes to your lighting schedule from anywhere in the world (for example turning on outside security lighting), use your location to automatically turn the lights off and on when you leave and return home and all manner of other Smart actions.
What Are The Best Smart Devices To Use For Lighting?
The best Smart Devices are ones that are matched to your particular circumstances! Every lighting system is different and every person has different requirements for how their home operates in terms of comfort levels.
Use our guides to help you choose Smart Home Lighting Controls such as Smart LED Bulbs or Smart Light Switches to suit your specific needs and you'll end up with an efficient and reliable Smart Home Lighting System.
Should I use Smart Light Switches, Smart Light Bulbs or Smart Sockets?
This will depend on what you are trying to achieve with your Smart Home Automation System.
Using Smart LED Bulbs and Smart Sockets is the simplest route to get started as they are literally plug-and-play - swap a bulb for a Smart LED version or plug a table lamp into a Smart Socket and you have begun your journey.
Smart Light Switches on the other hand usually require direct wiring into the mains electricity supply. That might sound daunting, but if you're capable of changing a light switch when decorating a room then you can probably manage to install a Smart version too!
How Can Home Automation Lighting Make My Home More Secure?
Home Security is a complex subject in its own right as it can cover many areas. Using Smart Home Lighting can help towards securing your home by doing things such as turning outdoor security lighting on automatically if movement is detected after it gets dark.
More advanced features can be added once some of the basics are covered, for example your Smart Home Controller can use machine learning to understand how the lighting is used in your home and then "replay" those interactions when you are on holiday. This gives the impression that your house is still occuppied even when you are sat on the beach on the other side of the world!
Does Turning Off Lights Save Money?
Of course! Turning off lights when they are no longer required or setting them to a lower brightness can save energy and therefore money, but realistically who wants to be constantly running around their home and manually switching off lights or constantly adjusting the dim level?
Using Home Automation to control your Lighting System is a much better option. A Smart Home Controller can monitor every room and automatically turn the lights on when the room is in use and then turn them off again once everybody has left.
The brightness level can also be automatically and intelligently controlled in order to ensure only just enough light is provided to suit the task. For example getting up in the middle of the night to visit the bathroom likely only needs a low level of light, perhaps 10%, just so you can see your way. That will save you 90% of the energy used if they were turned on fully! Plus, it's much kinder on your eyes.
Can My Lighting Be Completely Automatic?
A Smart Home Lighting System certainly can! Once configured (usually by following simple to understand concepts such as schedules, scenes, rules, actions or flows), a Smart Home Controller will autonomously manage your lighting to ensure your home meets your required comfort levels.
Typically this set-and-forget type of operation will automatically monitor your rooms and even the members of your family, adjusting itself based on behaviour patterns such as who's at home and which rooms are occupied.
Does Making Your Home Smart Add Value?
That's a really good question, especially in the current financial climate as it's difficult to justify spending money.
Based on our experience we'd suggest that adding value to the worth of your home is a secondary benefit as opposed to a primary reason for adding Smart Home Technology.
As long as the additions have a positive impact on things like saving energy, comfort, security and convenience, it should be easy to demonstrate to any potential future purchaser that your house is a better prospect than an equivalent property that doesn't have any Home Automation installed.
Exploring The Benefits Of Using Home Automation For Lighting
We already touched on the main areas where a Smart Home Lighting System can improve your lifestyle, so let's dig deeper into those next.
Comfort From A Smart Home Lighting System
Different rooms have different lighting needs, but you might also need varying levels or types of light depending on what you're doing at the time. Low level lighting in the living room is great for listening to music and reactive lighting (where the lighting changes in sync with moving images) is great for watching movies, but you'll probably want the room more brightly and consistently lit if you're reading a book or sewing.
Smart Home Lighting allows you to change the lighting in an entire room from a single button press, automatically based on the time of day or when you start an activity such as watching TV. You can even have the lights turn on slowly in the morning to wake you up gently, perhaps simulating a beautiful sunrise effect.
Adding Sensors can really bring your Smart Home Lighting system to life. You can use Motion Sensors to turn the lights on when you walk in a room and have them automatically turn off again when you leave. Door / Window Sensors can turn the lights on as you open an entrance door and Light Sensors can control lights at dusk / dawn - ideal for garden and path or driveway illumination.
Lighting "Scenes" are what really highlight the benefits of Smart Home Lighting. Scenes are the best way to control a group of lights together in order to create the perfect mood for any room in your home. You can group multiple devices of different types - bulbs, switches, dimmers, sockets, etc - in a single Scene and each device can have different characteristics.
For example, you can dim one bulb, change the colour of another, turn on a socket, set a dimmable socket to a lower level, turn off a switch and activate a colour loop on some RGBW LED strips. These characteristics are then "saved" as the Scene and can be recalled at any time, either manually from an App, automatically based on a schedule, or at the click of a switch. A quick press of a button can change from bright task lighting suitable for studying or writing, to mood lighting suitable for dining or entertaining.
Ideas for using your Smart Home Lighting for Comfort:
- Control room lighting automatically based on occupancy.
- Turn on lights when it's actually dark, not just based on time.
- Implement an advanced lighting scheme such as Circadian Lighting.
- Create different Scenes to compliment different tasks, such as watching TV, listening to music, reading, etc.
- Make rules that determine which lighting is used depending on the time of day - dim overhead lighting in the morning, bright overhead lighting in the afternoon and table lamps in the evening.
Smart Home Lighting Brings Convenience
Lighting throughout your entire home can be controlled from a remote control, wall controller, smartphone / tablet or using your voice via a smart speaker / screen - putting you in complete control wherever you are. It can also be controlled automatically based on schedules (time of the day) or from sensors that detect the lighting level, motion or other activity.
With Smart Home Lighting you can allow your house to control itself and you'll never need to use a physical light switch again. You'll never forget to turn lights off, and your children will no longer need to come up with excuses for leaving things turned on!
Adding a few Motion Sensors means that you no longer need to reach for a light switch - walk into the room and the lights turn on automatically, when you leave they turn off. Sounds like Star Trek, but it works nicely and you'll quickly forget you even have light switches and manual controls - they're soooooo 20th Century! And it's not just Motion Sensors, you can have lights controlled by Light Sensors, automatically activating when it gets dark, or by Door / Window Sensors when you open a door to a room - useful for cupboards and garages.
A Smart Home Lighting system puts you in full control. You decide when lights are on or off, you decide at what level their brightness is set to, and you can make all of your lights turn off at a particular time of day - closing your house down for the night or when you're away. You'll always know what's happening in every room in the house, take a glance at your smartphone and you can see if any lights are on that shouldn't be - and you can turn them off if need be.
You can even see what's going on and control your lighting even if you're sitting on the beach in Tahiti because you will have access via the Internet from any smartphone, tablet or computer.
Ideas for using your Smart Home Lighting for Convenience:
- Control lighting based on presence, for example turning on the porch and drive lighting as you arrive home.
- Turn lights on and off automatically when doors are opened and closed.
- Use gesture control for the ultimate convenience, turning lights on and off with a wave of your hand.
- Make a "Bed Time" Scene that checks every light and ensures those that won't be needed overnight are turned off.
- Use battery powered remote controls or wall controllers to add additional manual lighting controls to a room.
Using Home Automation For Lighting Saves Energy
It's amazing how much power is wasted in the average home - parasitic "standby" power consumption from TVs, gaming systems, stereos and even phone / tablet chargers can mount up to be hundreds of Watts! In turn this can add a huge amount to your monthly energy bills, which can often be a shock since the effect builds up cumulatively over time - just compare your current energy bill with one from twelve months ago and you'll probably be surprised at the increase in usage.
Perhaps the biggest energy use in most homes will be lighting, because unless you enjoy living in the dark you'll use your lights every day of the year, often for hours and hours at a time. Making your lighting work for you intelligently will therefore help you to reduce your energy bills. Lights only need to be on when you need them and they can be automatically dimmed to save energy. There's also no chance of having lights left on wasting electricity - making sure that your loft lighting is definitely OFF when you shut the hatch after storing away your Christmas decorations for another year!
One thing to bear in mind is that you can start off as simple as you want - just a single light bulb swapped out or a single light switch changed can set you off on the path of turning your lighting from
Ideas for using your Smart Home Lighting for Saving Energy:
- Understand where your lighting usage is costing you money.
- Automatically turn off lighting when a room is empty.
- Configure varying lighting levels depending on the time of day - the lights can be at a low brightness at 3am to facilitate a trip to the bathroom.
- Have an "All Off" Scene that turns off all your lights, as well as any other appliances, then make this run automatically when your house alarm is armed.
- Use existing lighting for security - do you really need that 500W security light in the garden to deter potential intruders when turning on the living room overhead light instead will have the same impact?
- Add control to your table and standing lamps so that the become the "go to" lighting for your rooms, minimising the use of the more power hungry overhead lighting.
Increased Security From Smart Home Lighting
Smart Home Lighting means that you can have lights operate automatically at night or when you're away from home to increase the security of your house. Light up those dark areas if motion is detected and if you're away on holiday, you can have the lights turn on and off at irregular intervals, making it look like your house is still occupied.
Of course, you can also have your lights activated if dangers are detected. Smoke, CO, fire and heat sensors can send an alert to the system which then turns all the lights on allowing you to more easily find your way out of the house.
With the latest multi-colour RGBW LED lighting available in bulbs and strips, you can have your Smart Home Lighting change colours depending on the situation - red light spells danger! You can do the same for security alerts such as a door or window being open when it should be closed.
Ideas for using your Smart Home Lighting for Security:
- Create a security alert system to monitor your doors and windows when you're away from home, turning on the lights when a sensor is breached.
- Trigger outdoor security lighting when motion is detected.
- Use historic room occupancy and presence data to create a real-life lighting schedule to simulate occupancy when you're on holiday.
- Flash or change the colour of your lighting when smoke or CO are detected.
- Use battery powered remote controls, buttons and wall controllers for peace-of-mind personal safety / panic triggers to sound sirens and flash lighting in order to scare off unwanted callers at your front door.
Implementing Smart Home Lighting
Adding intelligent wireless control to your lighting has real benefits and it's relatively easy to do using Smart Home systems and devices from Vesternet. Our Smart Home Lighting solutions deliver Home Automation to your home, whether you wish to carry out a house-wide installation of Smart devices or start small with a few replacement Smart bulbs and expand over time.
If you're new to Smart Home and just starting out, then follow the steps below to begin your journey. Of course, if you're already a seasoned Smart Home user looking to expand your system to cover Smart Home Lighting then you may wish to jump ahead to step 3 and dive right in!
1) Getting Started With Smart Home Lighting
The basic building blocks and components of any Smart Home will be similar. You will have a central "Controller", "Input" devices that tell you what is happening (motion, doors opening, temperature, humidity, light, etc) and "Output" devices that make things happen (turning on a light, switching off a socket, opening a door, etc).
As the name implies, the Controller, sometimes called the hub, gateway or bridge, "controls" your Smart Home. It enables you to add and configure devices and to create and run "logic", sometimes referred to as flows, scenes or moods. These enable the system to do things automatically, such as turn on lights based on motion or raise the heating temperature just before your family arrives home so that your house is nice and warm when they open the front door.
The Controller is connected to your Internet router or modem using WiFi or by an Ethernet cable. This allows you to control the system from a smartphone, tablet or computer and allows remote access even when you're away from home, via the Internet. In order to control the system from your smartphone or tablet you usually install an "App" for that Controller and this gives you control whether you're in the lounge or sitting on a beach on the other side of the world!
Your Controller may focus on one particular technology (for example Z-Wave), or it may have several different technologies built in (for example Z-Wave, Zigbee and WiFi). Choosing a Controller that supports these standards as a starting point is the best course of action for most Smart Homes, but remember to also check for integration possibilities with any proprietary products or systems that you might also plan to use (such as Hive, Tado or Visonic), for example using IFTTT or a Cloud service.
It's also worth noting our advice on "Voice Assistants". These are becoming increasingly popular, with many manufacturers now offering various different models of "Smart Speaker" or "Smart Screen" with their Voice Assistant built in. Many people get taken in by all the hype surrounding these and think that for a Smart Home they only need a Voice Assistant.
While this may be true in a limited set of circumstances (for example to control one or two WiFi Smart Home devices such as sockets or bulbs), you really need a Smart Home Controller for a true Smart Home experience!
For further information on getting started with a Smart Home, the following guides are well worth reading:
2) Technologies Used In Lighting Home Automation
There are a wide range of Smart Home technologies to choose from and this can be confusing to people new to Home Automation. Fortunately, this is less of a minefield than it used to be as many devices can now work with each other, even if the underlying technologies are different. This means that you don't need to know all the inner workings of particular products - you're able to choose the ones that suit you best.
Z-Wave is a wireless communication technology that uses reliable, low-power radio waves that easily travel through walls, floors and furniture, meaning you don't have to rip-up carpets and floors to add new wiring.
Features such as two-way communication, status updates and mesh networking combine together to ensure reliability and resiliency in your Smart Home system - no more wondering whether the light in your garage really turned off when you closed the door!
The Z-Wave technology is being improved all the time and recent releases have offered increased range, greateer speed, improved battery life, stronger security and self-healing capabilities to keep the mesh network in optimal condition.
The majority of Z-Wave devices should work within the well-established Smart Home Controllers out-of-the-box - the protocol is designed to be backwards compatibile accross versions and uses standard "Command Classes" to define features and functionality. Sometimes, especially with newly released devices, there may be limited functionality until specific support for a device is added to the Smart Home Controller. This usually occurs quite quickly in the form of regular software updates from the Smart Home Controller manufacturer.
Zigbee is an open standard for a low-cost, low-power, wireless mesh network targeted at the wide development of devices for wireless control and monitoring applications. It's backed by some of the worlds biggest companies, including Philips, Nest, Samsung, Texas, Siemens & Whirlpool.
With Zigbee based devices you get a robust, resilient and self-managing system. Zigbee devices are often much simpler than their Z-Wave counterparts, prefering to focus on specific tasks such as motion sensing or dimming a light, rather than trying to combine lots of different functionality into one device.
Simplicitly therefore makes compatibility much easier with Zigbee. Broadly speaking there are two Zigbee profiles in use - Zigbee Light Link (ZLL) and Zigbee Home Automation (ZHA). Devices within each profile should work together out-of-the-box and, as long as your Zigbee Controller supports a specific profile, devices from that profile should work within it.
There's also an emerging standard called Zigbee 3.0 which merges both the ZLL and ZHA profiles, combining the strengths of each into one new standard. In most cases Zigbee 3.0 devices are backwards compatible with Zigbee Controllers that only support ZLL or ZHA.
WiFi / Ethernet Network
WiFi and Ethernet (wired) Networks have spread widely in the past decade, you can "get connected" almost anywhere nowadays - at home, at work, in libraries, schools, airports, restaurants, hotels and even on-the-move in certain types of public transport.
The ubiquitous nature of WiFi and Ethernet make them an ideal technology for Smart Home devices and many devices are now featuring WiFi and Ethernet connectivity as vendors recognise that they can take advantage of your existing home Network. The chances are that you already have good Network coverage throughout your home using a mixture of WiFi and Ethernet, so it makes sense to use this Network, rather than you having to implement something else.
Broadly speaking, WiFi and Ethernet devices will use vendor specific communication protocols which means that compatibility is determined based on the manufacturer, so products from one manufacturer won't work with products from a different manufacturer.
That said, some WiFi and Ethernet devices also implement "open" communication protocols such as MQTT, so this allows them to work together with devices from a different manufacturer if they also support the MQTT protocol.
The Internet has become so tightly woven into our everyday lives that we probably interact with it every few minutes, possibly without even realising!
While it's obvious when you are using services such as FaceBook, Twitter and WhatsApp, many Smart Home devices now use Internet connectivity too - so the next time you adjust your Smart Home Heating Thermostat or check your Doorbell camera, you'll likely be interacting with a "Cloud Service" half way round the world.
Cloud Services allow manufacturers to centralise their infrastructure and tightly control security, features and functionality all in one location. It means that products can be made more affordable for the customer as the device has less to do locally, because the Cloud can carry out some or all of the functionality.
Cloud Connected devices will communicate securely with the manufacturer Cloud Service and when you wish to interact with them via your smartphone, tablet or web browser, you will also communicte securely with the manufacturer Cloud Service. This means that these types of device rely on the Internet for some, or sometimes even all, of their functionality.
Some Cloud Services also allow interaction with each other in a simple fashion using other, third party Cloud Services, such as IFTT, Microsoft Flow or Workflow. These can often help to bring together systems that would otherwise not be able to work with each other at all!
For further information on Smart Home Technologies, we suggest reading the following guides:
3) Considerations In Designing Your Smart Home Lighting System
When it comes to the actual task of implementing Smart Home Lighting there are broadly speaking two routes to take - "Plug And Play Lighting" and "Inline Lighting".
Plug And Play Lighting mostly consists of things that literally just "plug in" and can be used immediately i.e. there's no wiring involved. So things like plug sockets, dimmbable plug sockets, LED bulbs, LED strips, etc. Perhaps some battery powered devices like remotes, buttons and wall controllers.
On the other hand, Inline Lighting refers to things that will need physically installing and electrical wiring. Modules, replacement wall switches & dimmers, replacement sockets, etc are all examples of these types of device.
Next we'll look at considerations for each of these routes.
Plug And Play Lighting
There's no doubt that this is the easiest and simplest route to adding Smart control to your lighting! As mentioned above, there's no wiring involved at all, so devices just need to be unboxed and plugged in, then added to your Smart Home Controller.
That said, there are still some things to consider or double check before ordering a box of products!
Sockets or Bulbs?
For table and standing lamps, there's usually a choice between adding a Socket where the lamp plugs in to the electrical outlet, or replacing the bulb(s) in the lamp with a Smart version. Each path has its advantages and disadvantages.
With Smart Bulbs you get the option of using coloured versions, known as RGB or RGBW, or "white adjustable" (also known as CT or colour temperature) that allow you to change the whiteness of the light, perhaps a cool white for reading or a warm white for listing to music. Some Smart Bulbs also allow you to syncronise multiple bulbs as one entity, so you can control them all simultaneously, raising or lowering the brightness or sweeping through colour effects across all lamps in the room at once.
This can make for some really pleasing Scene control and is great for feature lighting, but it can get expensive, especially if your lamps require multiple bulbs!
Sockets on the other hand, are a single device per lamp, so offer a much cheaper option for basic control, albeit you obviously don't get capabilities such as being able to change colours or synchronise lamps to be controlled as one entity.
On / Off or Dimmer Sockets
Dimmer Sockets offer more control over the attached light as you can raise and lower the brightness, but typically they work best with standard incandescent or halogen light bulbs. If you try to use them with LEDs or other energy saving light bulbs they can have unpredictable behaviour!
Consider whether a simple On / Off Socket would work OK, after all just being able to control the light in a basic form may be all you need - turning low level lamps on when you're watching a movie rather than the main room overhead lighting.
Leave Switches ON!
IF you're replacing bulbs with Smart versions, these are designed to be permanently powered, if you remove the power - for example by turning the light switch on the circuit OFF, or by switching the table lamp itself off, or by turning off a socket at the wall switch - the Smart Bulb will be dead! You'll no longer be able to control it from your Smart Home Controller until you restore the power to it.
Removing the power can also have a negative impact on any mesh network if your Smart Bulb is Z-Wave or Zigbee based as these devices repeat for other devices in the mesh network. If you keep turning power off and on to Smart Bulbs you are constantly forcing the mesh network to reconfigure itself, which can make the mesh network perform poorly impacting the control of other devices and the reporting from sensors.
This is an important point when looking to use Dimmer Sockets - they must be used with dimmable bulbs such as Incandescent, Halogen and LED. They cannot be used with non-dimmable bulbs such as CFL (Energy Saving), fluorescent, or non-dimmable LEDs. Using the Dimmer Sockets with non-dimmable bulbs can damage the Dimmer Socket and bulb. Simple On / Off Sockets can be used with any bulb type.
B22, ES, SES, Edison Screw, GU10, G12, Bayonet ...... what?!?!? These numbers refer to the type of fitting that your lamp or light requires so you should make sure you understand what they mean! Typically in the UK table and standing lamps utlise ES (Edison Screw) format, whereas pendant lighting utilises B22 (Bayonet), but it's definitely worth double checking before placing an order!
If your tablet / standing lamps are plugged into Smart Sockets, you're not going to want to go crawling behind furniture to reach the switch on the socket to turn them on or off. Of course, Voice Control can help here, as can reaching for your Smart Home Controller App on your smartphone. But bear in mind to have options for manual control, perhaps a Remote Control, Button or Wall Controller.
In most cases this uses standard lighting wiring, so there is no need to rewire your home. That said, perhaps the first consideration is to decide whether you are heading down the DIY route, or would prefer to have a Professional Installation completed for you by a third party.
Smart Home Lighting typically uses "Modules" or full replacement Wall Switches & Dimmers and these will need to be connected directly to your home's electricial wiring system. So you'll need to consider whether you have the necessary skillset to complete this type of work safely and competently. You'll need some proficiency with electrical wiring, building and decorating as a minimum.
You'll need be able to specifically identify your existing wiring, which may require physically testing with a multimeter to see which wires are Permanent Live, Switched Live and optionally Neutral. If these terms don't mean much to you then you really need to be honest with yourself as to whether you think you'll be able to carry out the work!
If you're the sort of person that is comfortable with changing out a light switch or wall socket, or perhaps adding an additional wall socket to an existing electrical circuit, and isn't phased by needing to replace a pattress (back-box) by chiselling out the wall and making good afterwards, then the DIY approach might suit you.
If you're planning on taking the DIY option then there are a few things to consider or double check.
Modules or Full Replacement Wall Switches & Dimmers
Modules are probably the most flexible devices available for your Smart Home as they can be used to control pretty much anything you can think of - lights, power, pumps, blinds, awnings, heating, cooling, gates... the list is endless. You can use Modules for Inline Lighting by installing them either behind your existing light switches or at the light fitting end.
Full Replacement Wall Switches & Dimmers on the other hand do exactly what their name implies - they replace your existng light switches completely. They aren't quite as flexible as Modules, but can make for a simpler installation as it's pretty much just replacing the existing light switch with like-for-like wiring requirements.
There is of course one other important aspect to consider, that of style / look and feel. Whereas with a Module you can retain your existing switches, or choose new ones to suit your tastes, with Wall Switches & Dimmers you are restricted to the style, size, layout and colour that the manufacturer offers!
2-Wire or 3-Wire Lighting System
The majority of lighting systems do not have Neutral available at the light switch, we call this a "2-wire" system. It's important to check which system you have, as many products such as switches and relays must have Neutral, which we refer to as a "3-wire" system.
If you're planning on using Modules for your Inline Lighting (as opposed to full replacement Wall Switches & Dimmers) then you'll need to give some consideration to how Modules behave with different switch types. Dimmer Modules for example work best with a "momentary" switch, as this allows you to hold the switch to raise or lower the light level. It's unlikely that your existing switches are of the momentary type, otherwise you'd have to stand holding the switch to keep your lights on!
Pattress (Back-Box) Depth
Modules or full replacement Wall Switches & Dimmers are deeper than standard light switches because they need to contain all the necessary electronics to make your lighting Smart. We recommend that you use 45mm deep "pattresses" (also known as the "back-box" to accommodate them plus all the wiring, while allowing room for air flow and circulation to assist with heat dissipation.
This is an important point when looking to use either Dimmer Modules or full replacement Wall Dimmers - they must be used with dimmable bulbs such as Incandescent, Halogen and LED. They cannot be used with non-dimmable bulbs such as CFL (Energy Saving), fluorescent, or non-dimmable LEDs. Using the dimmers with non-dimmable bulbs can damage the dimmer and bulb. Switch / Relay Modules or full replacement Wall Switches can be used with any bulb type.
Single / Double
Most Switch / Relay Modules or full replacement Wall Switches are available in single or double versions. The Single controls one circuit, the Double will control two separate circuits.
Note however that some models offer "Dual" control versions, these typically will only control ONE local load and the other control is for use with Z-Wave Associations / Zigbee Group Messaging only.
Multi-Way Lighting Circuits
Generally Modules can easily be used in multi-way lighting circuits - these have one light circuit controlled by two (or more light) switches, such as a landing light that can be controlled from upstairs and downstairs. This means that you only need one module as this is a single circuit being controlled - it will just have multiple switch "inputs".
Unlike with Modules, most Wall Switches can't work in a normal wired 2-Way or 3-Way (or multi-way) switching setup. Instead, they often use Z-Wave Associations / Zigbee Group Messaging to provide this functionality via the mesh network instead.
DIN mounted Modules have the same functions as the standalone Modules, but are designed to be mounted on a DIN rail. This allows a number of Modules to be installed together in a single enclosure, making the overall installation tidier and easier to maintain.
There are generatlly two DIN mounted Module solutions available - complete DIN Modules ready to fit and a selection of DIN "adapters" that have been designed specifically to house standard Modules allowing them to be fitted to a DIN rail.
For further information on this area, it's worth taking a look at some of the following guides:
4) What Parts Make Up A Smart Home Lighting System?
As mentioned previously, all Smart Home systems will use similar components (also called devices). These enable it to perform different actions, to sense environmental conditions and to react to motion, doors opening, windows closing and all manner of different events in your home.
Each device type has a specific purpose within the system, together they will give you the flexibility to control your home, and keep you informed about what's going on.
For your Smart Home Lighting project you'll be choosing "Actuators" as the OUTPUTS and "Sensors" / "Remote Controls & Wall Controllers" as the INPUTS to your Smart Home system.
The term "Actuators" sounds fancy, but really it just means something that the system can control! For Plug And Play Lighting this can be things like sockets, LED bulbs and LED strips and for Inline Lighting this can be Modules or full replacement Wall Switches & Dimmers.
Smart Home Actuators
Actuators are devices that physically make things happen by controlling lights, heating and appliances. There are various types of actuator suitable for Smart Home Lighting:
Sockets are one of the easiest to install "plug-and-play" devices available for your Smart Home. In most cases you literally just have to plug them in! And they can be used to control and monitor pretty much anything you can think of - lamps, appliances (such as dishwashers and washing machines), TVs and other AV equipment ... the list is endless. Combine them with other Smart Home devices like sensors and you can have full control of your home.
Manufacturers of Sockets typically produce them in two formats, those that simply plug in (as mentioned above these really are "plug-and-play") and those that need to be wired into an electrical circuit directly.
Within those formats broadly speaking there are then three types of device - On / Off Sockets, Dimmer Sockets and Range Extenders - all pretty self explanatory in terms of which device to choose for a particular task. Choosing the right Socket between manufacturers can be a little more difficult though as some will offer more advanced capabilities and others will offer simpler functionality, often at a cheaper price.
To help choose Smart Home Sockets be sure to check out our Choosing Smart Home Sockets guide.
Like Sockets, these are also one of the easiest to install devices and are a quick route to making your lighting Smart! In most cases it's just a case of changing out the existing light bulb and then pairing the new Smart version to your Smart Home Controller.
Manufacturers of Smart Bulbs typically produce them in one of three formats, those that are a single dimmable white colour, those that can have the temperature of the white colour changed between cool and warm (CT) and those that have full colour (RGB / RGBW). Sometimes a Smart Bulb even combines the CT and RGBW functionality into one device!
To help choose Smart Home LED Bulbs be sure to check out our Choosing Smart Home LED Lighting guide.
These typically come in the same options as LED bulbs, allowing you to colour your world in all sorts of interesting ways! They're not quite as plug-and-play as LED Bulbs thought because they usually need some sort of installation, for example sticking or screwing underneath kitchen cupboard units or around the ceiling in your room.
While most are standalone devices (e.g. a power supply, controller box and LED Strip), some come in Module form, so you can install them at the light fitting to allow local control from a normal light switch.
To help choose Smart Home LED Strips be sure to check out our Choosing Smart Home LED Lighting guide.
Modules can be fitted behind a light switch, in the ceiling space, or anywhere that you have access to the lighting circuit wiring. They are incredibly flexible, allowing you to control every aspect of your lighting. And, some Dimmer Modules work in a 2-wire system, making them ideal to fit behind an existing light switch.
Manufacturers of Modules have different types available designed to do specific roles, this gives you the best product for the job, but can make choosing the right Module a little more difficult. You also have the choice between manufacturers to contend with, where some will offer more advanced capabilities and others will offer simpler functionality, often at a cheaper price.
To help choose Smart Home Lighting Modules be sure to check out our Choosing Smart Home Lighting Modules guide.
Wall Switches & Dimmers
These aren't quite as flexible as Modules, but can make for a simpler installation as it's pretty much just replacing the existing light switch. They are usually available in one of three main types - Relays, Dimmers and those designed to control Blinds / Shutters (or other motorised appliances). This typically means that choice of device is simpler and you only have to choose between manufacturer.
To help choose Smart Home Lighting Wall Switches & Dimmers be sure to check out our Choosing Smart Home Lighting Wall Switches & Dimmers guide.
Smart Home Sensors
Sensors monitor your home and report if they detect motion or door opening, or specific values of environmental conditions such as light, temperature, humidity, etc.
By being the "eyes and ears" of your Smart Home they can be used to trigger all manner of things in your Smart Home Controller - from turning lights on, to sounding an alarm, to opening / closing blinds... the list is endless. Sensors enable things to happen automatically - which is one of the main goals of "automating" your home, turning it from dumb to Smart!
To help choose Smart Home Sensors be sure to check out our Choosing Smart Home Sensors guide.
Smart Home Remote Controls & Wall Controllers
Remote Controls & Wall Controllers give the convenience of controlling the system from a physical control unit as well as from your smartphone or tablet. They are usually battery powered which means that they can be installed anywhere you choose - on a wall in a convenient location, replacing an existing light switch (where you wish to keep the wiring permanently connected behind it) or just left lying arround as a "mobile" device.
To help choose Remote Controls & Wall Controllers be sure to check out our Choosing Smart Home Remote Controls & Wall Controllers guide.
Getting Help and Advice
Hopefully this guide has helped prepare you with various areas that will allow you to narrow down your choices when it comes to Smart Home Lighting. If you need any further help or advice, contact Vesternet and we will answer all your questions.