Why make your Inline 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, 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 Inline Lighting along with various ideas to inspire you. It will also offer some guidance on how to begin your Smart Home Inline Lighting journey!
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 Inline 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 Inline 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 Inline 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, 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 Inline 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.
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 Inline 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 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 Inline 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 Inline 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.
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 will set you off on the path of turning your lighting from
Ideas for using your Smart Home Inline 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 light instead will have the same impact?
Smart Home Inline 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, you can have your Smart Home Inline 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 Inline 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.
Implementing Smart Home Inline 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 Inline Lighting solutions deliver Home Automation to your home, whether you wish to carry out a house-wide installation or start small 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 Inline Lighting then you may wish to jump ahead to step 3 and dive right in!
1) Getting Started
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:
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 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:
When it comes to the actual task of implementing Smart Home Inline Lighting it's relatively straightforward as in most cases it 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 Inline 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:
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 Inline Lighting project you'll be choosing "Actuators" (which will either be Modules or full replacement Wall Switches & Dimmers) as the OUTPUTS and "Sensors" / "Remote Controls & Wall Controllers" as the INPUTS to your Smart Home system.
Actuators are devices that physically make things happen by controlling lights, heating and appliances. There are various types of actuator suitable for Inline Lighting:
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 Inline Lighting Modules be sure to check out our Choosing Smart Home Inline 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 Inline Lighting Wall Switches & Dimmers be sure to check out our Choosing Smart Home Inline Lighting Wall Switches & Dimmers guide.
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.
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 Controlls & Wall Controlelrs 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 Inline Lighting. If you need any further help or advice, contact Vesternet and we will answer all your questions.