See the light

Omid Nikroo of Loxone UK shares some advice on smart lighting and why you should consider it for your build

Lighting has been a ubiquitous feature in our homes since time .immemorial. Granted, the methods we use to light our homes may have changed over the years, but the basic premise has remained the same.

We’re now entering a ‘new age’ of lighting, moving away from the days of mere ‘on’ and ‘off’ to embracing technology as a way of improving how lighting affects the appearance and feel of a home.

Interestingly, many people don’t give lighting much thought when it comes to budget allocation, however, it’s often the single biggest influence on the way we feel when we’re in a space, so getting it right is key. Lighting can be used to highlight features, furniture or favourite works of art. It can be used to zone areas, which is especially useful if your build is of the open-plan inclination.

It’s important to consider different sources of light when planning spaces for your home. If we think of an open- plan kitchen/diner, we might have several different light circuits – some spotlights in the kitchen ceiling, some pendant lights over the dining table, perhaps a floor lamp, and some LED strip underneath the kitchen cabinets. Controlling all of these circuits individually would be a real pain. That’s where smart lighting comes in.

Smart lighting

In it’s simplest form, smart lighting affords you greater control over the lights within your home.

There are many options out there – from bulbs that you can purchase from your high street electrical retailer, to much more advanced systems that integrate with other aspects of your home.

More advanced smart lighting systems allow you to create ‘moods’ or ‘scenes’, by creating pre-set combinations of different lighting circuits, colours and brightnesses.

Installation

The technology of today moves at lightning speed, keeping up with the fact that lifestyles are increasingly fast- moving too. Your wiring infrastructure is the backbone of your home.

While it’s easy to replace devices such as motion sensors or switches, having to open up walls to pull extra cables is much more costly and inconvenient. Therefore it’s important to speak to your electrician or find a smart home professional early on in the build to help design a suitable system that will work for you and your home. There are different ways you can wire a smart lighting system. Traditionally, lighting circuits are wired on a ring main. Smart home systems can be wired on a ‘bus’ basis or ‘star-wired’ back to a central point, and some solutions offer a more flexible, free-form way of wiring.

Whichever option you choose, it’s important to consider the functionality you require from your home, and to plan for anything you may be considering in the future.

This could mean ensuring you pull cable to the garden for lighting and audio, or to the loft space if you’re thinking of having solar panels put in at a later date.

Of course, there are also wireless options. Smart light bulbs offer a very quick and simple way of controlling your lights through an app, but be aware that it’s often difficult to integrate these type of products into a wider smart home system.

There are options on the market for fully integrated lighting that don’t require any rewiring – the upfront cost of these solutions will likely be considerably more than if you were to opt for a piecemeal solution such as a smart bulb. However, like many things in life, you get what you pay for: in terms of functionality, you’ll get much more value for your money if you’re able to have a fully integrated system put in at the first fix stage.

Further considerations

In addition to the physical wiring infrastructure of your lighting, it’s also important to think about flexibility, do you want to control certain circuits, or even individual lights automatically? Individually addressable lights can be useful if you’ve not yet decided on placement of furniture or key pieces within a space, and they’re a great choice if you’re keen to maximise energy savings.

Colour is another important consideration. Do you just want a white light, or would you like to add colour to your home? When choosing a white light, most people tend to opt for a ‘warm’ white, which has a softer tone and doesn’t feel as harsh as a colder white. A very popular option for colour lighting is LED strip, which is usually used for indirect lighting. LED strip is commonly installed under kitchen cabinets, behind televisions, or underneath shelving and stair treads, to provide a subtle light and draw attention to a particular feature. The colour-changing aspect of this type of lighting is ideal if you’re looking to instantly transform the look and feel of the home.

Switch placement

Traditionally, light switches have always been installed near the entrance/exit to a room. In some rooms, however, it’s more helpful to have a switch closer to hand – for example, next to the sofa to easily dim lights and lower the blinds when you’re watching a film, or by the bed to switch off all the lights throughout the house without leaving your nest.

If you’re planning a large kitchen which includes an island for food preparation, a wireless switch nearby could be used to do anything from making the lights brighter, to adjusting the volume of your music or starting the extractor hood.

The most important thing to do if you’re considering smart lighting is to really think about your home and how you will live in it and interact with it.

If you’re going to be pulling cables for your lighting system, consider solutions that offer greater smart home functionality, such as heating and security automation, as these are likely to be the most reliable and offer the greatest value for money over the long term.

Whether you’re embarking on a self-build, extension, renovation or just re-doing your kitchen; consider reaching out to a smart home expert who can help you realise your dream home.

Omid Nikroo is a home automation specialist at Loxone UK