It’s time that we talked about lighting controls.
The LED came in with fanfares and circuses, taking everyone’s attention. At the same time, there was another, far quieter, revolution going on; so quiet that a lot of people may not have realised the enormity of what’s been happening.
Let me explain.
If there’s one aspect of lighting design that is honoured more in the way that it’s NOT properly done, it’s the way that we control our lighting. Let’s take a look at the history of lighting control ever since we started using electricity:
Switch it ON and then switch it OFF
It’s at shoulder height and it’s by the door; it’s the light switch.
Occasionally, there may even be two doors.
Sometimes, there might be more than one switch, to give you a bit of choice, because that’s the height of sophistication; you can separate one light from another in the same room
The historical perspective: you flick a switch . . . instant light. No more having to fill the oil lamp and trim the wick.
Switch it ON and then DIM the light . . . and then switch it OFF.
We’d been using electric lighting in our homes for around 60 years before someone came up with the idea of being able to turn it down, as well as turning it off – and so the dimmer was born. The first dimmers for the home were aimed at women – apparently, the only people who actually cared about the visual ambience of their homes. We can only presume that the men never noticed, so long as they could see the way to the shed.
Welcome to the 1960s.
The historical perspective: for the first time in human history, we were producing more illumination than we needed.
Press a button and set the scene . . . and then switch it OFF.
The term ‘scene-setting’ for lighting started to be used in the late 1970s. It started in the hotel and restaurant sector but was quickly adopted at the prestige end of the residential sector (posh houses). It’s a convenient way to control a number of different circuits, all doing a variety of jobs, yet all controlled at the push of a single button.
The historical perspective: life as theatre.
In all of this, there is a common thread that runs through one hundred-plus years of lighting control – and that thread is a copper wire.
And that copper wire determined the limitations of how the lighting could work. Whatever was connected along a length of copper wire, THAT is what could be controlled. A lot of lighting design came down to how fixtures were connected together.
But what if we could create a wiring environment where that historic limitation was no longer a controlling (hah!) factor?
It’s called Smart Lighting
Imagine that the copper wire is only there to provide the power to make the light work, but there is no practical connection between those wires and how the light is controlled.
We’re already familiar with the idea; mobile phone signals freed us from the phone in the hall, and now that wireless networks such as Bluetooth have become a regular feature of inter-connections between electronic devices, the relationship between light and its control function can follow suit.
We can now install lighting where each fixture contains its own wireless connection, and so becomes its own entity – its very own electrical circuit. Every light fitting in a room can be controlled according to the needs of the occupant. operating in whatever ‘scene-setting’ mode that the user wants. From a practical point of view, there may still only be four push-buttons at the wall (or on your remote) but beyond that, the choice of what fixture works in which way belongs entirely to the user.
No longer a one-stop shop
It used to be the case that programming a lighting control system was a once-only operation. Any changes needed an expensive visit from the manufacturer’s engineer, armed with specialist programming tools. Clients learned to live with control settings that weren’t ideal, because they had no intention of stumping-up for that costly visit.
The trick was alwys to get the programming right from the outset and that depended so much on the commissioning process and who was in charge of it.
App-based light programming is a much-friendlier exercise, enabling a room’s lighting to be adjusted as often as needs may require. No one is suggesting that re-programming should become a daily event, but knowing that a room can be reconfigured for a special occasion opens-up all kinds of possibilities for the well-designed lighting scheme.
. . . the well-designed lighting scheme . . .
Now that’s a separate conversation.
The Starlite Connect range, from Tamlite, includes downlights, light bulbs and linear LED strips, all designed to operate with the Starlite Connect WiZ App. Operating via Wi-Fi and Bluetooth connections, the system also works with Google Assistant, Amazon’s Alexa, Apple’s Siri and the IFTTT service.
In partnership with WiZ Connected, Starlite Connect revolutionises how your home is lit. 16 million colours and 64,000 whites give irrepressible customisability when it comes to designing your home how you want. Create your desired scene, save it, then use again later when you’re in the mood. Alternatively, select a dynamic, gently changing colour mode, from Sunset and Romance to Party and Mojito among many others!
With the Starlite Connect Retro Connector, all of your lighting can be made smarter.
New or existing non- smart fittings can be connected to your WiZ Connected App through the Retro Connector, allowing you to control your entire home from your phone or smart device.