How to implement the perfect lighting design
Want to set the atmosphere for relaxation or romance? Looking to dim the lights for a movie adventure, or to create just the right ambience for family fun? Lighting is an essential ingredient in the connected home, and like every aspect of the technology integrator’s work, the lighting and its associated controls require careful planning and execution. Nowadays, the subject has become more scientific due to the rise of solid-state lighting (LEDs).
Planning for lighting needs to be a focus at the start of the project and ideally needs to result in the decision to engage a lighting designer. Lighting is a wonderful mix of art and science, and an experienced designer brings both to the project in equal measure – the creative design decisions to achieve the right illumination and optimal placement of fixtures to make a space visually interesting and comfortable (i.e. without glare), as well as the palette of different light sources mixed together at different brightness levels or colours to set the required mood.
The “behind the scenes” aspects of lighting have broadened in recent years, with the upsurge in digitally controlled lighting and the use of a wide variety of low voltage control protocols. The rise in LED has brought new challenges, including flicker issues and driver inrush problems, both of which can be solved by carefully selecting compatible products in your system design. We can no longer think of the lamps or fixtures and controls as independent purchasing decisions, but as integral parts of the overall system design.
Whilst mains dimming has historically been performed by panel mounted dimmers, often located in the headend room, it is now increasingly common for each fixture to handle its own dimming (via the driver).
“DALI controlled LED fixtures are becoming increasingly popular, even in residential projects, due to the reduced wiring required to control many independent zones.”
DALI controlled LED fixtures are becoming increasingly popular, even in residential projects, due to the reduced wiring required to control many independent zones. Using DALI, you will need less space at the head-end, but instead you will need to give more consideration for driver locations in ceiling voids. Similar considerations often apply to colour changing lighting, usually controlled by a DMX signal.
The cable types required, which include both mains power and low voltage control signals, need to be considered as early as possible in the project, even if the majority of your control design is to be wireless. Cable routing needs careful planning. Think about compatibility with, and proximity to, other cables from other systems to avoid AV components being affected by lighting signals, and vice versa.
Safe-guarding your installation
Lighting is an essential service. Consider that in the event of system failures, it could be inconvenient for a residence to be temporarily without audio or video, but one that’s without lighting would be dark and potentially dangerous! Therefore, planning for lighting control needs to keep reliability as the core goal during system design and installation. For example, whilst cloud connected control brings new heights of user convenience, an integrator should always ensure that a system can function without actually needing the internet connection to be live.
A system should also be operable when smart phone or tablet batteries have accidentally been allowed to run flat. Even if the primary user interface is a phone, the wall mounted keypad is still an essential backup device. If wireless systems are being used, consider whether they are using the overcrowded 2.4GHz part of the spectrum (home to Wi-Fi, Zigbee, and Bluetooth amongst many others), or whether they are deployed using a less crowded frequency band, especially if your project is in a densely populated urban location.
Similarly, integration between lighting controls and AV systems enables a wonderful convergence of controls, but lighting must also always be able to work when other AV components are offline. Tightly integrated, independent systems can be more reliable than all-in-one options here.
“New innovations further expand the fantastic array of interaction options for lighting control, enabling users to enjoy a choice of control method, from touch to voice to automation, with different methods being more convenient at different times.”
The variable user interface
User experience is the hot topic for 2017. New innovations further expand the fantastic array of interaction options for lighting control, enabling users to enjoy a choice of control method, from touch to voice to automation, with different methods being more convenient at different times.
Choose your options carefully and consider everyone who will use the home, including the young or the elderly, or any visitors with special needs. User interface options include numerous styles of keypads, remote controls, and mobile devices, along with various methods of presence detection. Recent exciting advances are also to be found in the paradigm shift to AI-powered hands-free voice control interfaces, such as Alexa and HomeKit.
Lighting control system design requires consideration of both the aesthetics of the user interfaces and the convenience provided by integration between systems.
However, although various cloud connected voice control interfaces are making great waves within the connected home, there will always be a need for additional manual controls (situations where silence is necessary or when a room is very noisy, or in the event of a cloud connection outage). In terms of aesthetics, all manual keypads or other touch control products have to meet the high design values of the décor, with options including, glass, metal, and plastic.
Lighting plays an important part in security, leading to an enhanced sense of wellbeing for the homeowner. Whilst they’re away, occupancy simulation can be achieved with time clocks and randomised recall of lighting scenes. Homeowners can be made to feel safer by ensuring they never return to a dark home. Use automation via astronomical time clocks to bring exterior lights on at dusk, or geo-fencing to detect when owners return to their home and trigger an appropriate welcome scene.
Remember that the project is not finished until all keypad buttons have been engraved, all scenes on GUIs and VUIs have been given meaningful names, and the levels have been verified with the homeowner after the decoration has been completed. Paying special attention to these things will ensure your client’s delight with an aspect of their home technology with which they will interact every day.
CEDIA TRAINING | Lighting Design Package
If your business is looking at lighting as a new service, then this two-day course is the ideal introduction to this interesting and profitable sector.
Day one is designed to provide those new to lighting control with a solid understanding of the fundamentals. The first day concentrates on lighting technologies, with a strong emphasis on the science behind the “art” of lighting.
The second day provides a more in-depth understanding of the subject by focusing on the practical application of lighting control in the residential market. The course is aimed at developing installation skills for those who have a basic knowledge of lighting control. The trainer will focus on common pitfalls and best practices within this market.
2017 DATES FOR THE DIARY:
14 to 15 September, 2017 – AWE HQ, Epsom
Sam Woodward is customer education, leader at Lutron EA Ltd
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