Home Lighting Automation Overview

smart-lightingIf you are thinking of automating the lighting in your home then this starter guide will hopefully help you understand your options and give a idea as to how much it will cost.

Eventually new homes and buildings with be built with smart lighting, but until then most homes will be retrofitted.

Technologies Involved

Most Home smart lighting devices use some form or Wireless. The most common being:

  • Wi-FI
  • ZigBee
  • Proprietary Wireless

Lighting Control Options

These are the options for standard wired lighting currently controlled by a wall mounted switch as shown in the diagram below.

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Smart-lighting-options

We can

  • Change the existing bulb for a Wireless enabled Light Bulb and Keep the existing switch..
  • Keep the existing bulb and switch but Insert a Wireless switch inline.
  • Keep the existing bulb and change the existing switch to a Wireless enabled switch.

Bulbs with Wi-fi embedded

Technology

Bulbs are equipped with Wi-Fi or ZigBee.

Controlled

They can be controlled by a Mobile App on Android and IOS. Some will also work with Amazon echo.

Hub Required

Yes for ZigBee, and no for Wi-Fi

Advantages

  • Easy to install
  • Controlled from mobile phone or tablet

Disadvantages

  • Costly bulbs cost approx $8 -$20 but vary considerably
  • May not work with dimmers
  • May not work with all light fittings e.g. candle fittings
  • You have to leave light switch on permanently

Wireless Enabled Inline Switches

These are small wireless controlled switches that are placed between the existing bulb and the existing switch.

They require a little more work than the wireless wall switch but they can also be used to control Wall sockets.

These come in two variants.

Technology

  • Wi-Fi
  • Proprietary wireless

Controlled

By Mobile App on Android and IOS. Some will also work with Amazon echo.

Proprietary wireless doesn’t require use of phone/tablet and are ideal for the elderly and can comprise a Physical switch which can be carried around.

Hub Required

No

Advantages

  • Inexpensive around $12
  • Not restricted to lighting
  • Can be used to easily add another light switch in a more convenient location.
  • Works with all light fittings e.g. candle fittings

Disadvantages

  • Needs to be Installed but not difficult
  • Have to leave light switch on permanently
  • Proprietary wireless cannot be controlled via the home network and not considered smart.

Wireless Enabled Switches

Instead of having the Wi-Fi switch inside the light bulb you keep the existing light bulb an install a wireless controlled switch.

Technology

Wi-Fi , ZigBee, Z wave and proprietary

Controlled

By Mobile App on Android and IOS. Some will also work with Amazon echo.

Hub Required

Yes for ZigBee, and no for Wi-Fi

Advantages

  • Relatively cheap approx $25
  • Long lasting
  • Works with all light fittings e.g. candle fittings

Disadvantages

  • Needs installation but is not difficult for handyman However you can also get cover switches which fit over your existing switch. See here.

Summary

Very low cost proprietary wireless inline switches are likely to become popular in non smart home installations especially for the elderly.

Because smart bulbs are expensive and bulbs are consumable items I would expect that they will not be as popular as smart switches and inline switches.

References

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