Wireless Controlled Lighting Systems: a sign of the times?

In the last post we looked at sensor lighting for homes, where the lighting is controlled by timing devices which come on or off automatically. The limitation with sensor or timer-related devices is the accurate of the delay or the sensor. For example, if you are deep in concentration at a task, you don’t want the lights to go off because they cannot sense you are in the room.

Imagine you were trying to repair a laptop or something requiring your focussed attention. At the most inopportune moment you’re left hiding a screwdriver in one hand, a pair of pliers in another, while trying to wiggle one leg in the hope of triggering a sensor.

Another lighting feature that is growing in importance is wireless controlled lighting. In this form of lighting, the lighting is controlled via wireless means, so you could adjust the lighting from a smartphone. As most people are often glued to the phone or have it close by, to the point that it is described as their third hand, or a leash, using this as a lighting control is not unnatural, it is a seamless extension of the device.

The primary push behind this sort of thinking – controlling lighting wirelessly – is undoubtedly lifestyle. In the modern age, turning on lights from a wall socket is seen as outdated and backward. In fact, many new build homes now come with wirelessly controlled lighting as the norm. Young first time buyers, all of whom will have grown up with a smart phone in their teenage years view this as a sign of status. The use of wirelessly controlled lighting may make a positive impression of a property and its asking price. Some home owners install it prior to sales, upgrading their old lighting systems, because the increase in the asking price a property could fetch would outweigh the lighting cost.

But wirelessly controlled isn’t just growing on the younger generation. Older citizens are installing it too, to save on the physical effort to adjust lighting, especially if they have mobility difficulties. Having to brighten or dim the lighting without having to get up may be a benefit to some.

There are other advantages too. If you are leaving on a long holiday but in your haste to get away you forgot to turn off a set of lights, those lights are going to announce to the world, especially those who see them lit continuously, that your property is vacant and ripe for a break-in. If you had wireless lighting you could turn them down on your journey. And while you are away, too, you could turn the lights on and on to give the impression of occupancy. Wireless lighting is a boon for security, not just a status symbol! Of course, it means you have to choose a really good password, as you won’t want someone else running your household controls for you.

Wireless lighting can be preset to adjustable levels, such as with the brightness on your television screen. It is a quick efficient way to adjust lighting controls without adjusting individual lights, and can bring about valuable time-saving.

Bill Gates has a remote controlled house where he could call in on the way home for it to prepare his bath, or to get the kettle boiling to prepare a cup of tea. Will the average house be like that? Probably not in the immediate future, but perhaps wireless technology will make its impact elsewhere. For now though, it seems that wireless controlled lighting systems will become more commonplace in the future and every household may eventually adopt one.

How to design lighting for interiors

Lighting can really make a difference to the way a room is presented. If you looked at the way a room is presented on one of the property shows on television, you will see that the best ones are almost always lit when the prospective buyers enter the house. Or if you glanced at an estate agents sales brochure or website, the properties that are advertised always use lighting to their advantage. I’ve known a few couples to be slightly disappointed when they visit properties because they’ve seen for themselves that the property they thought looked light in the sales brochure or website did not really materialise in its actual state. And one individual even decided not to sell, after seeing how his own property could look like with a bit of clever interior lighting in the estate agents’ sales brochure!

Getting interior lighting right requires consideration, but it is not beyond the lay person, unless you have really specific requirements for what you want to achieve. Otherwise it is a simple matter of considering these few easy steps.

Consider the focal points of the room first. The focal points of the room are the ones you want people to notice. They can be structural or decorative. A structural focal point is one that is part of the building itself. Perhaps it is the low beams you want to emphasise. Perhaps it is the fireplace. Or it could be a specific historical feature that has been carefully preserved. These are all structural focal points. A decorative focal point is a piece of furniture or art, an internal decoration, that draws interest. It could be a nice Ming vase, or a framed picture. Whether the focal points are structural or decorative, bring them out from the other areas of the room.

How can you bring them out? The point to remember is that the local lighting to these areas has to be higher than the general lighting. You have to get more light focussed on the areas. Direct lighting may be suitable in some cases, especially if the reflected object or surface is dark or non-reflective. But if there is the likelihood of glare, then consider diffusing the light around these features, or using small focal lights to emphasise them.

After the features of the room have been considered, the next thing you want to do is consider the specific functions for the activities in the room. Perhaps you have a writing desk in a corner. You’ll need to put some focussed local light there, but be sure to consider the impact it has on other areas of the room. If you have a wall-mounted television, decrease the amount of lighting around the area to minimise glare.

After focal points and functional uses have been considered, the last thing to consider is the lighting for general ambient purposes. How much light do you need for general usage of the room? It goes without saying that the general ambient lighting should not exceed the specific local lighting in the other areas, otherwise you end up with a room that is extra bright, or one where the specific lighting has no significant impact.

The fixtures you use for various lighting purposes vary. For focal points, a very general rule might be to used diffused lighting to minimise glare. For purposes such as writing, or perhaps small focal points, use direct focussed light but be mindful of reflective glare. The needs for ambient lighting can vary according to the time of day and the seasons as well, so it may be worth considering fixtures with dimmer switches so the surrounding lighting is within control and more manageable and adaptable to the needs.

Using the correct interior lighting doesn’t require a lot of mental agony. Just consider the layout of the room, what you want to emphasise and what your needs for the room are. Then plan the lighting with these in mind. And your interiors will look a million dollars, without costing that much!