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Bring your self build or renovation project to life with high tech, easy control smart lights

How to Plan a Smart Lighting System

Photo credit: Lutron Homeworks QS whole-house lighting system. £15,000, Brilliant Lighting. (01845 525 664; brilliantlighting.co.uk)

Lighting design has come a long way since the days of a room with a solitary pendant light bulb and simple wall switch. Now smart systems connect every light to a hub with pre-programmable settings, controlled from a wall panel or your smartphone. A system such as this can spectacularly highlight the design or architectural features of a new-build or renovation, allowing for an array of atmospheric scenes.

Whether you're looking to build a smart home or you need gadgets to get your home connected, we've put together a guide to help you get your smart lighting system up and running. 

Layered format

When planning a scheme, statement pendants and table lamps will catch the eye, but just as important are recessed spots, uplighters, downlights and strip lights concealed behind coving or a lowered ceiling. In a smart system, this mix of elements can be turned on or off, or dimmed or coloured to create different effects.

‘Digital dimming gives greater control over individual fittings to allow for different schemes,’ says Shaw. LEDs are the stars of modern lighting, thanks to their low energy usage. After September 2018 we’ll no longer be able to buy halogen bulbs in traditional shapes as they’re being replaced by LED versions, while GU10 spotlights are already being phased out.

Ask the experts

A lighting designer will help to realise your ideas, supplying a plan and recommending fittings sourced from a range of suppliers. You’ll need to approach a lighting company about two months before the first fix, in order to dovetail the work with your schedule. During the first fix, electricians install carcass wiring for lighting and any other home entertainment, smart systems and alarms, before everything gets connected during the second fix.

From the initial plan, a more detailed specification with technical data sheets will be needed for the electrician and builder or project manager. The lighting control supplier will check the installation and programme the system, which can be adjusted once you’ve lived with it for a while.

‘Expect to pay from around £15,000 for a professional whole house lighting control system, excluding the design, fittings and electrician’s labour at first fix,’ says Shaw. ‘A single room set-up could cost from £1,000, and if you’re on a budget, DIY wireless solutions offer some of the benefits of professional systems including app control and access to Cloud integration.’

Plan wisely

Lighting scenes can be preset, then modified once the system is up and running, but don’t be tempted into too many options. ‘Generally, we’d allow four preset scenes for each room as more can be confusing,’ says Luke Thomas at John Cullen Lighting (020 7371 9000; johncullenlighting.com). ‘An open-plan kitchen/living/dining space needs to provide adequate illumination for a more diverse range of activities, while a small guest bedroom with only a few circuits might need only three scenes.’

In a whole house system, all the circuits are wired back to a rack that manages the system and allows lighting anywhere in the house to be operated from a control plate in any room. Alternatively, a single room set-up can be installed to run half a dozen lighting circuits.

Some systems include a holiday mode to turn lights on and off, making it appear you’re at home when the house is unoccupied, and can trigger lights to flash repeatedly if an intruder is detected. One solution for projects, including retro-fitting, is a wireless system that can control lighting without the need for rewiring.

Total power

Connectivity is the buzzword for modern living and lighting can be just one part of a total smart home technology package. ‘Lights, heating, audio and air conditioning can all be managed through one interface,’ says Thomas.

‘When linked to the Cloud, these lighting control systems can be integrated with other smart home systems and operated by simple voice commands, using Amazon’s Echo, Google Home or Apple’s Homepod,’ says Shaw.

A LightWaveRF Link plug and play central smart home hub, £89.99, adjusts dimmers, switches, sockets and more from your smartphone (0121 250 3625; lightwaverf.com).

For more ideas on how to plan a smart lighting system for your home, purchase a copy of the November issue of Grand Designs magazine, out now.

Kevins Column

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