“Smart lighting” is one of those things that, as trends for “smart” everything grow, electrical contractors are dealing with more and more.
In fact, it’s not just smart homes, but plans for entire smart cities that represent opportunities for electrical contractors to expand their skills and sign on to new, profitable projects.
According to the US-based Independent Electrical Contractors, smart lighting controls are a key to success for the people who use them, in more ways than one:
“A well-chosen solution also enables superior lighting performance, code compliance, better space utilization, and delivers the right lighting environment for the people in the space.”
As an area that is creating considerable new opportunities for contractors, it’s a good idea to be familiar with the various benefits. How will you sell smart lighting to your clients?
#1. Space and human activity
Lighting sets the mood for a space. It can either energise human activity, or discourage it. When you look at a traditionally lit office, business, or home, the lighting situation remains relatively static no matter what conditions may affect it. Whether it’s a bright, sunny day or dull and overcast, traditional electrical lighting is limited to performing at one level, as it was installed.
There have been a number of studies into the impact of lighting on human activity and behavior over the years, with findings such as:
- Lighting affects buyer behaviour. Good lighting can influence perception and make customers more likely to buy.
- Lighting impacts performance and productivity at work. People who were comfortable with their lighting conditions tended to be more happy at work, while lighting and task conditions that improve visibility lead to better performance.
Conversely, consider this from Smartwatt:
“Uncomfortable, unproductive, unhealthy, low morale and high turnover are some of the effects plaguing modern day building occupants. Improper lighting is one of the culprits in creating a less than stellar experience within offices, schools, hospitals and industrial spaces.”
You can plan to improve lighting, but “smart” lighting is that extra step – an acknowledgement that the optimum level of lighting will change according to the conditions or time of day. Smart lighting creates the ability for the lighting to automatically change with those conditions.
Consider spaces that might have multiple functions as well. For example, in a home, open-plan kitchen, dining and living areas host many different activities. You can go from cooking, to hosting guests, to relaxing with the press of a button to adjust lighting controls.
#2. Impact on sleep
There are many possible reasons for a poor night’s sleep, but lighting can play a huge role. Consider typical evening habits in a household – people might be watching television, reading or socializing. They’re probably not paying much attention to the lighting around them, but this can make a big difference in how well they sleep.
Exposure to light or darkness is a key factor in regulating how we sleep. Melatonin is a natural hormone produced by our bodies which aids sleep and is released into the blood during the evening. We become less alert, and melatonin remains elevated for around 12 hours, or until around 9AM. After that, it is barely detectable in the blood.
The melatonin response is triggered by lower light conditions in the evening, so you can immediately see how inappropriate lighting conditions might have a negative impact. Where lighting is too bright, that melatonin response may be disrupted, with accompanying poor sleep.
A benefit of smart lighting is that it can be programmed to dim and help trigger than melatonin response. A suggestion is to have lights gradually dim in the evening, particularly in the 30 minutes before going to bed. In the morning, the opposite can be done with lights gradually brightening in the 30 minutes before getting up. Smart lighting gives people the opportunity to sync with their alarms.
#3. Benefits of automation
We’re huge fans of automating tasks where possible, leading to better efficiencies. Automation means you remove the piece of the equation that is usually the least efficient – relying on human intervention. There are a number of possible automation benefits through smart lighting:
- It’s convenient – you can have the lights on for when you arrive home, or automatically as you walk into a room.
- You can customise usage according to the space, for example, creating “living zones.”
- Automated lighting can clean up the appearance of the interior of a room. There is no need for bulky fittings.
- Automated lighting can make you more energy efficient, with lights and lighting levels only being used as necessary.
- By only using energy that is needed, users can reduce their electrical bills.
- Lighting can be combined with other automated systems for convenience, for example, with a home security system.
#4. Impact on mood
Human physiology is directly tied to light, including our natural circadian rhythm. Studies show that light also directly and indirectly influences our mood.
The obvious indirect way is where light interferes with sleep, as we discussed. Lack of sleep leads to a number of complaints, including low or irritable moods. Light exposure that disrupts the circadian rhythm has been directly attributed to some mood disorders.
There is also strong evidence to suggest that bright light affects the intensity of our emotions, both positively and negatively. For example, ambient brightness makes people feel warmer and triggers “hot” emotions. These can increase people’s perception of the attractiveness of another person, or, they can have an increased perception of aggressiveness. The suggestion from researchers is that turning down the lights can help to reduce emotionality in everyday decisions.
Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) is a common issue related to the dimmer conditions during inclement weather or over winter. It is thought to have multiple causes, including a reduction in serotonin (the mood regulating hormone) as a result of less light exposure.
In all of the cases outlined here, smart lighting can be a good solution. For example, you can have lights automatically switch to a warmer colour and brighter hue during winter or on dull days. You can control the brightness of lights according to what you’re trying to achieve. If negotiations are happening in a room, you might like to dial back the brightness to avoid those “hot” emotions.
#5. Benefits to security
Smart lighting can provide a few security benefits, particularly to homeowners. For example, if they are away from home, they can set up the lighting so that it behaves as though someone is still there. They can change the colour, brightness and lighting on in different rooms. Importantly, they can access the lighting system remotely and make changes.
Lighting can also be an excellent deterrent to intruders, not only through giving the appearance that someone is home, but by setting up lighting triggers should they set foot on the property. For example, let’s say a potential burglar triggers an external security light. In turn, this can trigger internal lights as well. There’s a good chance these will scare the intruder away.
Smart lighting can also work directly with a home security system. The triggering of the light can turn on cameras to capture recording of the scene. Today’s advances in geo-fencing mean that homeowners can avoid constantly having their security lights triggered by wandering animals at night.
Smart lighting has come a long way, and we particularly like efficiencies created by the automation features.
Lighting can be a powerful tool, impacting mood, health and behaviours. Companies might use smart lighting to influence moods during negotiations, or promote productivity among their staff. Retail stores might use it to adjust to conditions conducive with encouraging shoppers to buy, while homeowners can get a good night’s sleep, save energy and save money.
Countfire is an excellent tool for lighting professionals too, allowing you to easily and automatically count take-offs. Contact us today to get started.