Home lighting is one of the most dynamic elements of a smart home. Over the past several years, it’s undergone some major improvements. Energy-efficient LED bulbs all but wiped out their incandescent predecessors. The operating systems of whole-house lighting solutions went from that of a closed architecture to an open platform to enable cross-communication with thermostats, security sensors, music systems and more. Solutions once only available through professional installers can now easily had on Amazon.com and other outlets and installed by handy homeowners. And the lighting landscape continues to change.
Big Introductions at LightFair International
Based on introductions at the recent 2018 LightFair International convention and exhibition in Chicago, innovation in home lighting is gathering even more momentum. Fixtures are being increasingly more compact without any sacrifice in light output; LED bulbs are becoming more adept at producing warmer, more realistic color; and systems are employing advanced technology for ever greater energy-savings and cosmetic value. Then there’s the link between lighting and health and wellness. Scientific data suggests that the quality of light can impact everything from our mood to medical issues, as well as our productivity overall comfort, and manufacturers are engineering solutions that can, in a nutshell, make us feel and function better.
Here is a look at some of the top lighting trends uncovered at LightFair International:
Vintage-Style Bulbs: Mixing the Past with the Present
Clear vintage filament Edison light bulbs are the big thing in lighting design. They hit the scene in restaurants and clubs, and consumers are finding them just as eye-catching in home environments for their unique aesthetic—a mix of industrial modern and classic vintage. You can play up the vintage look even more by choosing bulbs made of amber glass.
Now Sylvania is offering even more decorative options with a line of clear and amber filament light bulbs of various shapes and sizes. Want a bulb in the shape of star? They’ve got it? How about a round orb? They have that too, plus many more interesting styles. These bulbs are meant to be exposed and admired—is the lampshade business in jeopardy?
While antiquey LED blubs lend decorative flair, they are also getting smarter. Promoted as a “first in the lighting industry,” Sylvania also has developed a filament-style bulb with tunable color temperature (for white light) and adjustable RGB color (red, blue, green, etc.) that can be controlled by voice through Amazon Alexa, Google Home and Apple HomePod. Sylvania says that in addition to its A19 lamp, the white/color tunable filament LED bulb will be available in other form factors like ST19 and G25.
LED Downlights: Same Output, Smaller Size
In the past, if you wanted a lot of light you needed a relatively big fixture installed in the ceiling. Between four and 6 inches in diameter was fairly typical. Traditionally, smaller sizes were only useful in task or accent lighting with lower light level needs. But thanks to a crop of super-efficient LEDs, downlights as small as two inches adequately illuminate a large space. These smaller fixtures are less conspicuous, blend in better with the ceiling—precluding what lighting designer refer to as the “Swiss cheese” effect.
The D2LED from Prescolite (a division of Hubbell) and the Gravity from Intense Lighting (a division of Leviton), boasted some of the smallest apertures at LightFair at 2 inches in diameter. Both come with a choice of architectural trims and offer slick ways to aim the light in different directions and, of course, tune the color temperature and intensity level.
You’re Getting Warmer … : LEDs with “Dim to Warm” Feature
One of the biggest complaints people have voiced about LED bulbs was the cold, bluish color they emitted even as they were dimmed. Incandescent bulbs, on the other hand, produce a familiar warm effect as they fade. This LED issue is being resolved industry wide, as manufacturers are adopting technology that enables LEDs to “dim to warm.” For example, USAI Lighting’s Warm Glow Dimming, found in its BeveLED 2.0 and BeveLED Mini recessed downlight series are “virtually indistinguishable from an incandescent light source” as they are dimmed.
Here Comes the Sun—Indoor Lighting That Mimics the Outdoors
With the introduction of a puck-size sensor called SolarSync, Crestron is enabling indoor lights to match the color and intensity of the sunlight throughout the day, or create artistic lighting scenes that make midnight feel like a sunny afternoon. SolarSync, which mounts outside in an area exposed to the sun, was designed to analyze the color temperature of the ambient light and direct the indoor lighting to automatically match the detected color. The sensor can drive indoor lighting to SolarSync also has manual mode or inclement weather dead band settings to maximize the best lighting effect at all times with no effort.
“Tunable white has many benefits that have been directly linked to our health and productivity, and the idea of having an artificial light source to re-create the natural light has proven effects,” says Bill Schafer, Executive Sales Director, Crestron Commercial Lighting Control. “However, manual control has proven ineffective. Now, in addition to our standard time-based control, we now offer our SolarSync single point sensor, which reports back to your Crestron system to create a true reflection of the natural light outside.”
Although Crestron expects hospitals and offices to employ SolarSync initially, it definitely has potential for use in homes.
Another “outdoor meets indoor” lighting system is the Arcadia from Cree. Like Crestron’s solution, it’s intended for use in commercial settings, but it probably won’t be long until it makes an appearance in homes. It combines color tuning and three-dimensional form factors to deliver ambient light that mimics the natural progression of the sky throughout the day, from dusk to dawn. The Arcadia system can also connect to other luminaries to create an overall scene that can be customized.
A top LED panel simulates the sky, morphing from extreme blue to gray-blue, to emulate degrees of cloudiness. Meanwhile, inner side LED panels produce the natural glow of the sun and work in sync with the top panel to mimic the natural arc of the sun throughout a day.
Artificial Intelligence—Lights that Control Themselves
Artificial intelligence is making inroads into the smart home market, and lighting seems to be leading the way. In nutshell, through artificial intelligence the lights in your home are able to analyze the conditions around them and logically decide to react. It’s an approach that precludes that need for traditional forms of control—keypads, switches, and mobile apps.
An artificially intelligent lighting system that’s aimed squarely at the residential market is Noon Home. The “first of its kind” system features smart, low-cost light switches that can identify the type of bulbs in your home. Through this patented “automatic bulb-detection technology” the system can determine dimming levels by reading the electric current generated by light sources, be they LED, incandescent, halogen, or any combination. profile of the electric current to determine what type of lighting load is connected to the switch.
The switches are controllable via Amazon Alexa, Google Home or IFTTT integration with third-party devices, which also allow Noon switches to work with smart bulbs like Philips Hue, light-effect bulbs, or even music.
Noon Home’s product offering consists of a $199 Room Director switch that connects wirelessly via Bluetooth to $99 slave extended switches. Noon Home does away with the need for a hub to enable remote Wi-Fi connectivity to the system. Instead, Wi-Fi is built directly into the Room Director switch.
No hub is necessary, making the installation simpler.
Hub-less Lighting Systems
Another hub-less lighting system is the Halo Home from Eaton. The beauty of Halo is that everything is ala carte. You can buy wall switch and one fixture, or incorporate a variety of products including a choice of 4-inch and 5/6-inch downlights, a smart Anyplace Bluetooth Dimmer that applies to the wall with Velcro, and an optional Internet Access Bridge. The Internet Access Bridge provides Wi-Fi connectivity to supports remote access to the lights, and enables Amazon Echo products for voice control capabilities.
At LightFair Eaton announced new members to the line, including an outdoor floodlight, a wireless dimmer switch, and a wireless adapter that enables non-wireless light fixtures to join the Halo Home network.
Explore Innovative Lighting Options
Sure, dimmable lighting is useful, but today’s there’s so much more that you can do with your home’s light than have them fade in and out. Tunable white light, color-changing, and warmer looking LEDs are taking the lighting market by storm. The benefits of these technologically advanced lights go beyond energy efficiency and cosmetics. They promote health and wellness and create more comfortable living environments. Be sure to check out all the new lighting options when you’re ready to build a new house of update the one you live in now.