Illuminating integrator opportunities

Amy Wallington looks at the latest trends in integrated lighting and how it has become the most commonly installed application in a residential project.

Lighting has evolved over the years to become a key feature in many homes. It is no longer the case that consumers have a simple ‘On/Off’ switch to illuminate a room with a pendant light hanging from the ceiling. Many homes have some sort of smart lighting, perhaps even with a smart assistant to control it.

Humans tend not to notice lighting unless there is something wrong with it, and that is because it often makes us feel uncomfortable. While we take lighting for granted, it plays a huge part in our lives.

HiddenWires’ ‘State of the Smart Home’ report, conducted at the end of 2021, found that the most automated area of projects is lighting, with 71% of respondents saying that it is what they integrate the most.

“Consumers are now more demanding when it comes to the type of lighting they want,” says Morten Warren, CEO and founder of Zuma. “A simple light bulb that can be turned on, off and occasionally dimmed is no longer enough. People are after energy-saving solutions that allow users to control whole spaces and create the right mood for any occasion, with different intensity and temperature controls.”

"Every artificial light source should match the qualities of sunlight as closely as possible.”

While lighting has been on the growth path for some time now, the recent lockdowns have played a part in its boost. With consumers spending more time at home, and the office and the home converging, how we light our homes is becoming more important.

Miguel Aguado, marketing and technology manager at Lutron Electronics highlights: “Many design trends are a result of changes brought about by the pandemic. Many of us became accustomed to the conveniences and total environmental control we had at home.

“While design and function appears to be evolving at an ever-increasing pace, one element remains constant throughout every project: lighting is the single critical factor to a room’s style. Getting it wrong undermines the aesthetic and the intended use of the space, while finding the perfect light is key to creating the best possible environment with regard to both function and aesthetics. Simply put, it’s the one non-negotiable when it comes to planning, developing and creating the perfect space.”

Zuma has combined lighting with audio to create a more integrated solution that still feeds the circadian rhythm. Image: Zuma

Rhythm of the light

Lighting can alter moods and affect health and wellbeing which is why it’s important to use it in the correct way. Our circadian rhythm requires us to get as much natural light as possible, and if we can recreate that in our homes, surely we should.

“It is common knowledge that the light of the sun is crucial for our health and wellbeing,” states Koen Dekyvere, export manager UK, Basalte. “Therefore, every artificial light source should match the qualities of sunlight as closely as possible. That’s the idea of centrally controlled circadian lighting: to simulate natural daylight. Light can affect our motivation, wellbeing and productivity. Our physiological response to light depends on things like colour spectrum, intensity and timing. The quality of light in our environment is therefore of great importance when we spend a long time in closed rooms. Especially in times when so many people work from home, this aspect becomes more relevant than ever before in day-to-day life. That’s why tying in circadian rhythm into your home automation system is the next big thing. It can improve the ability to concentrate, prevent sleep disorders and increase general wellbeing.”

Lighting control systems can be programmed to automatically change colour temperatures, intensity and timing to suit the circadian rhythm so consumers don’t even need to think about it.

Zuma

Dekyvere adds: “Colour temperature has a direct impact on a person’s biorhythm. By controlling it as part of an intelligent lighting system, it is possible to influence the mood and behaviour of those in the room. To make it as easy as possible, you can integrate these settings into scenes. When you activate the ‘Home Office’ scene for example, lights dim up with a cold colour temperature, using blue frequencies. This kind of light will increase awareness, productivity and wellbeing during the day. However, when the ‘Relax’ scene is activated, the lights will change to a warmer colour temperature using amber and red frequencies. This kind of light is used to relax people at night to ensure the body is refreshed, revitalised and reset properly.”

“A room can have all the technology in the world, but if it has bad lighting, it won’t be used.”

Aguado reminds us of a method of natural light control that we often forget: “The most obvious example of daylight control, and perhaps the oldest, is shading. Blinds don’t just block out the sun; they can reduce and stabilise temperature and even contribute to a room’s overall ambience. Blinds are also a defence against uncomfortable glare. They can be manufactured with a degree of openness – the density of the blind’s weave – that can mitigate glare.”

Light isn’t the only consideration when it comes to circadian rhythm at home, as Warren explains: “Research has shown just how influential the optimal combination of natural light and sound is to our mental and physical health. Zuma has developed its own energy efficient, high-performance LED engine with high-fidelity audio in an ultra-compact downlight speaker. With over 100 increments of dimming, sound-zoning capabilities, temperature ranges from 2800k to 4800k and numerous preset duo sensory sound and light scapes, it can transform the mood of a room in an instant.”

Rako Controls offers a dedicated space for integrator training. Image: Rako Controls

Changing perceptions

Lighting control isn’t just at the higher end of the market. With devices such as Philips Hue, the lower end of the market is also investing in human centric lighting solutions for their homes. Although high-end lighting control systems are on a different level to DIY solutions, it has opened up the market and piqued the interest of mid-to-low-end consumers, changing their perceptions of lighting in the home.

“DIY systems have been an excellent way to introduce new consumers into the industry,” suggests Richard Andrewartha, director at Rako Controls. “They have given people an entry level way to gain experiences (both positive and negative) which should only help the other sectors of the market.”

It’s not just lighting control; consumers in the lower end of the market have created whole DIY smart home solutions using voice control and smart assistants and are even able to create basic scenes through these systems.

“Many digital services and applications are already indispensable to modern lives like Alexa light control via voice command or managing the home via smartphone or tablet,” explains Muijnck. “As more and more people discover how devices and functions can be linked together to create personalised lighting scenes through IFTTT, lighting is becoming even more vital when setting the mood and enhancing wellbeing in the home. We are also seeing that residents of automated homes appreciate the benefits of scenes to make the property appear occupied if they are not in residence, with lights coming on and blinds coming down to mimic a ‘lived in’ effect, proving that lighting has a vital part to play in helping to maintain security.”

“Developments in sensor technology means that lighting has become even more intuitive.”

The progression of lighting has changed many consumer’s perceptions of how they use it in their home. Off-the-shelf solutions are helping this. “When lights are integrated into a smart home system using a KNX, DALI or even Philips Hue for example, almost anything is possible,” Dekyvere reports. “The intensity of lights can be easily adjusted or they can be integrated into different scenes. Almost anything can be programmed into a scene to create a cosy atmosphere with just one button. Customisation is key.”

Whether it’s a DIY solution or a high-end integrated control system, consumers are moving away from the single ‘On/Off’ switch to explore different lighting control options. “Lighting is now considered by all,” recognises Andrewartha. “The pool of consumers that say, ‘What’s wrong with a normal switch?’ is becoming smaller as more people are exposed to good lighting and good control. The choice of lighting fixtures is now vast. The advances in LED technology have allowed lighting manufacturers to create lighting for all architectural aspects of the home. This generally increases the number of lighting circuits, which in turn increases the requirement for lighting control.”

Rako’s dedicated facility introduces Rako’s lighting control solutions and how they can be programmed into homes. Image: Rako Controls

Saving energy

Smart homes in general are said to be more energy efficient than a non-smart home. Automation can ensure devices are switched off or in energy saving mode when they are not in use without relying on a human to do it. Sensors can also be used to tell if someone is in the house or occupying a room, which can then localise any climate control or lighting.

With many parts of Europe facing an energy crisis, and bills rising by extortionate amounts, consumers are very wary of how much energy they are using to help reduce bills.

Smart lighting solutions can help the situation, as Muijnck explains: “Developments in sensor technology means that lighting has become even more intuitive, so that indoor and outdoor lights will only come on when a presence is detected, helping to reduce unnecessary energy use. The latest technology can also help homeowners to track their energy use in real-time and adjust how they use their lighting accordingly so they can make changes sooner rather than later. With rising energy prices, we anticipate that homeowners will also be keen to invest in smart products which will support their lifestyle as well as helping them to save money and promote greater sustainability.”

Andrewartha believes lighting control will benefit a lot of people to save energy: “The adoption of LED lamps in all residential markets shows that the lighting industry has great strength in delivering energy reductions and control systems will continue to push for those last savings. A common feature within most control systems is the ‘Whole House Off’ function, meaning that no light is left on unintentionally on exit. Alternatively, some integrated systems allow for geofencing via smartphones, meaning if no one is home the lights will automatically turn off.”

Products with short lifespans are contributing to problems with carbon footprint, and Warren encourages manufacturers to change this: “The market is moving away from disposable culture, so fittings must be longer lasting, more energy efficient and less disposable. With Zuma, you do not need to change any bulbs as our thermal design combined with the low energy LED engine has been designed to last between 12 to 15 years. High-end lighting manufacturers are gradually shifting from changeable bulbs to more sustainable and higher quality products. Lighting control, in particular, allows users to dim the lights, creating a soft atmosphere while also saving energy.”

Gira’s wireless KNX RF system can control more than just lighting. Image: Gira

Extension of the home

One area of the home that has climbed higher on consumers’ importance lists is the garden or outdoor area, especially during the pandemic.

Many high-end homes use lighting design to bring extra luxury to their homes and this can be even more evident in the outdoor areas. “The heightened value people now put on their outside spaces means that homeowners are investing more heavily in them,” analyses Andrewartha. “With that added value, you are now seeing as much care and detail in the design of the external areas as you would internal. Along with design, lighting provides security and function. It accentuates features and most importantly, maximises the use of the outdoor space.”

Muijnck sees the extension into the outdoors as an added opportunity for integrators: “The trend for indoor-outdoor living is bringing increased opportunities for the lighting professional as homeowners are looking to capitalise on making the garden a space for entertaining and relaxing, with ambient exterior lighting all year round. By virtue of this investment in the home, we are seeing that products which combine both lighting and security functions are in demand for early adapters.

“Furthermore, we anticipate that multifunctional technology which is robust and weatherproof will become an ever-growing market segment as more consumers discover the benefits of extending control inside and out to enhance the value of their property.”

Basalte

Education

As stated earlier, we are more likely to notice bad lighting than good lighting because it makes us feel uncomfortable and affects our mood. To avoid this, Andrewartha suggests: “Design is so important when it comes to lighting, for instance, under lighting a room will only create a negative space. Integrators should be influencing homeowners to invest in lighting and lighting control. A room can have all the technology in the world, but if it has bad lighting, it won’t be used.”

To make informed decisions about what they want in their homes, it is important to educate homeowners as to what solutions are on offer to them and how it will work in their home.

Muijnck says: “Every household has changing needs and I strongly believe that the right integrated lighting control and ambient lighting can enhance the quality of life as well as improve health and safety in the home. Providing tangible examples of how this type of lighting can help to save time, money, energy and enhance security will encourage consumers to see how it can benefit them. We are committed to support integrators, lighting specialists and architects in educating the market through CPD and our globally recognised Gira Academy with the latest training and product development.”

Rako Controls also offers a training programme to integrators at its UK facility. With a newly designed training room, integrators can attend a Foundation course where they will get an introduction to lighting controls, learn about Rako’s systems and its control options. Following the Foundation session, integrators can attend the Advanced course which will cover the Rako wired system and programming.

Its newly refurbished training room also allows integrators to build a Rako lighting system where they can learn how to programme and configure the system for different uses.

Integrator training is really important to give end users a clear idea of the solutions available to them in their home. Lighting control is one of the most used applications at home so users need to make sure that the level of control and the different programming options is going to be right for them and their lifestyle.

Future

It’s almost certain that the residential lighting control market will continue on its growth path. As homeowners become more concerned about energy usage and their personal wellbeing, changes to the lighting in their home will be top of their priority list.

Warren believes lighting is becoming more than something that just illuminates a room: “Lighting is becoming the focus of rooms, rather than being merely functional, and the market is in constant development. Over the next few years, we will be seeing more lower energy options that work harder and deliver more than just lighting. Lighting needs to be dynamic, just like the lighting on our planet.”

Because we have spent a lot of the last two years at home, people are now investing in their homes with refurbishments. New builds are also popping up more than ever, giving more opportunities to introduce integrated lighting and control from the offset.

“Research has shown just how influential the optimal combination of natural light and sound is to our mental and physical health.”

Andrewartha agrees: “The lighting market will continue to grow, expectation for smart lighting will continue to increase. In the residential refurbishment and new build sector, every project will strongly consider the lighting and its control.”

From a security perspective, lighting has a big role to play, as Aguado explains: “One expectation of our homes that is unwavering is the desire for security. With smart home solutions, homeowners are creating peace of mind, from CCTV that livestreams to your phone to smart doorbells and motion alarms. However, smart lighting has the unique power to strike the perfect balance between secure and welcoming.

“Smart lighting solutions can set lights to turn on when motion is detected outside, have front door entry lights turn on when someone rings a smart doorbell, or welcome guests with just the right light as they approach the front door. When taking a smart approach to home security, lighting control is a fundamental that shouldn’t be underestimated.”