Dimming made easy: plug-and-play smart lighting to make dimming solutions simpler to install

LED dimming has always been an issue. Gavin Williams talks on the growth of smart lighting controls and how these will affect the installation of dimming solutions, which he states will be made easier for installers.  

Installation of smart lighting control can seem a daunting prospect – there is much confusion and uncertainty over the skills required to install a smart lighting control solution, even when controlling something as simple as dimming. Adding a new service such as smart lighting control to a business can be a worry. No one wants to get it wrong and end up with inconvenient and costly call-backs. But that need not be the case with simple plug-and-play systems now available on the market.

Make smart controls your business

It’s a common misconception that an installer needs a competent level of programming skills to install controls. Yes, some smart lighting control systems do need to be programmed but these tend to be very high specification systems to deal with complex projects that require a very high level of bespoke functionality. This concept is compounded by the high-end custom installer. It’s in their interest to keep the traditional electrician out of their sector to protect future lower-end work, but these two job roles are set to have more crossover in the future as smart lighting controls continue to develop and installation becomes more accessible.

More control, lower energy bills

Lighting control offers great functionality for consumers, with dimmed scenes providing excellent energy saving capabilities of up to 80%. Dimming LEDs throughout a property can provide energy savings of 20-30% that can be further increased when paired with PIRs so lighting is only on in spaces currently in use. Additionally, using a soft start dimmer for smoother current switching reduces the lamp temperature and can extend the typical 25,000-hour life of a LED to reduce failure and maintenance. This is a great selling pitch for lighting control and dimming, opening a new lucrative business avenue for installers.

Keeping it simple.

With these benefits – and the increasing demand for high-tech solutions from the tech-savvy – it’s no surprise that lighting control is becoming more popular. To make smart lighting control more accessible manufacturers are simplifying the systems and at Hamilton we are very proud to have developed one of the simplest on the market.

We have developed an open-protocol system that doesn’t require any specialist programming when being installed. It simply needs a CAT5 cable feed and then it’s plug-and-play. The modular system provides control of four channels or circuits, with it being simple to wire two four-channel boxes together if eight channels are needed.

Easy to install – no programming, no problem!

Having attended LuxLive and ELEX Roadshows, I saw first-hand how surprised installers were when they realised how easy it was to install the plug-and-play system. The general feeling was that it would be too complicated but this quickly changed with a demonstration.

To illustrate, let me take you through a simple lighting control scenario with dimming: a kitchen/diner extension with 8 circuits with wall plates. Each dimmer pack from Hamilton gives you four circuits plus one volt free relay for switching fans etc. Plus, one pack needs to include an Ethernet bridge if you want the system to be controlled via a smart device app. The process is simple:

  1. Connect the lighting control circuits into the control packs
  2. Connect the CAT5 cable from each wall plate to each pack
  3. Link a CAT5 cable from pack to pack
  4. Then simply set the dip switches in the wall plate to correspond to the pack, giving circuits one to four, five to eight etc. That’s it – no programming required

Once installed, the process of setting lighting scenes on the control plate is not dissimilar to programming a car radio. Simply dim the lighting as required, hold your finger on one of four scene buttons until it locks in. It really is as simple as that.

Use quality LEDs

There is one more thing to take into consideration when dimming LEDs and that is lamp compatibility. As most installers know, cheap LEDs are a false economy and can lead to flickering problems when dimming, so good quality branded LEDs should always be used. And try to use the same brand throughout the installation to ensure consistent light quality and colour.

Become a Smart installer!

In terms of easy-to-install smart lighting control that offers simple dimming, the technology is already here. It’s quick and easy for electrical installers to fit without additional training or programming knowledge. Smart lighting control doesn’t have to be complicated – it is already making dimming easier. 

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