MOST PEOPLE THINK of their home lights as things that get turned on, off or dimmed as needed, but not as a design and lifestyle element that can be programmed to fit your moods, activities or schedule. That’s what smart lighting systems do. They can light your home and yard, but they can also turn a dull standard glow into an integrated part of the home environment.
One of the fundamental tools in lighting control is the scene. Scene controls or scene settings allow you to illuminate an area based on the lighting needs and activities you do there. Lighting scenes are not one-size-fits-all like the way that standard lights are used. Using lighting scenes in a smart lighting or home automation system also simplifies your routine by allowing you to activate multiple settings with one-button commands, or even better, based on preset schedules, or responses to installed sensors.
Scenes are commonly used in custom-programmed automation systems. Even some do-it-yourself smart home systems allow varying degrees of scene creation. One of the bonus elements of creating scenes in a home automation system is that they’re not restricted to lighting alone. You can combine lighting scenes with temperature settings, security systems or home theater activities.
Scenes can be activated from touchscreens, tablets or smartphones, handheld remotes or wall-mounted keypads. Keypads with engraved labels are particularly practical because they require almost no instruction to know how to use them.
A key factor with lighting scenes is that the home’s lights must be integrated into a control system, that way you can operate multiple lights, in different rooms and on different circuits, with simple programmed commands. It doesn’t really matter if the smart lighting system is wired or wireless.
Here are some of most common and practical lighting scenes used in homes with lighting control or automation systems:
Night. A night scene (a lot of programmers call it Goodnight) turns off the entire home’s lights at bedtime. You or your home automation installer can decide which lights go all the way off, which stay fully on (maybe a porch light or the light over the kitchen sink) and which get dimmed down. You might set a hallway or stair light to dim so late-night walkers can still see their way to the bathroom. You can combine the Night scene with your thermostat to automatically adjust the temperature for sleeping.
Morning (or wakeup). Do you want your lights to snap on to full brightness at 5:30 a.m. or would you rather they come on slowly to ease you into the day? A morning light scene might also turn on kitchen lights and turn off any outside lights. A home automation system could also turn on the TV to your favorite morning news channel at the same time.
Dinner. Do you need every room in the house lit up at dinner time or just the kitchen and dining room lights? A Dinner scene might light the dining room wall sconces and turn off the living room lights so the kids come in from watching TV. You could also use the Dinner scene to send an alert to the household, such as flashing the lights on and off quickly, to remind people (without having to shout) that dinner is ready.
Party. The scene could dim the lights in the family room to the right intensity level for conversation (or dancing) but not bright enough to expose all the dust you didn’t get to wipe up. It might also illuminate countertop lights where the party food is located (or the bar).
Movie Time. Does your family like Friday movie night at home? Activating the Movie scene turns off all distracting lights around the TV or home theater screen (but keeps on a dim light near the fridge for snack breaks).
Vacation. Vacation or Away scene could be programmed to mimic the way the lights would operate were you at home. This is a great way to deter criminals. The Away scene can be integrated with the temperature controls and the home security system.
Reading. I have a Read scene in my media room, because when I’m not watching Star Trek movies I’m enjoying a book. The Read scene turns on the sconces closest to my chair but turns off all the room’s other lights.
Lighting scenes are practical and creative, but you’re not locked into them. If you want the room a little brighter, it’s easy to just press the wall dimmer until it’s set the way you want it.