How to choose the Best smart lighting system?
Updated: Mar 23
All too often, installers will stick to a singular product base or manufacturer. This is usually done because of deeper knowledge of one system or another however they lock their clients out of the vast benefits of choosing a system based on the needs of the project. There are many options out there to choose from and rather than flying the flag for a product, we at Micarta feel it is more important to n
ot underestimate clients and give the whole picture even if this is not the simplest answer. In this pursuit we would rather focus on the requirements than the products and so will answer the question “How to choose” rather than “What is the best”.
As you can imagine, this is a difficult question to answer as the best smart lighting system really does depend on the context of your build.
Is it a new build where cables can easily be ran or is it a retrofit where changes to anything existing would preferably be kept to a minimum?
Is there an existing smart automation system?
Are you looking for complete home lighting control or just key areas?
How large of an area can be allocated to central control units?
Do you have a preferred “look” when it comes to in wall control?
1. Is it a new build where cables can easily be ran or is it a retrofit where changes to anything existing would preferably be kept to a minimum?
If new cables can be ran then it would be our recommendations to choose a wired system such as Lutron, Crestron or Control4. Complete Wireless solutions solve the issue of running new cables (within range) however limit themselves in other areas such as quality of real time control and can in rare situations cause issues if the local airwaves are congested with Radio frequencies. The other consideration is that even though a system may be wireless, the units may not fit into existing backboxes or even require a neutral power core at the light switch.
Rakos wireless system has units designed to fit in standard backboxes are well suited to retrofits although there are comparable products from other manufacturers that could fit into existing systems batter
2. Is there an existing smart automation system?
Often, there is an existing control system and if it is to be incorporated, then using the same manufacturer offers the benefit of the system being designed to work together from manufacture and usually offers more in-depth control. This is especially true when an existing Control4 System is in place. This is an important consideration, but other contexts will likely be more important.
3. Are you looking for complete home lighting control or just key areas?
If you are looking at lighting in just a few key areas and considering expanding this system in the future. Wireless systems may be better in this regard as their will be reduced installation costs and ability to expand further at a later date.
That said, if it is quite complex lighting and have the flexibility of running cables then a wired system would be preferable. Whilst you can run extra cables we would always recommend doing so as expansion later is always made easier and more cost effective with this in place.
4. How large of an area can be allocated to central control units?
Assuming the system is not a retrofitted system, there will likely be a single centralized location of control or on larger builds, multiple. These control boards can vary in size depending on preferred functionality as there is two distinct methods of control. Most Lighting systems offer both methods.
Method 1: Centralised Dimming requires all lighting circuits to be wired to the control board and Dimming and switched units inside this board control the power going to light circuits. The benefit to this solution is that there is a single point of wiring and fault finding and also means that lighting circuits can be installed with most fittings being able to be chosen later in the build. You will find with this method that there will be a larger space required in the central location and a higher cost in this location however reduced cost of electronics at each light fitting and flexibility in light fitting choice often outweighs this.
Method 2: Localized dimming requires less space centrally as it simply serves as a point of communication with each light fitting/group of light fittings. In this method, all lights receive permanent power and control their level individually via the communications line (usually DALI). For this to work, each light has compatible electronic device that the communication line connects to. It gives ultimate flexibility of lighting control as each fitting can be controlled individually and takes up less space in a central location however it is less flexible in terms of light fitting and requires more pre-planning.
5. Do you have a preferred “look” when it comes to in wall control?
This is a very personal preference and is most certainly worth checking out what manufacturers have to offer. Crestron and Lutron have fantastic keypads that are responsive and proven. There are many manufacturers making devices compatible with KNX Crestron and Lutron such as Basalt who are a standout brand for their unique looks in this department. Obviously this is something Micarta can assist with advising to ensure you leave no stone unturned.
The sky is the limit in terms of what is achievable however we understand that Budget is almost always something that needs to be taken into account. Different manufacturers come in a different price points and offer different levels of functionality so sometimes spending more does not actually mean a better system when in the context of your requirements. Another thing to take into account is warranties of equipment. Some manufacturers may not seem to offer any more functionality however they stand by their products with exceptionally long warranties giving you peace of mind of the longevity of the system.
Feel free to get in touch with us if you need any help or advice.
The Micarta Team