Many varieties of smart home technologies have become more and more common in recent months, but tunable white lighting might someday become the most pervasive of them all. A hallmark of smart commercial technologies for several years, residential systems of tunable white lighting are just now becoming more viable.
These systems are becoming cheaper and more easily available, with companies like Legrand, Lutron Electronics, and Smartika jostling for position in this newly emerging market. The emphasis on residential tunable white lighting systems at CEDIA Expo 2017 served to reinforce the idea that they would soon play an increased role in our daily lives. Let's have a look at what tunable white lighting is and why it stands out in the glut of smart home technologies that are now available.
The link between light and the human body has long been established. The type and intensity of light you're exposed to at any given time can have a profound effect on mood, energy levels, and sleep patterns. Light also exerts a strong influence on your ability to focus and the regulation of circadian rhythms. It's because of this wide sphere of influence that commercial spaces have found it worthwhile to take advantage of this connection using smart technology.
Here's an overview of how this connection tends to function. Moderately bright lights are best for normal, everyday interactions and activities, while warmer, dimmed lighting is associated with relaxation, creativity, and collaboration. More intensely bright light encourages focus and concentration, but warmer, low-intensity light is more conducive to lectures or presentations.
While this is something of an oversimplification, the upshot seems fairly clear. Tunable white lighting can be used to optimize everything from relaxation and sleeping to productivity and cooperation. This optimization is often referred to as 'Human-Centric Lighting,' or HCL.
Ideally, smart home HCL systems line up with the body's circadian rhythms and allow residents to progress through a natural, 24-hour cycle of light. These systems can be set to modulate themselves automatically or by way of preset controls that residents operate manually.
Either way, tunable white lighting systems attempt to duplicate natural patterns of sunlight inside of your home. They accomplish this by fine-tuning the quality, intensity, and color of the light your home receives over the course of a day, thus facilitating whatever activities (or lack thereof!) you wish to engage in.
More specifically, tunable white lighting modulates the light in your home so that it's delivered at the proper 'temperature' throughout the course of a day. Typically, this means the system will make adjustments to allow for cooler blue light to energize you at the beginning of the day and create warmer hues as afternoon and evening approach. By using presets or making manual adjustments, you can dictate light conditions yourself by using a wireless control or a portable app.
Each HCL functions a little differently, but most utilize some combination of dimming luminaires, RF switches, and light sensors to give you fine-grained control over both the amount and quality of light that your home receives at any given time of day.
Tunable white lighting systems can have a profound impact on our daily lives. They can improve physical health, mood, and sleep, as well as save on energy costs. While these systems were once reserved for commercial spaces, they've now become viable for use in the home and should become more and more available as the technology improves.