To switch on and off DIY home lighting automation systems we are going to need triggers. That is, how do we want our lights to turn on and off?
Remember when we needed to physically get up and out of our chair to press a light switch to turn the light on or off?
Okay, we all still do this, but thanks to home automation we don’t have to.
In this post I will cover many ideas that can be used to control smart home lighting.
I have divided these in to two categories: Manual and Automated.
Note that we don’t always have to be physically present in the home to activate some of these triggers as some triggers can be achieved over the internet.
Home Lighting Automation Using MANUAL Triggers
1. Clap Hands
Clapping your hands to trigger a light system will require you to be in close proximity to a microphone at all times.
It’s possible to setup a mobile application that will continuously listen and wait for you to clap.
However, this has some disadvantages.
Disadvantages of using a mobile app for light automation clap control:
- You will need to be close to your mobile device at all times
- A listening app will drain battery power much more quickly
Another way to achieve a hand clapping control feature for a DIY home lighting automation system would be to install a microphone in every room of the building.
The advantage of this setup means that you don’t need to worry about having your mobile device on you at all times.
However this setup could potentially have disadvantages.
Disadvantages of installing microphones in every room:
- More expensive to install
- May require a professional
Rather than physically installing permanent cables, it’s possible to plug in a mains powered listening device such as an Amazon Alexa in every room.
2. Voice Commands
Triggering DIY home lighting automation via voice commands will essentially require the same setup as the hand clapping feature mentioned above.
Voice commands will require a microphone in close proximity to you at all times for it to detect you.
The only real difference between voice commands and hand clap commands will be in the software that is listening.
It’s possible to use commercial and closed source products such as Amazon Alexa to interpret voice commands that will in turn trigger a specified light(s) in the home.
We could stick with open source and use a Raspberry Pi to achieve the same result.
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3. Mobile App/Hub Touchpad
Usually a home automation system will have one or more central hubs located around the home.
This makes it more convenient to control multiple systems and view information if it all exists in one place.
It’s possible to connect a mobile device to a hub via wireless. This will allow us to interact with a hub without physically standing at the hub station.
By having a mobile device or a hub touchpad at our fingertips we can simply tap a screen to turn on and off any light we have connected to the system.
How To Switch On/Off Home Lighting Using AUTOMATED Triggers
1. PIR (Passive Infra-Red motion detection)
PIR is nothing new and people have been using them for many years.
These motion sensors can been seen in schools, office buildings and driveways among many other places.
Infra-red sensors can detect body heat.
We can use this sensor to then activate a light when a human (or animal) walks in front of it.
The sensor will then send a signal to the DIY home lighting automation system when it no longer detects heat.
Imagine each of your home lights turn on automatically when entering a room at night and then turn back off again when leaving the room or hallway.
It’s possible to walk in to each room of our home and up/down the stairs to have our pathway lit up in front of us.
This is all possible thanks to PIR motion sensors.
2. Mobile Phone Wifi Connect/Disconnect
How about this idea to activate your smart home lighting system automatically.
Picture the scene: You return home and it’s dark. As you walk up to your front door.. your home lights switch on.
But these lights don’t just switch on for anyone. Your home lighting system detected you personally!
How does it work? Well it requires some TCP/IP network knowledge to pull this one off.
When you approach your front door, your mobile phone enters the range of your home Wifi router and connects to the Wifi network.
It’s possible to trigger any light we want when your device connects to your home router.
Below is a YouTube video that explains this further by using the Python programming language. (from 0:41 to 2:03)
This can also work the opposite way. We can make the lights turn off (and trigger other systems too) by leaving home with the configured mobile device.
Having said all of this, there could be some regression in this setup.
What if your phone switches off or it’s battery dies while you’re home?
3. Light Sensors (Light Dependant Resistors/LDR's)
Light sensors can be great for automating lights around the home.
As the sun begins to set at night we can use a light sensor to automatically switch on any light we would like.
Then as the sun rises again in the morning we can automatically have the lights switch off again.
We don’t always want our lights to switch on when a room starts to get dark and so the use of light sensors would become a personal preference.
But it doesn’t need to stop there as we can incorporate these light sensor activated lights with other sensors too.
Mixing Sensors Together
The PIR motion sensor that I explained in a previous section can be used in this setup to.
When you walk into a room the PIR motion sensor will detect you. But what if it’s day light and the room is well lit to begin with?
We don’t want to switch on a light in this instance.
But if we walk into a dark room late at night then the PIR sensor will detect you.
The light sensor will then determine that the room is too dark. Only when these two sensors satisfy the controller will the automated lights turn on.
Configuring home lighting automation systems to activate and deactivate on a timer is one of the most simplest of automation triggers.
Most of us use timing triggers all of the time (no pun intended).
Setting an alarm to wake up in the morning on a mobile phone for example is considered as setting a timing trigger.
Why not set an alarm that not only wakes you up with sound but also switches on the bedroom light at the same time too.
We can set home automated lights on timers for any minute of any hour, at any day of the week and month.
Types of Lighting For DIY Home Automation
So far I have been using house lights for each example as these are what most people tend to think about with home lighting automation.
Lights such as:
- Living room
- Door porch
But what about other DIY home lighting automation such as:
- Mood Lights
Mood/decorative lights such as LED strip lighting usually have multiple colors and flashing patterns that it can rotate through.
We can use one or more of the manual and automated triggers that I covered earlier to activate our very own custom preset moods.
Who wouldn’t enjoy a particular mood setting for movie night, parties and romantic evenings.
My intention with this post was to describe to a beginner how smart home lights can to configured for multiple purposes.
Ultimately the choice is yours on how you want to control your DIY home lighting automation systems as it’s your home after all!
If you would like to learn more about how you can build your very own home automation and other “Internet of Things” devices then why not check out my IoT/Robotics category.
Don’t forget to keep learning.. and most importantly, have fun!