Natural Smart LIghting
Siri kind of likes the "energize" scene on a winter's morning, Google likes the "concentrate" scene before lunch and the "read" scene in the afternoon. Alexa enjoys the evening with the "relax" scene.

We have already looked into the impact of light on our sleep in the “Sleeping Better with Smart Lighting” post. But what about the rest of the day? Can smart lighting help us to “feel better”, maybe by resembling natural light?

For a general introduction to smart lighting, please see Introduction to Smart Lighting: A Very Brief History of Light.

In this post, we are examining a concept Philips calls “Feel better with light”, which you can find in the Philips HueLabs section. Depending on the complexity of your setup, the HueLabs formulas might not work. Let’s use the app iConnectHue to reprogram this concept, so you can follow along and tweak it to your liking with your favorite app and smart lighting system.

Here Comes The Sun

In October 2017 the 108th Nobel prize in physiology and medicine has been awarded to three American scientists for their research on circadian rhythm. Back in 1984, they identified a “period” gene which controls the daily rhythm of fruit flies. Their work has been substantial for understanding the basics of life: every living organism on earth responds to the suns day and night cycle.

As the sun crosses our sky throughout the day, the color temperature is changing. From around 2000K (Kelvin) during sunrise/sunset up to 5300K average during noon, or even 12000K with a clear sky. These color temperatures, which range from warm light to cold blue light, help to synchronize our inner body-clock to the natural progress of day and night. If we do not get enough natural daylight, or spend too much time in front of blue light emitting LEDs in the evening, we bring our inner clock out of sync and that has a negative effect on our health.

Philips has defined “recipes” with different color temperatures, from “relax” with 2237K, to “read” at 2890K, “concentrate” with 4291K and “energize” at 6410K. If we combine these different recipes with different schedules, we can simulate the natural progress of the sun throughout the day, supporting the accuracy of our inner clock.

Scheduled Smart Lighting

Every smart lighting system allows us to define the time when a certain scene should be turned on or off. This scheduled smart lighting in combination with motion activated lighting is the most efficient lighting automation approach. No voice commands, no switch, no app needed to control our lighting. We specify the time when a certain recipe should be turned on/off and we are done.

iConnectHue Sunset Timer Settings

Here is an example from iConnectHue for a sunset timer. It fades every weekday into the “relax” recipe in the living room, starting half an hour before sunset, but of course only if somebody is at home.

iConnectHue "Nightlight" Timer Settings
iConnectHue “Nightlight” Timer Settings

Additionally, we can create a “nightlight” timer for the living room, set up to fade in at 9 p.m. every day, serving as “go to bed” timer.

The “natural” effect these two rules create, is a slow fade in of the “relaxed” scene half an hour before sunset and a slow fade into “nightlight”, preparing you for bed. Again, only if somebody is at home.

When splitting between workweek and weekend, make sure that you don’t change your go to bed and wake up time too much, as this supposedly causes a “social jet lag”. But that’s a different topic and a different post.

Up to now we only covered the evening and night schedule, what about the rest of the day? If you do not get enough daylight indoors, it makes perfect sense to create timers for “energize”, “concentrate” and “read” as well.

What about dimmer and motion sensors?

iConnectHue "Natural" Dimmer Settings
iConnectHue “Natural” Dimmer Settings

We can program our dimmers to integrate the following schedule, in case we need some light (when it’s not scheduled):

  • 6:00 to 11:00 energize
  • 11:00 to 16:00 concentrate
  • 16:00 to 19:00 read
  • 19:00 to 22:00 relax
  • 22:00 to 6:00 nightlight

Pressing the “on” button of the dimmer, will trigger the proper recipe for the time of the day. Holding the “on” button of the dimmer could trigger the “energize” recipe, for the brightest light independent of the daytime.

iConnectHue "Natural" Motion Sensor Settings
iConnectHue “Natural” Motion Sensor Settings

If a motion sensor only triggers on/off for a certain room, you can copy the above schedule from the dimmer. But if a motion sensor should activate just a part of the room to be brighter, we can program it slightly differently. Here is an example of Kitchen LEDs which serve as task lights and use a brighter recipe, because you want to see what you eat, even during the night:

– from 6:00 to 16:00 energize
– from 16:00 to 19:00 concentrate
– from 19:00 to 22:00 read
– from 22:00 to 6:00 relax

Conclusion

These were just some examples of how you can automate your smart lights to your liking, in a natural way. Light “recipes” for different activities, at different times throughout day and night, fading slowly from one scene to another, can mimic natural light, hence make you “feel better”.

If you are interested in other smart ideas for your smart lighting, please see:

Which “recipes” do you prefer? Share your experience with “natural” smart lighting below!

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