Article
Wireless lighting controls using Wi-Fi communications are nothing new – 
Philips introduced its Hue wireless bulbs back in 2012. The ability to 
dim lights and set scenes using a smartphone app was a big step forward 
from traditional, wall-mounted on/off and dimming switches.

True Wires-Free Operation Comes to Lighting Controls

Chuck Ross
Wireless lighting controls using Wi-Fi communications are nothing new – Philips introduced its Hue wireless bulbs back in 2012. The ability to dim lights and set scenes using a smartphone app was a big step forward from traditional, wall-mounted on/off and dimming switches. Now homeowners could get high-end lighting control features without having to pay for a custom lighting installation. However, until recently, many “smart” bulbs still required consumers to purchase an additional hub to plug into their router to enable Wi-Fi communications.

This requirement is shifting as a number of both bulb and controls manufacturers are incorporating newer wireless communications into their products. These communications protocols are being used in many other areas of home and commercial building automation, and they’re becoming a more frequent option for home lighting control, as well.

There are a number of smart dimmers options now on the market incorporating protocols such as Zigbee and EnOcean, and some manufacturers have their own proprietary RF technology. The biggest advantage they offer is they don’t require a separate router-attached hub to communicate with local devices. And because enabled devices don’t need to transmit large quantities of data, they don’t require much energy to operate.

This technology allows switches and dimmers to be placed where a homeowner wants them, not just where a junction box might happen to be available. And some manufacturers also are offering retrofit kits that can turn existing on/off switches into dimmers, without even having to remove the switch plate. The kits provide a way to lock the switch in the “on” position, and then cap the switch with a rotary-style control that operates connected smart bulbs just like traditional wired versions. Remote controls available for these systems mean you don’t even have to get off the sofa to adjust the lighting.

These truly wireless lighting controls might not be a perfect fit for every homeowner or application. One possible shortcoming for some could be the inability to adjust lighting from other locations. These low-powered networks are completely separate from home Wi-Fi networks. If you want to turn lights on or off using your phone while you’re at the office you’ll almost always need to add some sort of hub to your router to access this functionality.
Photo courtesy of Lutron Electronics
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