Electric lighting for most of us has long been the norm, a familiar attribute of everyday life. With the onset of evening dusk, our hand habitually scrolls the wall in search of a switch, presses its button and the light floods the room – we know it should be so and feel nervous if the light bulb somehow does not turn on. However, more than a hundred years have passed since electrical outlets and switches were invented and introduced in residential homes, and they have been improved many times since then. So what features do today’s electrical outlets have in a smart home?
Smart home control system
The greatest degree of comfort for the housemates can only be achieved in one way – by building a single control system for all electrical appliances within a single building. To accomplish this task it is necessary that these appliances support a common “language” of control – for this purpose KNX technology was developed in Europe, or single receiver standard.
A common channel of communication between all the appliances existing in the house allows them to transmit and receive information from the system devices controlled by specialized programs. By the principle of operation KNX system is superficially similar to the local network communication between computers, but it is used much more widely – the signals received from the sensors are processed by system devices, the commands generated on the basis of program data analysis are sent to one executive mechanism or several at once, and upon receipt of each performer acknowledges its receipt.
Home control system based on KNX technology allows you to control all appliances at the same time by pressing a single button. Scenarios, following which the control system creates the necessary level of comfort for households, are programmed by them according to personal needs. For example, at a given time in the morning, the system will automatically open the roller shutters, activate the water heating in the boiler and turn on the electric coffee maker.
The system includes a meteorological complex that controls the temperature of the air in the rooms based on the analysis of the current state of the atmosphere outside the building: when it gets warmer, the intensity of heating decreases and the flow of outside air increases. And vice versa – with the strengthening of the wind the windows will be automatically closed by roller shutters, the air intake is reduced to a minimum.
Houses equipped with such control system can be left without fear for a vacation – electrical appliances will follow a programmed scenario, fully simulating the presence of housemates.
In addition to the advantages described above, KNX system allows you to reduce electricity costs and the cost of its payment by 1/3 – the appliances are turned on only when it is necessary.
Economical lighting control
Before the advent of these devices, the only way to reduce or increase the intensity of lighting was to reduce or increase the number of light bulbs of a certain wattage.
The first of them – dimmers – are designed to control the brightness of lighting, with their help you can change lighting to a more comfortable, dimming or amplifying it.
Installed in series in the electrical circuit of the lighting, dimmers can reduce the power consumption of lighting fixtures, while increasing the life of the lighting fixtures. Disadvantages of dimmers: they have a narrow specialization and are designed only for a certain type of lamp (incandescent, halogen), have different power, and the greatest does not exceed 1000 watts (the use of special amplifiers can increase the power up to 3 kW, but no more). The use of fluorescent lamps as light sources makes it difficult to control them with a dimmer, because their design includes an individual transformer. Only the largest manufacturers of electrical installation products produce dimmers for these lamps.
On the principle of control dimmers are divided into pushbutton, rotary, rotary-push and sensor. Push-button dimmers work like this: a short touch on the button turns on the light, a second touch turns it off, keeping your fingers on the button changes the brightness of the light. Rotary dimmers are controlled by turning the convex button, rotary pushbutton – light on and off is controlled by pressing the button, the intensity – its rotation. Touch dimmer switches on when you touch the surface of the light with your finger, holding a finger changes the brightness level, touching again switches the light off.
Completely abandon the switches will allow motion sensors, the principle of which is based on infrared radiation. They are usually installed in passageways, such as staircases and corridors, where it is difficult to walk in the dark and where light switches are not easy to find. As soon as a person is within the range of a motion sensor, the light turns on instantly, and as soon as the person leaves the area accessible to the infrared beam, the light turns off.
However, such sensors will not be effective if a person is standing still – the absence of motion for them means the lights have to be turned off. In this case, special devices will do – presence detectors, which activate the lights for as long as someone of the household is in the room and turn off the light when there are no people in the area of their sensors. Presence detectors are much more sensitive than motion sensors, they turn on the lights at any, even the faintest movement in their coverage area.
Depending on the model and purpose, lighting control sensors have different viewing angles. Outdoor models, whose viewing angle is usually 200-270 ° C and a range of 3-14 m, are set on the corners of buildings, the height of their location – 2 m. Home sensors are set at a height of 0.8 to 1.1 m, their viewing angle is usually 180 ° C, and the distance at which the infrared beams act – up to 12 m. The simplest models of motion and presence sensors have a small range of infrared beams, they activate lighting only when a person appears, ignoring pets, which is a definite plus. More complex models, whose lenses emit several beams of infrared rays in several directions simultaneously, monitor several sectors, for example, stairwells and partially the corridors of the first and second floors.
The motion and presence detectors allow for a period of time during which the lighting is maintained despite the cessation of movement in the infrared beam area. In addition, it is necessary to set them to a level of room illumination at which the lights do not need to be turned on, thus eliminating the activation of lighting during the daytime.
In addition to the described lighting controls, there are electrical installation products with timers and circuit breakers. The first type is designed to supply electricity for a given period of time, which is convenient, for example, in the management of lighting fixtures in the stairwells. Products of the second type are sockets that automatically cut off the power supply in case of network overload, short circuit and current leakage outside the network (into the ground).
Modern energy-saving technologies based on these products allow not only to save energy, but also to create a really comfortable environment in the house.
Types of switches
According to the principle of operation, all switches that control the lighting of our homes are the same – they close and open the electrical circuit, thus turning on and off the light in the rooms. Their difference in design, there are key switches, pushbuttons and cross-switches.
The familiar and widespread key-operated switches use the swinging principle – pressing one side closes the electrical circuit, pressing the other opens it. There are models of push-button switches with pressing on one and the same side of the key – its initial position is communicated by a spring mechanism. There are one-, two-, three- and four-way switches, the most common being the two- and one-way switches. Depending on the number of keys, these switches allow to control several light fixtures divided into groups and assigned to a given key at the same time.
Push-button switches, which activate and deactivate lights when pressed, have a mechanism that returns the button to its original position after each press. High-quality rocker switches withstand close to 60,000 pressings, i.e. they have a minimum life span of at least 20 years.
Cross-over switches are used to control turning on and off the lighting from several points inside a room simultaneously, e.g. from a suite of rooms sharing a common corridor. They can be used to turn on the light at the entrance to such a group of rooms, go through them completely and turn off the light with another switch, i.e. there is no need to return to the original switch.
All the described types of switches can be equipped with two types of LED illumination – the first type allows to easily locate the switch in a dark room and turns off when the circuit is closed, the second type of illumination acts on the contrary and turns on when the switch is activated, which allows to ensure that some remote electrical appliance (basement or street lighting, a pump, a fan, etc.) is turned on. Typically, LED backlighting is installed in the key switches, which is performed illumination of part of the key, the contour or its entire surface. Depending on the manufacturer, 2 to 5 colors are used in the backlighting.
Ways to remotely control wiring products
Almost all modern products allow you to control them with a remote control, the signal from which is transmitted by infrared beam or radio waves. Remote controls with radio control have one undoubted advantage – radio waves can freely penetrate walls, which allows you to manage the complex electric installation products of the system “smart home” without getting up from your chair, and even remotely, using the Internet and communicator (laptop).
Variety of designs and applications
The contact mechanism, the caliper plate and the outer panel – this is the structure of electrical installation products, which took more than 20 years to invent in the last century. Today, while maintaining the general principle of the device, their design elements have become more diverse.
The main difference between the electric sockets and switches of different manufacturers – in the way of fixing the wiring to the contact mechanism. The classic attachment of wires to the terminals of the mechanism by screwing and it is certainly reliable, if no one would use these outlets – mechanical vibrations that occur when installing or removing the plug from the socket, over time, weaken the screw clamp. In addition, copper, the most common metal used in electrical wiring, is a very malleable metal and will deform and compress over its lifetime. For these reasons, the contact between the electric wire and the mechanism of the socket weakens, gaps appear, resulting in the body of the electric socket is noticeably heated.
To solve this problem, manufacturers electroadjusting products have modified the design of the contact mechanism outlets – the connection remains a screw, with stripped wire entered into a special window, and then tighten the screw.
There is another way to connect the wires to the socket mechanism, different from the screw connection – a unit with a clamp, the wires are held tightly by special terminals with springs. The force with which the wire is fixed in the clamp is precisely calculated, i.e. it is impossible to under or over tighten such a connection. In addition, the quick-clamping unit, unlike the screw connection, is able to dampen mechanical vibrations due to the springs installed in it. Since it is not necessary to loosen and retighten the connections between the contact mechanism of the socket with a quick-clamp unit, it reduces the number of operations performed during the installation of a socket, and thus reduces installation time – press the terminal, put the wire, loosen the pressure and the wire is securely fastened. Such sockets are most useful if the wiring is made by a rigid solid wire – to bring a bare flexible wire in the clamp will not be easy.
Most models of wiring products from different manufacturers are designed for a standard depth of 50 mm mounting box (cylindrical recess in the wall) – they have a mechanism with a thickness of about 30 mm. At the same time, produced models of electrical outlets with a smaller thickness of the mechanism – in the range of 20 mm, which greatly facilitates installation work, because in the cavity of the box is more room for laying the wires.
Contact mechanism of modern sockets and switches is fixed on a plastic base, whose material contains a number of special additives that increase resistance to heat, durability, UV resistance, selfextinguishing in case of fire, preventing the accumulation of dust. The higher the cost of a particular product, the more it has the described properties. Depending on the manufacturer, brushes (current-conducting parts of products) are made of ordinary, tinned or silver-plated brass – the latter have the highest characteristics, but the cost of the product, the construction of which they are included, is the highest. Often the brushes in electrical outlets are made of two parts – it is necessary that their design contains means of tight coupling of these parts, nevertheless, cheap outlets do not have such means. Electrical outlets of the largest manufacturers are equipped with additional protection of current-carrying elements – they are covered with a layer of insulation, which provides complete safety for people, even if the decorative outer panel of the outlets will be removed, for example, during the work of wallpapering or painting the walls.
Metal or plastic support provides a reliable fixation electroadjusting products in the mounting box – after clamping the screws its feet with two teeth on each are expanded into vertical grooves, made around the perimeter of the box. In terms of reliability, the metal support is more effective, especially for sockets.
The product line of the largest manufacturers of electrical outlets necessarily includes products for children’s rooms – outlets equipped with protective curtains that cover the contact holes when they are not being used. The shutters open either when a special contact of the plug comes into contact with the corresponding contact of the socket or when the plugs are simultaneously inserted into both contact openings. There are two types of safety curtains: push up; clockwise rotating. In both cases, a special spring is used to retract the shutter when the plug is pulled out.
In addition to the usual power outlets for electrical appliances, there are so-called signal sockets designed to transmit a signal for a television, telephone or computer. A classic representative of electric installing devices of this type were widely known in the days of the USSR radio sockets, today no longer in use. Such products can be designed to transmit only a particular signal, for example, television or telephone, or be multifunctional, i.e. at the same time have outputs for telephone or television plugs. The signal sockets can be equipped with shutters that protect their contact mechanism from dust particles.
Design of wiring products
As mentioned above, the material for their bodies, buttons, keys and front panels is plastic, additives in the composition of which increase resistance to mechanical and thermal wear, resistance to ultraviolet rays.
The main colors of plastic – white and white with a cream color, also called “ivory”. In addition to the basic color scheme produced models of products in different colors – from pastel to piercingly bright, for example, sapphire or platinum. The largest manufacturers include in their production line products made of wood – maple, beech, cherry, oak, and so on. – treated with flame retardants. Key and frame switches can be made of ceramic, glass and metal, and plastic products – faced with leather and artificial stone (for example, marble).
The standard form of wiring products – square or rounded corners of the frame, round or square button. However, there are models with an oval key, different widths of the frame around it, the front panel can be not only flat, but also convex, in the form of a sail.
Throwing a party with your smart home
A unique lighting scenario triggered by touching the screen of your mobile device is just one of the few advantages that the Smart Home system provides.
Order the installation of a set of intelligent technologies “Smart House” and not take advantage of the possibility of independent creation of light scenarios – it is like to visit Egypt and not see the pyramids.
One of the characteristics of dynamic scenarios in the “Smart House” is just in the simplicity of their setting, since it does not require any special knowledge and involvement of specialists. The user only has to go to the appropriate section of the software and make a few simple manipulations, which even a small child can cope with. The number of scenarios is almost unlimited and can be chosen individually according to events, mood or time of day.
One-touch smart party
Imagine how much effort and time needs to be spent on decorating your house before receiving guests, and not the fact that all these efforts will be appreciated. Smart home technology offers you the opportunity to become the unbeatable “Party King” with just a few taps on the screen of your mobile device or other means of control.
Light maintenance of a hot party will be handled by dimmers, for which you can set the right parameters within a couple of seconds. The Smart Home also successfully creates unique shows consisting of an exciting play of lights and shadows that can cause genuine excitement in your guests.