Outdoor lighting

Unless you are lucky enough to have pre-wired lighting in outdoor spaces, it can be hard to link outdoor lighting to a home automation setup.  There aren’t many wireless and battery powered lights that can be controlled with radio signals, because ‘listening’ for the radio signals all the time will drain the batteries pretty quickly.

As part of my ‘ready for summer’ programme, we’ve just attached a reed fence to the back balcony, primarily so we can let our cat out for a bit of sun now and then so she doesn’t launch herself off the 3rd floor.  But me being me, I wanted some form of home control out there,  Of course, I could take out the Hue Go and I’m sure I will especially when summer (and wine) comes.  But it would be nice to have something permanent out there.

I remembered that I had a couple of the Lightwaverf LED lights we used to use in the kitchen and bathroom.  These are small white blocks, with a cluster of 3 bright LEDs (powered by 3 AAA batteries) encapsulated in a transparent circle that also acts as an on/off button.  The boffins at Lightwaverf have managed to work out how to use very little energy with these lights, so replacing the batteries does not need to happen as often as you might guess.

They’re perfect for mood lighting so I guessed they would have enough oomph for a double balcony.  They do indeed as the below images will testify!

backbalc1

balcony2

The lights themselves are not waterproof, so after some careful consideration (and rummaging around the house) I gathered together 2 old (clean!) takeaway boxes and some trusty super-strength double-sided sticky foam.  I stuck the top (the flat end) of the box to the wall, then the whole LED unit onto the surface, then pushed what was the bottom of the box (now the front of the light) on.  To replace the batteries I’ll just have to remove the ‘cover’ and then slide out the LED from its integrated holder.

Although (as in the picture) the lights look rather industrial, I like them!  Of course, you could encase the lights in whatever waterproof enclosure you want, just remember that you will have to open them at some stage to replace the batteries.

Now the lights were not accessible by human hands, I had to devise a way of switching them on and off.  I’d already linked them up with Domoticz, so we could use the app to control the lights.  But that’s not enough, is it!  As all 3 doors to the flat (and some doors inside the flat) have open/closed sensors, I hooked up the lights to the balcony door.  When the door opens, the lights come on for 5 minutes.  That’s enough to find a seat, set up a table and then decide if you’re staying out there, in which case you can use the Domoticz interface to keep the lights on.

One more thing… I didn’t want the lights to come on during the day when the door is opened.  That would just be wasteful.  As I had already set up a dummy switch called ‘Dusk’ that switches on just before sunset and switches off at sunrise, I could add this to the mix.

Just this much text as a script in your domoticz folder on your Pi achieves this.  It’s really that simple.

commandArray = {}
if (devicechanged['DOOR Chester Balcony'] == 'Open' and otherdevices['VAR Dusk'] == 'On' and otherdevices['Rear Balcony Lights'] == 'Off') then
 commandArray['Rear Balcony Lights'] = 'On FOR 5'
end
return commandArray

So even for someone who has no knowledge of programming, you can see what’s going on here.  In English:

If Chester’s door has just opened, and it’s dark enough to need lights and the balcony lights are not already on, switch on the balcony lights for 5 minutes.

Interestingly, the lights as in the picture were just too far away from the transceiver attached to the Pi to receive the signals reliably.  So there could have been the potential for one or both of the lights to stay on, even after they had been told to switch off.  To solve this, I used a LightwaveRF branded signal repeater, a really useful device that acts like a wifi repeater, but for home automation radio commands.

backbalc3

As for the balcony, it’s going to be great for summer.  But the cat might not be allowed on it as much as we’d hoped – within 5 minutes of her exploring her new space, I was prising her off the banister as she determinedly tried to fling herself off from the third floor.  I’ll have to think of a way that our home automation setup can prevent this!

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6 thoughts on “Outdoor lighting”

    1. I have seen a few packets at Maplin and B&Q, so you may have some luck there if you are looking for them? In fact, in my local B&Q in sheffield they are on clearance prices at the moment.

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    2. Yes, it is looking that way. Shame, because they have unlimited uses when paired with a home control system or the LightwaveRF PIR to switch them off after a while.

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      1. No, I popped into B&Q recently and there were a few packs of LightwaveRF branded LEDs there at clearance prices. You may be right, they may have completely phased out now. Ebay maybe?

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