Friday, September 13, 2013

Trapeze lighting

Before I began building the rammed earth walls in the garage, I read a lot about peoples' experiences with the method and one thing which kept being mentioned was the importance of embedding conduit in the walls so that electrical services can be run later. A good idea and very sensible, but in my case I didn't think it would be necessary as I didn't plan to run any wires through the walls.

That was before I came to plan the lighting for the "clean room" behind the rammed earth.

Even with my 3D model of the building in Sketchup, I failed to take into account the fact that this room would need lighting. Being underneath the suspended slab above and nestled between the buried retaining wall and the rammed earth, there's no natural light and so of course, lighting is going to be necessary.

Except I didn't run any conduit, anywhere...

The ceilings in here are the coolroom sandwich panels - polystyrene clad with colourbond steel. There's very little chance I could bore conduit into the styrene and in any case, I have nowhere to mount a switch without chasing ugly trenches into the rammed earth or running conduit over the surface. So, a little lateral thinking is in order.

Since I intend to implement a fair amount of home automation in the building (using one or more Ninja Blocks and LIFX LED lighting, more about that later) I've decided to attack the lighting problem in here in the same way. I'm starting with a single string of low-voltage trapeze lighting - the same sort of thing you often see in trendy restaurants - which neatly solves the problem of running power to the lights. But how to switch them?

That turned out to be easier than I expected. You can now buy remote controlled power points, which are intended to help you minimise the amount of standby power that appliances use by switching them off at the wall, using a remote control. Well it turns out that these all operate in the 433MHz band (I think that's right, my memory isn't the best) and are interoperable. So I can use a remote power switch to turn on the transformer, and just stick the remote to the rammed earth wall at the entrance to the room.

(Even better - once I get my home automation up and running I'll be able to control the lighting centrally, or from my phone!)

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