58 Power Circuits

Timers to control the lighting in a staircase have been around for a long time. These small devices are located in the distribution board. The lights in the staircase are switched on using switches on the various floors of the home and then shut off automatically after a pre-defined period of time. This avoids wasting energy and of course money. However, there is a significant disadvantage to such a device. It is both inconvenient and unsafe to suddenly find yourself in the dark because the predefined period of time has passed. This is a dangerous situation, which can easily be avoided.

The traditional staircase lighting timer

Besides the traditional function mentioned above, the staircase lighting timer normally has a switch to leave the lights on all the time. This can come in handy for instance when cleaning the staircase. Such a switch avoids the necessity of having to constantly switch the light back on in order to have safe levels of light. The disadvantage is that this function can only be activated on the timer itself. In order to activate it, you need to go to the distribution board and then return later to switch it off again.

A safer staircase lighting timer

Various manufacturers offer a staircase lighting timer that is able to fade out, solving the problem of suddenly being left in the dark. On some devices, the fade-out works in various steps. For instance, from 100% to 50% or from 100% to 70%, then to 40% and eventually to 0%. The fade-out period is generally one to two minutes, which leaves ample time to go to the nearest switch to reactivate the lights.

There are also devices available that enable the lights to fade out smoothly and gradually. When you are still talking to a family member or one of the neighbours in your building while standing on the staircase, you will notice the lights becoming weaker after the predefined period of time. In this case, there is still enough time to reactivate the lights.

However, in order to switch on the cleaning function (when the lights need to stay on), the user still needs to go to the distribution board.

The extremely comfortable staircase lighting timer

When your home or building is equipped with an Integrated Home System (IHS), you can create the ultimate staircase lighting timer, on the condition that all lighting points in the staircase are connected to one or more dimmers. In addition, the controls require switches or push buttons equipped with an LED control light.

When it gets dark in the staircase, the LEDs light up indicating where the push buttons are located to activate the lights. As soon as one of the buttons is pushed, the lights switch on to 100% for a predefined length of time, for instance five minutes. In this time frame, all LEDs switch off automatically. Once the predefined period of time has passed, the lights fade-out over a fixed period of time, for instance two minutes. During this time frame, the LEDs blink at one second intervals. When no further action is taken, the lights will go out completely and all LEDs will light up. If one of the push buttons is pushed during the fade-out period, the lights in the staircase are reactivated and the timer starts running from the beginning.

In order to activate the cleaning function, the user can press the switch for two seconds for instance to switch on the lights permanently. Meanwhile, the LEDs will start blinking at a higher frequency (for instance 0.5 seconds), indicating that the cleaning function is activated. There are two options to deactivate the cleaning function. The user shortly (< two seconds) presses any of the switches in order to reactivate the lights. The lights will then dim to 0% after the predefined period of time.

The lights can be turned off immediately by pressing the switch and holding it for a longer period of time, enabling the staircase to go dark. The first method is handier, as you or someone else is not left in the dark all of a sudden.

An additional advantage of such a staircase lighting timer is that the cleaning function can be activated by pressing any of the switches, meaning you no longer have to go to the distribution board to (de)activate the function.

Lit staircase (Courtesy of Brilliantlighting.co.uk)
Staircases are always dangerous. You can limit the danger by installing a safe or extremely comfortable staircase lighting timer. (Courtesy of Brilliantlighting.co.uk)
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