As I moved from one apartment to the next during my bachelor days there was always one annoying feature nearly everywhere I went: The lack of task lighting on kitchen counters and sinks. I often "solved" this problem by retargeting the track lighting when available but this left a shadowy area somewhere else. I don't think anyone ever noticed but it always bothered me and some places (like my current residence) don't have track lighting in the kitchen.
- Aeon Labs Zwave controlled outlet
- Aeon labs Z-stick
- 5M LED Light strip
- Axial Server (software)
- Personal Computer (always on)
- Light clips (Command brand)
I wanted to add a light source to the underside of the cabinets and I have a bunch of unused equipment from my currently dismantled party button. So I decided to put part of that equipment to good use. I was able to complete this project without buying any new equipment which is always a plus.
The basics of the cabinet task lighting system are just three components: a set of LED strip lights, a Z-Wave controlled outlet, and an Aeon labs Z-stick. the length of the LED light strip is great because it allows the system to be connected to an outlet without having a long wire to hide.
To control the system I use Axial Server running on a PC that I keep on 24/7 for this and other purposes. I chose Axial Control because they have support for Windows Phone, Android, and iOS mobile apps so I don't have to buy a new Z-Wave server if I change phone environments. Additionally, Axial Control has a bunch of plugins so it integrates with most of the home automation networks in addition to Z-Wave (great if like me you want future flexibility). I setup the server to turn on the lights on the morning so the kitchen is lit up before we walk in to the kitchen every morning. Then another scene to turn off the lights at bed time so we are not wasting electricity. This works great for our needs because we have someone in the house for most of the day and we can always turn off the lights manually with the button on the bottom of the Z-Wave outlet.
Installation for this project is pretty easy assuming you already joined the Z-Wave outlet to your Z-Wave network. It is literally plug the Z-Wave outlet and then plugging the light strip into the outlet. the last step is to attach the light strip to the underside of the cabinets. if you have new LED light strips you can simply use the 3M sticky that comes with the LED strip and attach the lights to the underside of the cabinets. however in my situation I have used the lights strips for several projects at different locations so the stickiness is long gone. Which created an installation issue.
Lucky for me I had some command light clips in my box of tricks (my desk drawer) for just such a project. These clips work surprisingly well for the LED light strip but I did have to use them every couple of feet so that the light strip didn't sag much. Like all other command brand products these are great for rental properties because of the damage free removal characteristics. The advantage to the led light strips I used is that if they are too long for your needs you can just cut them to the length needed. In my case I just doubled back the light strip to give a more intense light over the counter space.
Axial Server Setup
The setup for the axial server is fairly simple assuming you have the Z-stick and Zwave outlet already connected.
- Click on the "Scenes" side tab.
- Click the "New Scene" button at the button of the page
- in the Scene window on the right hand side click "Add Device"
- In the Add Device popup window select the device to add to the scene and click ok
- On the newly added device select the radio button for either on or off.
- Click on the "Triggers" tab in the scene window
- Click on the "Add Time Trigger" button on the right hand side
- In the "Scene Trigger Time" popup window set the time you want the event to happen
- You can also add conditions to the scene if you want, like which days of the week the scene will be active. (Most obvious would be to only turn the lights on weekdays so you can save energy when you are on travel or sleep in on weekends)
One improvement that I have toyed with is using a motion sensor to automatically control the lights so they are on only when someone is in the kitchen. Ultimately I decided against this option because in our case we want the lights on when we are not in the kitchen, because our place has an open floorplan and the light strip provides a good amount of light to the dining and family areas while only consuming about 30 watts of power. If you do want to use a motion sensor for your system I would recommend the Aeotec multi-sensor but with a few caveats. The multi-sensor (at least my older version) has a pretty weak Z-Wave connection so it has to be fairly close to the hub or be part of a strong Z-Wave network. Others have also observed issues with initially connecting the multi-sensor to the Z-Wave network, I have not but setup effort is something to consider when deciding to purchase a home automation component.
There are battery powered task lighting solutions with motion sensors that work great in closets or other areas that are accessed occasionally. However I find that those solutions run out of batteries too quickly in a high traffic area like the kitchen or an entryway.
Alternatively I could have used a lamp timer to turn on and off the LED light strip but the Z-wave interface allows us the flexibility to turn the light "on" and "off" the light strip whenever we need to (most importantly "off" when the kiddo is napping) either from a phone or at the outlet.
I chose to use the "dumb" LED light strip with a Z-Wave outlet because it works and was free for me as I already had them on hand. If I had to buy new I would consider using Philip's Hue lights strip and in the near future Aeotec's LED light strip. Since these options would probably be a bit cheaper but about the same amount of effort to setup. The one concern I have about both of these options is the length of the light strips the Hue strip is only six feet so it is something to keep in mind when considering which device to use for your application. Also keep in mind that you need a Hue hub or starter kit to use the Hue light strip.
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