What: A set of controllable spotlights rated for exterior use.
Must Have Features:
- Z-Wave Plus
- All components be outdoor rated (winter through summer)
- Extendable (1 spotlight+)
- RGB LEDs (~3 watt, 1 watt per color)
- Memory (retains last state/color in case of power loss and can be set how to deal with it - for example will it come on, stay off, go back to last state…)
Desired Features: (these are over and above the Must Haves, but have more detail why, they are also what helps set them apart from what is out there)
- RGBW LEDs - RGB LEDs handle many uses but blending to white is always an issue (even if the LEDs are on a single chip). An RGBW (or even better RGB+CCT) handles this by offering the white also. This can also help for those times (most of the time) when people just want more normal spotlight functionality or highlights.
- Mounting option(s) - Most spotlights come with a stake to put in the ground. Some of them are permanently mounted which makes it difficult to use for other scenarios or where a stake cannot be used at all. By making it so the stake is removable and having a mounting added to the spotlight it opens up the options for the user. Even if it is fairly basic it allows DIY solutions for mounting.
- Individual spotlight control - This one is probably the most difficult to handle and the most expensive… but offers a lot of flexibility for the customer. By making each spotlight in a string able to be individually configured for a different color it provides a huge increase in the options for the customer for decorating purposes. Even barring “active” displays having different colors can be good for alternating colors or shining lights on different color objects (sections of a house, fence, flowers) where the base object’s own color interferes. Then of course it allows for more active color options (chase and other motions) however these are going to be less frequently used. In my own experience the alternated colors and ability to shine different colors in a static fashion would have been helpful and saved expense from using multiple single-color sets to try to create the same effect. It would also allow individual lights to be turned off if needed at times while not turning off the whole string (ex: a set that shines in the house but particular ones can be turned off at “bedtime” for areas where they are by windows while still leaving other accent lighting on).
- Different extension options - The ability to use more than just a “single extension set” on the overall string. Specifically stating that a controller can drive X spotlights over X distance, with a combination of spotlights AND extension cables (without lights) mixed to allow customers flexibility in how they get lights to areas and how many lights are there.
Possible Features: (these are less important but worth noting)
- Metal housing - Generally helps with durability. Plus it can help cool more powerful LED clusters by connecting the base LED heatsink/board to the exterior housing so that the heat is transferred.
- More powerful LEDs - I stated a MUST HAVE of 1w per LED (so ~3w for RGB) because this provides a decent baseline with many “normal” spotlights out there but a substantial improvement over the existing HA-compatible option. Increasing the power (so long as it is dimmable) provides more options for homeowners but also increases expense. Sometimes you NEED a 3w or more per LED light due to size of the objects/area being lit. Having the option for it would be good.
- Multiple light types - Being able to connect in dissimilar spotlights to a single control could be beneficial. The main thing I see with this is the ability to control far bigger and more powerful spotlights (or things that are not spotlights, like floodlights) with their own power supply, but having them part of the overall single system. Even mixing small spotlights and floodlights can be beneficial for normal lighting purposes. Multiple options of light types can also help people worried (or not) about how obtrusive the light housings themselves might look.
- Power injection/repeating - The ability to add power sources and signal repeating into the system so that the one controller can have the distance and number of lights substantially increased.
The “existing” one that is compatible with most systems… the Sylvania Gardenspot. Here are some key points (good and bad) that have driven much of my desire for alternatives.
- Small, unobtrusive, however they get lost/covered easily in a normal yard with grass and fall leaves
- Easy to stake into ground or soft surfaces but difficult if not impossible otherwise without fair amount of DIY
- Relatively cheap (both for construction, being plastic, but also for the consumer)
- Only capable of a single color per string
- Extendable (add an extension or another string of lights to it) but only in their pre-made sets and there are no extension cables without lights. They come as 9 lights, with 3 light extensions as an option, but the controller handles 27 lights in my experience (3 of the full 9 light strings).
- No memory (forgets what color it should have been if power is lost and turns on when power is restored with a default purple color)
Sample images below:
- First is a Gardenspot (referenced above).
- Second is a plastic RGB light set similar to one I hacked a controller to. This was relatively easy as it has a separate RGB infrared controller that I just cut the wires for. Fairly bright and waterproof but the LEDs are spread on a board so mixing colors is tougher. Mine also lacks the stake mounting that is pictured. Cannot have others added onto it beyond the 2 that mine came with.
- Third is a metal RGB light set simiIar to one I added a controller to. Like the plastic one it was not tough to do but the LED is a single chip and more powerful. However they were set up for a 3.7v LED source (solar panel with battery) and the LED board does not have the best heatsinking. I added a massive resistor to handle 12v and an aluminum slug with heatsink compound to spread heat to the metal housing. These have the best mounting solution (of the 3) with an easy to remove stake but then the metal section that could be screwed to a wall or connected to just about anything.