Horse jumping over the text At The Yard
13 February 2024

Just For Fun - Turning the lights on (and off again)

Just For Fun

A yard owner jokingly asked us a little while ago if we could we get At The Yard to turn the lights off in the barn.

Well… sadly no. But it got us thinking - what's the easiest (and most affordable) way to get the lights to turn themselves off?

After some research, we headed off to our favourite supplier of Swedish meatballs to find out. We've put together a kit needed to operate a single light in a barn style stable but the set up would work across multiple stables.

Our Basket

Item Cost
Wireless motion sensor £7
LED bulb £7
Total: £14

Because of the horse being in the stable it was important to split the motion detection and the light itself. If we didn't, the motion sensor would be constantly triggered by the horse meaning the light would never turn off.

This is easily achieved using any one of the Smart Lighting systems available but the Ikea system has a few specific features that will help make this project a success.

Firstly the motion sensor is IP44 rated. This means that it should be resistant to splashes of water which means if we can find a sheltered place in the barn it should be fine.

The second key feature is that the Ikea's Trådfri system is based on a technology called ZigBee (rather than WiFi). Why is this important? For two reasons:

  1. The bulb and motion sensor are able to operate as a pair allowing you to set these up anywhere you have a light fitting even if you don't have WiFi or other connectivity.

  2. ZigBee is a mesh network. This doesn't really matter for our little setup (or even multiple of these paired devices) but should you wish to get more advanced in the future it can be very useful. This is because the devices themselves can work together to provide the network coverage across your property rather than relying on Wireless Access Points as you'd have to with WiFi based bulbs.

Set Up

If you go with the Ikea motion sensor/bulb from our basket above they include the setup steps in the instruction manual (essentially you power on the bulb and press and hold the Pairing button on the motion sensor for 10 seconds). Once done it'll pulse and you'll be good to go.

As we mentioned earlier, the motion sensor can be synced to more than one bulb. This means you could have a single motion sensor on the walkway that covers multiple stables.

If you end up going with alternative bulbs/sensors the process will differ but they all follow a similar setup process.

Does This Save You Money?

So does this save you any money? To work this out we pulled some information from the data sheets and made a few assumptions to produce the following.

Additional 'off' hours 1
Bulb wattage 5.9
kWh saved per day 0.0295
Average price per kWh 0.29
£ saved per day 0.01
£ saved per year 3.08
Purchase cost 14.00
Days to recoup cost 1658
Years to recoup cost 4.5

We assumed a normal light bulb that didn't get turned off might be on for 6 hours a day (06:00-08:00 and 18:00-22:00) and has the same wattage as our smart bulb. With the automated system we think the time the light is on could be reduced to 1 hour (remember it'll automatically turn off after 3 minutes if someone, for example, takes a trip to the muck heap) which means we've got an additional 5 'Off' hours.

So the experiment was a success! We were able to automatically turn the lights on and off. And yes it will save you money, but realistically it's over such a long time period it's probably not sensible to do so if you're only looking to save money. However if you need to replace your bulb anyway (especially if you've got older less energy efficient bulbs) your time to break even may be greatly reduced.

With this said with the equipment we've chosen there are many opportunities to expand into a more extensive automation system that can offer other advantages beyond just controlling lights. For example with motion sensors in place you have the start of a monitoring system letting you know when people are at the yard. If you're interested in finding out more about using home automation in a livery yard environment leave a comment on the Facebook post.