Fiber optic lighting is a very recently introduced form of domestic lighting that offers many advantages both in terms of energy efficiency and for easy of DIY installation. Fiber optic lighting relies on the use of centralized ‘light pumps’, sometimes one per room or one for an entire home, which use a high intensity lamp to supply light delivered to fixtures by fiber optic cables and which are switched using optical switches and dimmers that are completely electricity-free. The high intensity lamps are designed to run continuously and have a life span in excess of a decade. Despite running continuously, their high efficiency compared to discrete light bulbs affords a typical 40% energy savings over conventional lighting. However, by combining them with roof-mounted heliostats gathering natural sunlight and piping it to the same lighting ‘manifold’ or ‘bus’ it becomes possible to reduce this energy cost even further by allowing the electric light pump to be switched off during daylight hours when only supplemental and task lighting is needed.
Fiber optic lighting systems have many benefits in addition to great energy economy. Thought often expensive in themselves because production has so far been limited, they greatly reduce the cost of housing construction because their electricity-free cabling and switching requires no skilled electricians to install. This also greatly improves the general safety of the home electrical system by simply reducing the amount of electric wiring in general. Using modular cabling with an architecture similar to the Utilihab Modular Wiring system, DIY builders need no special tools and only deal with a single cable line in hierarchal chains connecting switches and light emitter fixtures.
Fiber optic lighting is also well suited to specialty panel integration and use outdoors and in wet areas because there are no light bulbs to replace in light emitter fixtures and no electrical wiring that can short. This makes its ideal for bathrooms and kitchens, swimming pools, hot tubs, decks, landscape lighting, and hydroponics systems lighting.
Here are the basic elements of the Utilihab Fiber Optic Lighting system;
Lightpump: a cooled high intensity lamp unit in an optical coupling sphere with fiber cable manifold. These are designed to be placed in a centralized utility space with fiber cabling spreading out to light splitters, individual light emitter fixtures, and optical switches/dimmer units. Utilihab Lightpumps are designed with a dual input integration sphere allowing the units to combine both electric primary lamp and a primary emitter from outdoor heliostats. Speciality light pumps may include color-wheel or other special lighting effect elements.
Heliostat: a solar light collector which is mounted on the roof or a free-standing mount. Can be either active sun-tracking using an integral solar cell for power or passive, using surface area to compensate for varied solar incidence. Connects by fiber optic cable either directly to light emitter fixtures, to splitters, or to a dual-input lightpump unit.
Cable: a pre-made multi-strand glass optic fiber cable suited to both indoor and outdoor use and using pre-installed modular end-connectors. No electricity allows for safe and easy plug-and-play DIY installation. Fiber cable can be combined with electric and data cable and can use frame-integral conduits.
Splitters/Distributors: a terminal module which splits light uniformly from an input cable between two or more output cables. Special many-strand optical junctions are used for elaborate pin-light arrays based on numerous plastic optic fibers
Switches/Dimmers: optical versions of the conventional wall switch and wall dimmer. Usually made entirely of plastic and designed to match sizes of conventional electric switches and dimers.
Emitters: a large assortment of lighting units that match the usual spectrum of indoor lighting such as table and floor lamps, ceiling lamps, recessed lighting fixtures and the like but also including some special forms exploiting the permanence and resilience of electricity-free lighting fixtures. These light emitters are based on solid glass or optical-grade plastic elements and have no light bulbs or other parts that need replacement, allowing them to be placed on/in structural elements that are normally inaccessible for routine maintenance. They conduct no electricity so they are safe in water and outdoor locations. Thus there are emitters in the form of bathroom tiles or intended to be mounted in bathroom tiles, emitters in the form of paving blocks and bricks, emitters for swimming pool, hot-tub, and pool/fountain walls, emitters in arrays integrated to standard Utilihab ceiling, wall, and floor panels, outdoor emitters similar to landscape lighting units, and fiber optic carpeting with plastic optic fibers woven into the carpet.