The hardest part about Aurora is finding the design you want to use
Over the past few years, I’ve been making our home ‘smart’. I have a particular affinity for lighting — colored lighting particular. Being surrounded by multi-colored lights makes me happy. I guess in a way it reminds me of Christmas and that is always a happy time for me. I recently added a light installation to my home that transcends everything else I had ever seen in the smart lighting market — the Aurora by Nanoleaf.
Aurora lets you become an artist with lights when creating your design. As the perfect fusion of lighting design and technology, Aurora has a range of over 16 million colors. So what is Aurora? Aurora is a lighting installation that is made up of triangular light panels that link together through connector chips. The panels link together seamlessly to create brilliant patterns of your own design. Nanoleaf includes some suggested designs, but you can create your own quite easily.
The light panels produce a LOT of light — 100 Lm per panel. We have an installation of 21 panels. So, we have the equivalent of 2100 lumens of light on our wall from the Aurora. The color temperature of the panels is between 1200K – 6500K and you can tell Aurora what you want the lighting adjusted to. When you order a set of Aurora panels, you should start with what they call the “Smarter Kit”. It comes with 9 panels and a power supply/controller kit. The power supply/controller kit sends power and programming information to all the connected panels in an installation. You can have up to 30 panels on a single power supply/connection kit. Panels are also sold in expansion packs of 3 individual pieces.
The light panels are controlled by voice, the controller kit, or the Nanoleaf Smarter Series app. They are HomeKit compatible and will work with iOS, Android, and Amazon Alexa operating systems. The panels are 100% dimmable through either the app or voice control. In fact, you can tell Siri or Alexa to “Turn the Aurora to 47%” and the lighting will dim to that percentage. I will note that when you do that sometimes the colors are quite as vibrant as when they are 100%.
Aurora communicates through WiFi. When you go through the initial set-up of the lighting unit, you will pair the Aurora to the Nanoleaf Smarter Series app, which connects it to your home WiFi network. If you have HomeKit, you will also connect to that during the initial set-up. Once you have the Aurora paired and set-up, you can design your colored lighting scheme. There is a programmable canvas tool that you can use to create your on customized scenes. There are also a couple of preset scenes (Nemo, Northern Lights, Candy Grams, etc.). You can schedule the Aurora to come on and turn off and certain times of the day and you can even program it to a specific room. So that when you turn on the lights in that room, the Aurora will come on.
Getting the Aurora set-up and running is actually very easy. As I alluded to in my headline above, the hardest thing about the Aurora is picking a design you can live with and enjoy. Nanoleaf designed the Aurora so that you can reuse the panels and set it up as many times as you want. I would caution against this though because even though Aurora is installed with Command Strips by 3M, those can still leave damage on your wall as you will see in the short video below. My suggestion would be to spend time carefully planning your design and space for the Aurora and then consider it a permanent placement.
The first time we placed Aurora on the wall, we had it in a fairly confined space. We installed it near our table top studio that we use for photography and videos. The hope was that when the Aurora was turned to all white, it would help fill the box with brilliant white light. While that did work, we also felt that the wall space started to feel cluttered. Another reason we pulled the original Aurora installation down was because we repainted the room it was in so that the walls would reflect the colors better. Originally the walls were a rich pumpkin-orange color. It was nice, but because it was a darker color, it just absorbed all the light. So, we changed the walls to be a bright white color. This has really helped to define our office space and the Aurora is now a predominant art/lighting installation instead of an afterthought like it was before.
The Smarter Kit for Aurora runs $199. As I mentioned, this includes 9 light panels, the panel connectors, power supply unit, and controller unit. This kit also includes 9 mounting stencils — a semi-transparent paper that you can gently tape to the wall before you actually install the panels with the mounting strips that are also provided in the kit. The Expansion Packs run $59 and only include the 3 light panels, mounting strips, panel connectors, and mounting stencils. These prices are fairly typical for smart lighting. The Philips Hue starter kit runs $179 and additional Hue bulbs are $49 each. The reason for the above explanation is when I tell people about the Aurora from NanoLeaf the first thing I hear is complaints on the price. I wanted to point out they aren’t pricing the devices any higher than the closest competitor and for the $60 expansion, you get three panels whereas with the competition you get one bulb.
Who is the NanoLeaf Aurora for? It’s for anyone looking for something unique, creative, and willing to invest into the ecosystem of home automation. You can control Aurora by just using the Controller unit, but I don’t think I would recommend that investment unless you might consider taking advantage of the full features of the device. With the app, you can fully customize your experience with features like:
- Automatically detect your Aurora panels’ physical layout
- Select from over 16.7 million colors
- Choose from a variety of lighting effects and animations
- Name and save custom scenes for later use
- Schedule time triggers to automate your lights
My biggest suggestion with the Aurora is to plan. Really take the time to figure out what you want on your wall and how much space you want it to take up. Nine panels will cover a poster size space. If you want to cover more area, you will need more panels. And remember, one power module/controller will run up to 30 panels. So, if you are planning on making a design with more than thirty panels, you will need multiple Smarter Kits so you have enough power to run the installation. Nanoleaf does not currently sell the power adapter/controller separately.
Nanoleaf has some really cool add-ons for Aurora coming later in 2017:
- AURORA RHYTHM: Sound Synchronization Module – This is designed to allow Aurora to ‘dance’ to the music being played by the user. It’s a plug and play module that will enable sound synchronization and coordinate lighting effects to react to sound and music. (July 2017)
- AURORA REMOTE Wireless HomeKit Remote – The Aurora Remote is a sleek dodecahedron inspired wireless HomeKit remote is programmable with commands. You can fully customize each side to do what you want the Remote to do. (September 2017)
- AURORA MOUNTING KIT: Includes FLEX LINKERS and THUMBTACK MOUNTS – Designed to do the same job as the standard panel connectors, the Flex Linkers will give users the freedom to bend around corners and even create 3D light installations. The Thumbtack mounting option enables users to install their Aurora panels to the walls and ceilings using screws to truly secure the panels in place. (Q3 2017)
I couldn’t be happier with my latest smart home addition. The Aurora really brightens up the room and makes our home more relaxing with every color change. I’m really looking forward to adding to my installation and creating something new when the 2017 add-ons become available. The possibilities are endless.
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