How to illuminate a dark room? Testimony of Joëlle and Philippe in Sète

The sun is a precious resource, even in one of the brightest cities in France. With this testimony from Philippe and Joëlle in Sète, discover how to capture the sun at the bottom of the garden to illuminate a dark room?

Project sheet:

  • Owner: Philippe and Joëlle
  • Type of housing: Town house
  • City: Sète (34) in France
  • Openings: Bay window
  • Room to light: Living room and kitchen
  • Espaciel model installed: Intelligent reflector

Context of the situation of Joëlle and Philippe

Sete is an amazing maritime city. Water is everywhere, from the sea front to the lagoon of the Etang de Thau, via the canals that criss-cross the city. A former naval officer and native of Sètois, Philippe has returned to his city for retirement. With Joëlle, his wife, and their children, they live in a townhouse located on a street that slopes gently down from Mont Clair to the center of Sète.

Philippe and Joëlle have completely renovated the house. On the street side, the historic stone façade was renovated. On the garden side, they built a contemporary extension. This transformation allows the creation of a large living room on the first floor. The kitchen, the living room and the lounge are all in the same space, lit by a large bay window that looks out onto the garden.

During this work Philippe and Joëlle created the living space of their dreams. But one thing cannot be changed: the orientation of the house. The large opening on the garden is exposed to the North and does not receive the sun. In this context, how to illuminate a dark room to take advantage of the sun and its rays?

north-facing bay window overlooking a city garden
The contemporary extension of the house overlooks a city garden. The bay window of the main room is oriented to the North
A problem that is all the more difficult in the city. The plot is surrounded by other houses and gardens. Philippe notices the presence of sunlight at the top of the common wall located at the bottom of the garden, just opposite the bay window. The top of the wall is sunny most of the day and in all seasons. He then thought of equipping this strategic point with a light reflector. Philippe knows this product from his research on the Internet. He has already equipped a first window with a Espaciel reflector. He is convinced by this solution to illuminate a dark room.

The location on the wall seems ideal. But it is at 15 m of the window. Hence the idea of using a Motorized Reflector. Philippe then decided to participate in the pre-orders of the Intelligent Reflector. This project consists of designing and developing a Motorized Reflector that follows the movements of the sun in the sky using an optical sensor.

Search for a solution to capture the sun

Due to numerous technical challenges, this project is taking much longer than expected. The delivery date planned for the end of 2021 is now postponed to the end of 2022. In parallel Espaciel proposes a variant of its initial project with a motorized reflector with parametric control. Instead of an analogical tracking by solar sensor, this version of the product uses a calculator in which the position of the sun is pre-registered for the next 50 years. This parametric version of the product is more expensive than the analog version. The embedded electronics are 4 times more important and the motors are more precise. The precision is an important asset to illuminate a dark room when the reflector is at a great distance.

sunny wall at the bottom of the garden, in front of the bay window
Ideally located on the wall at the back of the garden, the Smart Reflector reflects the sun into the bay window
Developed in conjunction with an Espaciel partner, this product is unfortunately not available either. The Covid crisis has created shortages in the supply of electronic components. It is the case for example of the STM32 microprocessor from ST Microelectronics. This well known French-Italian company is unfortunately unable to supply this key component. One of the rare jewels of European electronics is in difficulty on its deliveries and drags with them all the local industrial sectors: transport, automobile, household appliances… and even the Espaciel reflectors! The electronic units arrive at the drop of a hat.

Implementation of the solution to illuminate the dark room

The Espaciel team was able to deliver Philippe and Joëlle’s pre-order. A privilege that not all the customers of the Intelligent Reflector pre-orders have yet benefited from, as they are impatient to be able to illuminate a dark room in their home. The installation at Philippe and Joëlle’s home, as well as the other installations that have already been carried out, are a validation step for the solution. They are useful for all customers who are waiting for the Intelligent Reflector. In this sense, the chance offered to our first customers benefits everyone.

Philippe himself carried out the implementation of the Intelligent Reflector. He placed anchor points in the garden wall with M10 rods held in place by a chemical sealant. He created a garden power supply using an external plug. Fixed to the wall, a power cable runs around the perimeter of the plot in a protective sheath that connects it to the control box of the Espaciel Reflector.

The motorized turret of the Intelligent Reflector is supported by a tubular aluminum mast of 50mm diameter and 70 cm height. It is fixed to the wall using two stainless steel “V” supports. The whole unit is coated with an anthracite grey paint.

Smart reflector fixed to the wall at the bottom of the garden
The Intelligent Reflector is fixed to the wall using the wall bracket. Placed high up, facing south, it receives the sun’s first rays

Setting up the Smart Reflector

Setting up the Smart Reflector was not easy. The movements of the Reflector during this step are not intuitive. The built environment and vegetation pose a potential risk of collision with the surface of the Reflector as it swings left to right and tilts up and down. This requires careful observation of the product when it is put into operation, so that it can be stopped if necessary.

This step brings back Philippe’s memories of being a flight officer. “We go to the port fin to turn to port!” he exclaims, thinking of the vigilance required to maneuver a ship. The difference here is that the commissioning is limited to a few learning runs according to the 4 cardinal points, North, South, East, West. Once this step is completed, the Reflector becomes autonomous and no longer requires as much attention because all risk of collision is eliminated. The Intelligent Reflector can now be used to illuminate the dark room.

Results obtained in natural light in a dark room

Philippe installs the Motorized Reflector on December 21st. The day of the winter solstice. That is to say one of the least luminous days. The sun reaches a height of 20 degrees at noon. With such a low angle of incidence the sun is low. It crosses painfully the foggy atmosphere of the winter.

Since then the luminosity has become more intense, less diffuse. The sun is more present and its rays take their place at the top of the garden wall. Philippe and Joëlle observe the solar projection at their place more and more clear and perennial. They are impressed by the power of the sun and the efficiency of its redirection to illuminate a dark room until then.

Living room bathed in light by the sun rays of the Espaciel Reflector the room was dark until then
The diffuse sunlight that penetrates the winter mist warms the living room with its rays provided by the Espaciel Reflector

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