First Time Working with RGB

I did some research on the upcoming challenge of making a lighting system for the hamster cage. I have to admit it was a little bit intimidating, and part of me almost wanted to avoid the challenge. There’ll be a few new elements to this: firstly, I’ve never worked with RGB LEDs before; secondly, I’ve only once actually put a project in a project box, and I wasn’t happy with the results there; thirdly, this will be something I’ll end up plugging into a socket; and, lastly, it’ll be something that needs to be used via Wi-Fi and Android phones. That’s a lot of new things all at once. Part of me wanted to chicken out and buy some pre-made thing that could only do part of what we wanted it to do.

Tracy’s preferred solution for the hamster cage is to have consistent lighting that will mimic some sort of circadian rhythm for the (future) hamster. The cage we built is rather large, and because it’s made of wood it’s also quite dark. On top of that, we’ve put it in a corner away from the windows, which makes it even darker. So, she would like to have a lighting system that mimics daylight in a way, both in color and intensity. However, it will also need to be able to be overriden manually, so that we can put it on a bright white light in case we need to check inside the cage or clean it.

I’ve been trying to do some initial research and discovered that authentic daylight imitation is quite complex, even when simplified. Now, firstly, I’m not intending to mimic actual sunlight here, so I’m already side-stepping issues of infrared and ultraviolet, and the other qualities that actual sunlight has. I’m not looking to grow crops or to take care of fish, so that’s going too far. Even when just trying to imitate the color, however, there’s a deep rabbithole of color temperatures, color perception, white balances, and so on. The minimum we really need is just to have light differ over a 24-hour period. I think I’ll see if I can play a bit with making the light blueish or greenish at night, reddish at dusk, and white at noon.

This will certainly be the biggest electronics challenge I’m tackling to date. It’s scary and exciting at the same time. So, right now, I’m looking at the following rough specifications:

  • The light should illumate the three compartments of the hamster cage
  • The light should be automatically set
  • It should be possible to manually override the light
  • The light should be powered from a socket
  • The light should simulate a day/night rhythm in intensity
  • The light should simulate a day/night rhythm through color
  • The fixtures and cabling should be neatly tucked away
  • The light should be controlled from a distance

We’ll see where we end up with the project.