The Italian firm CoeLux, exhibiting at Light + Building in Frankfurt next week, makes an artificial skylight that integrators and their clients will savour. It is an LED panel that almost perfectly simulates the sun and sky, making closed-in spaces appear bathed in natural sunlight.

HomeTronics, a high-end audio, video and home automation integrator in Dallas, apparently is the first in the U.S. to install CoeLux, having trained five employees in January.

“This is a disruptive technology,” says HomeTronics principal Greg Margolis. “It will change the way spaces are designed and lit.”

Greg says architects not only like the practical lighting aspects of CoeLux, but also how the product can transform the design of the space.

“Multiple panels completely change the look of the ceiling,” he explains. “You almost think you’re in an outside space as opposed to being inside.”

Indeed, because of CoeLux, HomeTronics was able to transform a naturally dark home theatre at the company’s showroom into a multi-purpose space.

CoeLux fixtures are more than bright blue lamps. The company “recreates the same scientific process that makes the sky appear blue,” says physicist and CoeLux founder Paolo Di Trapani. “We built the sun.”

CoeLux simulates the same oxygen, nitrogen and CO2 particles found in air and virtually “compresses the atmosphere” from 10km down to a few millimetres, creating a solid, rather than gas or liquid, Paolo says.

Whatever the science, the fixtures are transformative. I personally was incredulous when I saw photos of CoeLux installations.

“The reaction you had to the picture is multiplied 10-fold when you see it in person,” Greg tells me.

“We had a range of professionals in – interior designers, builders, architects, commercial developers, lighting reps and doctors in charge of medical facilities. Everyone was blown away. They all thought the skylight was real, except for the people who came at night. They were confused.”

Amazing Applications

The implications for both residential and commercial installs are immense.

First, there is clear evidence that natural light can improve mental and physical health in many ways.

Greg says the medical professionals who attended the CoeLux launch at HomeTronics were eager to add the lamp to treatment rooms such as gamma knife suites, where patients undergo radiosurgery.

He tells of one guest who said his facility uses a $4 million machine “because it produces a higher quality lighting and a better working experience for the doctors and also is more comfortable for the patient.”

That’s how important a role lighting can play.

Other medical uses, Greg says, would be in patient recovery areas of the hospital, to promote faster healing, better well-being, and quicker turnover for the hospitals.

For more amusing and mercantile applications, Greg suggests car showrooms would benefit greatly from a dose of almost-real sunshine.

“The lighting in car showrooms does not accurately reflect the colour of a car when it is outside in sunlight,” he says. “CoeLux lighting allows car dealers to showcase vehicles inside, accurately, and at any time—day or night, in the rain, cloud, snow, etc.” 

And car buffs can finally show off their collections appropriately, Greg says: “They can appreciate their cars, show them off in ‘natural’ light, have them seen inside the way they are supposed to look outside.”

The natural light will also ensure the car collector never picks the wrong colour for a drive.

CoeLux has plenty other residential and commercial applications. Sunlight, even of the simulated variety, can improve productivity and enhance moods.

In prisons and mental institutions, it can calm residents. In Las Vegas it can keep gamblers gambling. In dressing rooms you’ll be able to tell what your outfit and skin tone will look like outside, averting a possible fashion disaster.

CoeLux Hijinks

HomeTronics had some fun with one unwitting visitor to the showroom.

As Greg tells it, the guest walked into the home theatre – lit with both can lights and CoeLux – and exclaimed, “Wow, that’s really cool that you put a skylight in the theatre.”

The client wondered if the light posed a problem for movie viewing.

“I told him we had a new lighting technology,” says Greg, “and I asked him to hit the on switch for a nearby lamp.”

Just as the guest turned on the lamp, Greg hit a Lutron button that killed both the can lights and the CoeLux.

The guest was astonished. How could Greg turn off the sun in a split second?

“I said our special lamp outputs negative light and zaps all the photons coming from light sources,” Greg says. “After about a minute in the dark, he knew something was up.”

The guest, says Greg, was Andrew Ard, a long-time industry veteran.

CoeLux Products, Price and Availability

Currently, CoeLux has two models (with options for each). The 45 LC is the “little” one and the HC 45 is the big one.

At this point, the lights only turn on and off. There is no dimming or automation at this time. Certainly more tricks and features are in the works, including the simulation of a moving sun.

Mfr. Specs and Recommendations:

LC 45

o Finished dimensions: 4 x 2 feet (1200 – 600 mm)

o Recommended ceiling height: 8 – 8.5 feet (2.2 – 2.6 meters)

o Optimal coverage area for one unit: up to 215 sq. feet (20 sq. meters)

o Weight: 440 lbs (200 kg)

o Price: $29,000 retail*

HC 45

o Finished dimensions: 5.8 x 2.8 feet (1700 x 850 mm)

o Recommended ceiling height: 8 – 10.5 feet (2.2 – 3.2 meters)

o Optimal coverage area for one unit: up to 215 sq. feet (20 sq. meters)

o Weight: 772 lbs (350 kg)

o Price: $39,000 retail

Prices and Fees (estimated retail prices, subject to change)

LC 45

o Price: $29,000

o Shipping: $1,500

o Duties: $900

o Installation: $2,500

o Total to consumer: approx. $34,000

HC 45

o Price: $39,000

o Shipping: $2,500

o Duties: $1,200

o Installation: $5,000

o Total to consumer: approx. $48,000

Greg says CoeLux has plans to add manufacturing capabilities in the U.S., which would eliminate duties and reduce freight by as much as 50%.

Furthermore, new products with lower price tags are expected to be announced at the Light + Building trade fair in Frankfurt next week, where CoeLux plans to make a big splash.

HomeTronics is set up as a CoeLux dealer, with the ability to sell from Texas to the West Coast. The manufacturer is in the process of setting up reps, who will then vet dealers in other territories, according to Greg.

Greg himself has additional business plans based specifically on the product line.

“If you can’t tell,” he says, “I’m very excited about this solution and the possibilities it will lead to.”

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