Installing smart bulbs is usually the first step in people's smart home journey – it was for me!
With Philips Hue multi-colored bulbs and light strips stocked in almost every DIY store, it allows people to dip their toes into the waters of home automation!
Before you know it, you'll have all of your lights centrally controlled through a smart hub and automatically switching on and off based on motion sensors and the time of day!
Types of Smart Lighting Devices
The easiest to install, smart bulbs are simple replacements for your existing bulbs.
They come in a variety of shapes and sizes, from simple screw and bayonet bases to multicolored strip lights, light fixtures, and LED panels.
You can retrofit your existing light fixtures by swapping out your old light switch with a smart one.
Dimmer switches, multi-gang switches, multi-way switches with occupancy sensors, and programmers are all available.
You can also smarten up your light fixtures with smart adapters.
These include microcontrollers, smart bulb holders, lamp adapters, remote controllers, smart plugs, and outlets.
There is also a wide range of smart lighting accessories to further enhance your smart home.
Smart buttons, remote controls with wall docks, motion sensors, signal repeaters, and smart hubs all help complete your lighting experience.
There are hundreds of manufacturers now competing in the smart lighting industry, from traditional leaders to up-and-coming niche players. To ensure your smart lighting is supported in the future, I recommend you stick to the top brands below.
What is Smart Lighting?
Smart lighting is lighting that is controlled by a smartphone, smart hub, or through voice assistants such as Alexa, Siri, or Google Assistant.
These apps are typically available for download for iOS and Android devices and allow users to change the brightness and temperature of the bulbs.
If the bulbs come with colored LEDs, you can alternate the color as well. For smart lighting, you either need smart bulbs or other smart lighting solutions such as smart switches or relays.
What Are Smart Bulbs?
A smart bulb is an internet-capable device consisting of light-emitting diodes (LEDs). They come in two types: white ones (with some tunable to different temperatures) and RGB-colored ones. They are more expensive than conventional bulbs, but they use less energy and last a lot longer, which means you can save on your energy bills in the long run.
The lighting from a smart bulb can be scheduled, customized, and controlled remotely. Smart bulbs or smart lighting are a fast-growing category of home automation products. They are useful and affordable, and if installed properly, can completely transform the look of your home.
What Are Smart Switches?
Smart switches are used to control wall or ceiling lights in a home or living space. You can use smart light switches with normal bulbs as the switch itself is connected. A smart light switch can turn your lights on and off, or alter the brightness of a dimmer.
It can be connected to a local home network or a cloud server. Through this connection, you can control it from your smartphone app and create schedules for turning on and off the lights, whether you are in or outside your home or on vacation.
Types of Smart Lights
The two most popular types of smart lighting are smart bulbs and smart switches. Smart bulbs can be plugged into the existing bulb holders of your home. The common features include: dimming and changing the temperature and color. Smart light switches, on the other hand, replace your existing switches that are connected to your existing bulbs that can remotely be controlled.
However, you can only dim or turn on and off lights with smart switches. You can't change the light temperature and color without a more complex switch.
Keep in mind; that smart bulbs must be linked to your home network to work. Most smart bulbs work with Wi-Fi, Zigbee, or Z-Wave.
If you want to install only a few smart bulbs in your home, I recommend you opt for Wi-Fi smart bulbs as they connect directly to your Wi-Fi network and don't require a hub. Other popular options include recessed downlights as they come in various styles and color temperatures that are well-suited for kitchens, bedrooms, dining rooms, and bathrooms.
Another great smart lighting option is smart strip lights that are easy to set up, with many useful and fun features to light up any room.
Benefits of Smart Lighting
The pros of smart lighting don't end with you being able to turn on and off your lights remotely or automatically with your phone. There are other less obvious benefits to upgrading to smart lighting.
Low maintenance costs
LED light bulbs will lower your overall energy consumption, reduce your energy bills, and impact on the environment. Smart lighting management systems provide you with real-time energy analytics, which gives you the data to enable you to reduce your energy consumption.
They also last much longer than traditional light bulbs so don't need to be replaced as often.
Improves energy efficiency
More and more cities and urban areas are taking initiatives to replace traditional lighting systems with LED lighting, it's estimated that upgrading to LED lighting could save total lighting energy up to 40 percent.
As more homes are looking forward to transforming into smart homes, we'll see that installing smart lighting will lower energy consumption and pave the way for more sustainable cities.
Smart LED bulbs consume way less energy than traditional incandescent bulbs. An ENERGY STAR–certified smart bulb requires 70 to 90 percent less energy than a traditional bulb.
If your smart bulbs come with motion sensors, you can save even more energy. These motion sensors turn on the lights when someone is in a room and automatically switch off the lights when rooms are not in use.
Convenience of voice and remote control
One huge benefit of smart lighting systems is the added perk of controlling your lights wirelessly via smartphone or tablet apps. Most smart lights now have support for voice commands such as Apple's Siri via Homekit, Google Assistant with Google Home, or Amazon Alexa.
After all, it’s pretty cool, to say, “Alexa, turn off the lights”, or “Hey Siri, dim the lights” and like magic, they respond!
One overlooked yet important incentive to upgrade smart lighting is how smart lights can help reduce crime. A study in New York City revealed that smart lighting could reduce night-time crime by 39 percent.
For homeowners, smart lights can be remotely controlled as though there was someone at home during vacations from a smartphone from anywhere in the world. Some also have a “random activation” which enables and disables the lights at random to give the illusion that the property is occupied.
Many smart lights include motion-detection features, so the bulbs will switch on and off depending on whether an occupant is in a room. If an intruder or unexpected motion is detected inside or outdoors, alerts can be sent to mobile devices.
Features of Smart Bulbs
Most smart bulbs come with Wi-Fi or Bluetooth. If you connect your smart bulbs or other smart lighting fixtures such as smart strip lights with a hub like Amazon Echo, you can use your smartphone, or smart speaker to issue commands.
The hub will receive the command and relay it to the proper smart bulb within your home network.
Smart Hub integration
Smart hubs act as a coordinator and bridge between your smart home device and phone. Most smart lights come with Wi-Fi, Zigbee, or Z-Wave, making it easy to integrate them with a smart hub like Amazon Echo or Samsung Smartthings connected to your home’s Wi-Fi network.
Smart hubs make it easier to control if you’ve many smart devices like smart bulbs, locks, cameras, thermostats, garage doors, and more.
Combine with other devices in routines
Smart lighting isn't limited to just lighting your rooms; it can communicate and collaborate with other smart devices in your home for a more synchronized experience.
- Pair your bulbs with smart thermostats, and they can adjust hues based on room temperature, providing a cozier or more refreshing ambiance.
- Integrate with security systems, and your lights can flash to alert you of suspicious activity or mimic presence when you're away.
- Paired with motion sensors, your lights can automatically turn on when you arrive home or enter a room and turn off when you exit.
- You can sync with entertainment systems to enrich movie or gaming sessions or even dim for a nice romantic night in!
Compatibility is key to all of this, so you’ll need to check that your smart lighting works seamlessly with other smart gadgets in your ecosystem, through one of the protocols I’ve mentioned.
Common Questions about Smart Lighting
What Is A Kelvin?
Kelvin is a unit used to measure the color temperature of a particular light bulb. Color temperature is used to express the light appearance provided by a particular light bulb, and it ranges from 1,000 K to 10,000 K. Denoted in the symbol, ‘K,' the higher the Kelvin rating, the whiter the light is. Typically, color temperatures for residential lighting fixtures range somewhere on a Kelvin scale from 2700 K to 3000 K.
Color temperatures higher than 3000 K are commonly applicable for hospitals and commercial buildings. When installing a new lighting system for your home, it is essential to ensure you choose the right color temperature to get the ideal look and feel you want.
What Is A Lumen?
A lumen or lumens is used to measure the brightness or light output produced by a particular light bulb. Expressed in Lumens (L), the higher the lumen rating, the brighter the light is. Previously, wattage was used to measure a light bulb's brightness, but today it's lumens. The reason is with smart LED lights; more energy is converted to light with less heat.
As a result, LED lights can produce more light consuming considerably less power. A 6.5W LED light, for example, gives enough light compared to a 50W Halogen bulb. That's about 87 percent energy savings there! As technology improves, we can produce more lumens using even fewer watts. This is why using Watts as a unit to measure brightness has become irrelevant.
What Is The Lifespan Of A Smart Bulb?
Most people jumping on the smart lighting bandwagon always ask how long these smart bulbs last. Given that customers are paying a premium compared to a typical old-school fluorescent or halogen bulb, that's a pretty sensible question.
On average, a smart light bulb lasts about 15,000 to 25,000 hours, or around 15 to 25 years (depending on usage). Compare this to a typical bulb that lasts around 1,000 to 2,000 hours tops. For comparison, a non-smart LED light bulb from a decent manufacturer has a lifespan of between 30,000 to 50,000 hours.
Do I Need A Hub To Control My Smart Lights?
Most smart lights are either Z-Wave or Wi-Fi-enabled while newer ones are Thread-enabled to work within the Matter standard.
Technically, you don't need a smart hub to control your smart lights if it connects to your Wi-Fi router.
However, the advantage of smart hubs is that you can use these devices to connect all of your smart home devices, such as smart bulbs, locks, cameras, thermostats, and more.
Additionally, linking all your smart devices with hubs like Amazon Echo or Samsung Smartthings will offer more reliable performance and enable your smart bulbs and other smart devices to interact with each other.
You can also control all of them from one app, sparing you from opening multiple apps to turn on or off your lights when you enter or exit the room, adjust the brightness, and more.
Difference Between LED, CFL, and Incandescent Bulbs
An incandescent light bulb emits light when a wire filament is heated to a certain temperature by passing an electric current. This means that incandescent bulbs are powered by heat. Compact fluorescent lights or CFLs emit light when the electric current passes through a tube containing mercury and argon vapor.
The major difference between incandescent bulbs and CFLs is that the former requires much more energy than CFLs. CFLs use around 70 percent less energy than incandescent bulbs.
CFLs also have longer lifespans than traditional bulbs, but they cost more.
On the other hand, light-emitting diodes or LEDs are semiconductors that emit light when current flows through them. LEDs are incredibly energy-efficient and last a lot longer than incandescent bulbs and CFLs.
It’s worth noting that while all smart bulbs are LEDs, not all LED bulbs are smart.
Difference Between Warm, Neutral, and Cool Light Colors
Warm white light has a soft hue with hints of yellow and red tones. Warm white LED lights mimic a sunny color. On the Kelvin scale, warm white light ranges between 2800-3200K. Warm white LEDs are suitable for home lighting, particularly in living rooms and bedrooms.
Cool white light ranges between 5000 – 6500 K on the Kelvin scale and is ideal for lighting working areas such as hospitals or kitchens. This light has a subtle blue tint to it mimicking an icy effect. Finally, Neutral white light ranges around 4000K and is found somewhere between warm and cool white light. This neutral white light is perfectly suited for commercial buildings.
Smart Lighting Articles
If you want to get your feet wet in home automation, smart lighting is your best option. Smart light bulbs are very accessible and on sale in most electronics stores.
They are soaring in popularity in homes and businesses because of their laudable energy efficiency and ease of control when combined with smartphone or tablet apps and smart hubs.
Most importantly, with smart lights, you can customize your home lighting needs to your personal preferences.