You’ve heard of LEDs. You’ve encountered compact fluorescent lights (CFLs). But what’s the next leap forward in home illumination? Meet smart bulbs, the latest innovation in home illumination. These bulbs sync seamlessly with your smart device or home assistant for the ultimate experience in customized home light.
Smart light bulbs are advanced lighting solutions you can control wirelessly through a remote. Unlike traditional incandescent or fluorescent bulbs, smart bulbs can be controlled using smartphone apps, voice commands, or home automation systems. Smart light bulbs are long-lasting and more energy-efficient than regular light bulbs. We’ll go into more detail on that later in this guide.
At their core, smart light bulbs work on the principle of connectivity, often leveraging WiFi, Bluetooth, or Zigbee protocols to interface with other smart devices in a home ecosystem. This allows users to synchronize lighting with music, adjust ambiance to align with activities, or even integrate with home automation systems for improved security and energy efficiency.
How Does a Smart Light Bulb Work?
How many individuals are needed to install a smart light bulb? Just one. This is not the setup for a joke; rather, we want to show you how it’s easy to use smart lights. At first glance, smart bulbs resemble regular bulbs. You twist them into the light socket, flip the switch, and that’s it! Your smart lighting system is ready to illuminate.
However, the smart functionality comes from their connection to your smartphone or tablet. This connection can be established through Bluetooth, WiFi, or other wireless technologies. Some smart light bulbs may include a hub as an intermediary, connecting the bulb to your WiFi router and other smart home products.
From there, the capabilities of smart bulbs expand considerably. Once linked to your phone, you can turn them on and off remotely, modify their light colors (applicable to color-changing smart bulbs), or schedule their cycles. If they integrate with other smart home devices, you can establish rules that trigger the lights to turn on depending on certain instances, such as your door opening.
Generally, smart bulbs are a versatile component of smart home tech, offering many possibilities once incorporated into your ecosystem.
Tip: Smart bulbs work best with socket-powered table lamps or power sources without manual wall switches. While you can plug a smart bulb into a ceiling-mounted light fixture with a wall switch, the smart features won’t function unless the switch is turned on.
Steps to Set Up a Smart Light Bulb
- Plug in the hub. If your smart hub has a hub, plug it into your router.
- Remove the incandescent bulbs and install the smart bulb in the selected light fixture.
- Launch the app store and download the mobile application associated with the brand of the smart bulb you bought.
- Pair the smart bulb with the app and name your bulbs. If you combine several bulbs, label them intuitively, such as “bedroom night table lamp,” so you know which one you control.
Where Can I Use Smart Light Bulbs?
You can install a smart bulb in any socket that suits it and will function properly. However, smart bulbs work best with fixtures unrelated to a wall switch, such as table or floor lamps. That’s because a smart bulb requires steady power even if the lights are switched off.
If you need a smart lighting solution for a ceiling-mounted fixture, a smart light switch may be more suitable, though it’s challenging to set up. Moreover, we don’t recommend using smart bulbs for ceiling fan light fixtures because some models are bulky, and the constant movement can cause the bulbs to stop working.
Pros and Cons of Smart Light Bulbs
Imagine controlling your home’s lights with a button, your voice, or even from miles away. Smart light bulbs make this a reality, making regular lighting a gateway to convenience, customization, and energy savings. But are these devices worth the hype? Let’s explore the world of smart lighting and compare the pros and cons to determine if they are worth the money.
Pros of Smart Light Bulbs:
- Energy efficiency: Smart bulbs often use LED technology, which consumes far less energy than traditional incandescent bulbs. LEDs use a higher percentage of electricity to produce light rather than heat, thereby being more energy efficient. Also, smart bulbs include features like dimming and scheduling, allowing users to optimize energy consumption by adjusting brightness levels and automatically switching lights on and off at specific times.
- Remote control: Among the most notable aspects of smart light bulbs is their ability to be controlled from the comfort of your location via smartphones, tablets, or other smart devices. This implies that users can use a reliable internet connection to manage their lighting from anywhere.
- Customization: Smart bulbs offer a level of customization that their traditional counterparts can’t match. Beyond basic on/off functionality, you can adjust brightness, temperature (warm to cool), and color. This versatility lets users establish lighting scenes tailored to specific activities, moods, etc. For instance, you can set brighter, cooler lights for effective work sessions and softer, warmer lights for evening relaxation.
- Long lifespan: LED smart bulbs last significantly longer than ordinary incandescent or fluorescent bulbs. Although the lifespan varies based on usage and quality, LED bulbs can last longer, surpassing their traditional counterparts.
- Enhanced security: Smart lights can make your home look like someone is there, even when you are not around. This alone deters potential burglars. You can also set them to switch on and off at random times to create the impression of occupancy.
Cons of Smart Light Bulbs:
- Cost: The upfront cost of smart light bulbs is higher than traditional bulbs. Although they are a money-saver in the long run, they tend to be more expensive initially, a huge barrier for those on a tight budget.
- Reliance on technology: Smart bulbs depend on wireless connectivity and electricity to work. Although this reliance supports remote control and automation, it also means that smart bulbs are susceptible to technological glitches, network outages, or power disruptions. If your WiFi goes out or the smart home hub malfunctions, you may be unable to control your smart lights until the issue is resolved.
What to Look For In a Smart Light Bulb
Smart light bulbs offer remarkable functionality but are not ideal for every situation. They work well with ordinary light switches but face compatibility issues with dimmer switches. Dimmer switches, which reduce electrical flow to adjust brightness, can result in premature wear and tear on smart bulbs.
Before buying a smart light bulb, check to see if it requires a smart home hub for optimal operation. If so, the light bulb won’t work appropriately on its own. Ensure the bulb’s connectivity aligns with your setup. WiFi can connect to various devices, but Zigbee, Bluetooth, and Z-Wave are restricted in interacting with smart home devices. As such, verifying compatibility guarantees seamless integration into your existing smart home ecosystem.
Here’s what to consider when buying a smart light bulb:
- Brightness: The brightness of a bulb is measured in lumens (lm), the units of light that are visible to the naked eye. The more lumens a smart light bulb produces, the brighter the light. The average lumen output for a smart bulb is 800 lm, but select the lumens depending on how you’ll be using the bulb. You need more lumens for outdoor lighting and fewer for indoor lighting. Pick smart bulbs depending on your light needs.
- Color: Some smart bulbs only emit white light, while others can produce different colors. Colored light is a great way to add atmosphere, but a bulb that emits numerous hues costs more.
- Smart home compatibility: When choosing a smart light bulb, decide whether you want models that tie into a smart home platform or work directly with a smartphone. Smart light bulbs that work directly with your smartphone are easy to install because you don’t need to link them to a central hub. Screw it in, download the affiliate app, and you’re good to go.
- App features: Basic smart bulbs link to your smartphone via an app, allowing you to control them remotely by touching the screen. You can set the lights to switch on and off at specific times using the app. Some models have motion sensors that notify you when the light turns on, alerting you to a potential intruder. Also, some smart lighting apps use geofencing to track your phone’s GPS and activate the lights when you’re in a certain range.
- Setup: It’s easy to set up a smart light bulb. If it works with your phone instead of a smart home system, screw it in, download the app, and that’s it. If you use it with a smart home system, most manufacturer’s websites will include thorough instructions on using their device. If uncomfortable installing smart light bulbs, look for a model that provides setup videos and tech support.
- Expandability: A smart light bulb on your porch is great to switch on as you enter the driveway. However, you can take it further by expanding your lighting system to cover the entire home. To create a smart home system, you need smart bulbs that can communicate with one another. This lets you turn on or off multiple lights simultaneously.
- Lifetime hours: Generally, LED light bulbs last longer than conventional bulbs. But a smart bulb incorporates electronic components that produce extra heat, deteriorating the LEDs faster than non-smart models. It’s worth noting that location affects lifespan. Bulbs in enclosed fixtures burn out faster. Also, quality comes into play when it comes to longevity. Bulbs from reputable brands are more durable than cheap bulbs.
- Wireless network: Most smart bulbs can be controlled wirelessly via smartphone apps. Some depend solely on WiFi connections between the bulb and the phone, whereas others link to a separate wireless network, like Zigbee, through a hub or gateway to which your phone connects over WiFi. A mesh network of this type can be more reliable, particularly in large homes with weak WiFi signals. Some smart light bulbs use only a Bluetooth connection to the smartphone, limiting the distance you can control the light.
- Color temperature: The color temperature of a smart light bulb significantly impacts how it influences a place, be it a soft white with warm, inviting yellow or amber tones or a cooler, crisper daylight hue with a blue tint. While standard lights typically have two options, fixed soft white or daylight, some smart bulbs offer a significant advantage due to their flexibility.
It would be better to use tunable white bulbs, where the light color temperature and intensity can be adjusted separately. You can set bulb specs for room use: cool white for job lighting in cooking areas, warm white for relaxation in bedrooms, and warm and low intensity for outdoors.
How Do Smart Bulb Lights Improve Home Safety?
While not a foolproof security system on their own, smart light bulbs can be a great tool for improving your home’s safety in different ways. Here’s how these innovative devices can achieve this:
- Remote and access and control:
Smart light bulbs can be controlled anywhere with a reliable internet connection using smartphone apps or integrated smart home systems. That means you can turn lights on and off, adjust brightness levels, and change colors remotely. Remote access lets you give the impression of occupancy while not at home, discouraging possible attackers by making it look like someone is present.
- Integration with security systems:
Smart bulbs work smoothly with existing home security systems and gadgets, increasing total protection. They can be synchronized with motion sensors, door/window sensors, and security cameras to trigger lighting responses depending on detected events. For instance, when motion is sensed outside or a door is opened abruptly, smart bulbs can illuminate the area to dissuade criminals and warn homeowners of potential threats.
- Geofencing capabilities:
Geofencing technology enables smart lights to detect when homeowners enter or leave preset geographic boundaries, like the vicinity of their home. Smart bulbs with geofencing capabilities can automatically adjust lighting settings according to location. For example, lights can switch on automatically as you approach the house and switch off when you leave. This offers added convenience and security.
- Integration with voice assistants:
Many smart bulb systems work with popular voice assistants such as Amazon Alexa, Google Assistant, and Apple Siri. This interconnectedness enables hands-free control of lighting systems, letting users issue voice commands to switch lights on and off or trigger preset lighting scenes. Voice control improves accessibility and convenience, especially when manual control is challenging or inconvenient.
- Emergency lighting functions:
In an emergency like a fire or intrusion, smart bulbs can act as emergency lighting sources, offering illumination to help you navigate and evacuate safely. Most smart bulbs have battery backup capabilities or emergency lighting modes that turn on automatically during power outages or when triggered by carbon monoxide or smoke alarms.
- Smart notifications and alerts:
With the ability to generate notifications and alerts, smart bulb systems can help you stay informed of potential security threats or malfunctions. For instance, you may receive alerts on your smartphone if motion is detected in certain areas. This lets you respond quickly to security incidents.
- Peace of mind: Knowing you can control your home’s lighting from the comfort of your location can offer security, particularly when traveling or working late.
- Accident prevention: Well-lit entrances and walkways can assist with reducing the risk of tripping and falls. This enhances overall safety for you and your loved ones.
It must be noted that smart lights are just one piece of the security puzzle. Combining them with other security measures such as robust locks, alarm systems, and good security practices will increase your home’s protection.
Frequently Asked Questions
Q. Will smart light bulbs work if the WiFi goes out?
If your WiFi goes out, the smart functions of your bulb won’t work. That means you cannot switch the lights on and off through your smartphone or a voice assistant. However, if there’s power, you can manually switch the lights on and off through a wall switch or on the light fixture.
Q. Do smart bulbs work in any lamp?
Smart bulbs come in all shapes, sizes, and configurations. Therefore, it’s possible to find models that fit in most lamps.
Q. Do smart bulbs work with normal switches?
Yes, smart bulbs work with normal switches. They are compatible with traditional light switches commonly found in homes. When installed, smart bulbs work similarly to standard light bulbs, meaning you can turn them on and off using the wall switch.
Conclusion: What Are Smart Light Bulbs?
Smart light bulbs are equipped with WiFi or Bluetooth connectivity, allowing them to be controlled remotely with a mobile app, tablet, or voice commands. They offer features beyond just turning on and off, like dimming and color-changing, scheduling, automation, and integration with other smart home devices. With smart light bulbs, you can enjoy greater convenience, customization, and energy efficiency, among other benefits.