What are smart light bulbs?
Smart light bulbs are LED bulbs that can be controlled via an app. This can either occur through a hub or without one. In this guide, we’ll take a look at the different types of smart light bulbs and the things you should consider when planning to convert your home to smart bulbs.
In the evolution of lighting technology, LED is the newest player. Gone are the days of the incandescent light bulb and even CFL (Compact Fluorescent) bulbs are not as popular as they were prior to the introduction of LED technology. Why? The bottom line is that LED bulbs are far more economical to operate than other types of bulbs while providing the same level of lighting.
All smart light bulbs use LED technology, so when comparing bulbs across manufacturers, this is not something you have to worry about. The wattage requirements to operate each bulb will generally fall into the same category from one provider to another, giving you the ability to make your decisions based upon features and pricing.
Other Smart Home Devices
Smart lighting for your home may be your first investment in smart home devices. If your home is already “connected” the compatibility of the bulbs to your existing smart home network is important. This will influence your choice of lighting options as you may require compatibility with Apple Home Kit, Dmart Things, Ecobee, Zigbee, Alexa or Google Home.
Once you have determined whether or not the bulbs need to be compatible with existing smart home devices, it’s time to determine which other features you wish to purchase. It’s conceivable that you will want multiple types of smart bulbs by the time you’re done. I currently have three different types of bulbs installed and am planning on adding a fourth soon.
This is the king of all features, and frankly, the reason that most of us are considering smart light bulbs in the first place. Almost all bulbs have this feature, again, it’s primarily an issue of compatibility with your existing set-up.
Hub or hubless
If you already have a hub, then this question may already be answered for you, but it’s possible you may have some fixtures (say outdoor path lighting) that may fall outside the range of your hub. In this case, an independent Wi-Fi bulb may be the answer.
Bulb (socket) style
Make sure you know what type of connectors you have. We got tripped up during our installation because one of the fixtures in our living room, although it looked the same as the rest, actually used prong-style bulbs which required an adapter in order to convert to a standard bulb socket. Smart light bulbs come in standard, recessed can light (also referred to as pot lights), flood style bulbs and a new style of light strip bulbs often used in under cabinet lighting.
Smart bulbs come in varying strengths from soft while to extra bright daylight bulbs. The tuneability feature allows you to change the brightness of the bulb without a dimmer switch. Multi-hue bulbs offer up to 16 million colors and shades, offering you unprecedented control over the “mood” of your home.
Motion-sensing bulbs are great for more than just security lighting outdoors. They can also be used in a closet (so that the light comes on the moment you open the closet door), in little-used areas of the home (such as guest bathrooms), or areas where you may be entering a room with your hands full (like laundry/mud rooms).
Putting it All Together
Once you’ve determined which features are important to you, I suggest making a “lighting map” or a spreadsheet of all the existing fixtures in your home. Then, fill in what type of bulb you wish to place in each fixture, and how many bulbs the fixture requires. This will allow you to calculate the number of each bulb you require and the number of hubs necessary (one hub for every 64 devices as a rule of thumb) to fully complete the project.
The lighting map also allows you to complete the project in stages, which is important if budget is a factor for the project. You can then track your project on the lighting map, working your way from your highest priority areas to areas of less importance.
Now that you know how many bulbs of each type you need and whether or not you need to purchase additional hubs for your home, it’s time to go shopping.
When completing my project, I started by prioritizing the areas of my home I wanted to convert to smart light bulbs. Then, I checked out all of the major retailer sites for bulbs, like Phillips Hue, Sengled, Yeelight, and Wyze. When comparing bulbs, make sure you’re comparing apples to apples, as white bulbs are less expensive than tuneable bulbs or multicolor bulbs, and hub vs. hubless also vary in price.
I noted the retail prices on the manufacturer websites and then moved to other sites such as eBay and Amazon to do more price comparisons. Reading verified buyer reviews everywhere I went is a must in my eyes and then, based on the current pricing information, I bought the needed hub (I only needed one for my small three-bedroom home) and first set of light bulbs. I continued buying bulbs as my budget allowed, and managed to get almost the entire house wired with three orders.
Since wiring my home in 2017, technology has introduced the new light strip bulbs which can be daisy-chained together. Once I’m sure how many of these I will need and the outlet placement for them, I’ll be buying this technology too when the budget allows.
Smart light bulbs bring so much to your home atmosphere. My wife and I send each other messages with light colors so that we know what kind of mood the other is in when we walk in the front door (the kids are definitely in trouble if the lights are purple when I get home).
Be creative. Enjoy the freedom these bulbs give you. I know my UPS man appreciates the motion-sensing floodlights at the front of our house that light his way from the driveway to the front door without us even having to be home. I’ve also wired my mom’s house because it’s easier for her to use voice-control as her mobility declines with age. Smart light bulbs make your home smarter so you can focus on other things.
Buying Smart Light Bulbs
- Philips Hue (2-Pack) White & Color at Amazon – $77.48
- 2-Pack Eufy Smart White Light Bulb at Amazon – $39.99
- Sengled Smart LED Multi-Color Bulb at Amazon – $21.24
- Lifx Mini 800-Lumen Smart Bulb at Amazon – $37.49
- Philips – Hue White & Color Ambiance LED Starter Kit at Best Buy – $139.99
- Philips – Hue Lightstrip at Best Buy – $79.99
- Nanoleaf – Rhythm Edition – 9 Panels at Best Buy – $199.99
Did you enjoy our Smart Light Bulbs guide? If so, read some of our other reviews to learn how to turn your home into a smart home.
- The Eufy Smart Bulb Review
- Sengled v Philips Hue – The Smart Light Bulb Showdown
- Lifx Smart Light Buying Guide
- Sengled Smart Bulb Complete Buying Guide
- The Nanoleaf and Other Cool Smart Light Tiles
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