Smart Lights are the most popular smart device out there–and for good reason. Smart Lights allow you to control your lights remotely from Smartphones, Voice Assistants, and with Home Automation systems. With these systems, you can change your Smart Lights’s intensity and color on the fly.
Below you’ll find answers to the most common questions regarding Smart Lights.
What Is A Light?
Although it seems like a simple question, it’s not so straightforward. A light can refer to many different things when you’re talking about your home, as the term light corresponds to any device that emits light in some shape, intensity, or color.
That definition alone could mean a bunch of different devices. But most of the time, a light refers to a light bulb or perhaps a light fixture. What’s more, a light is also typically controlled by a switch on the wall or from a lamp.
What Is A Smart Light?
Smart Lights go by many different names. The term Smart Light is often swapped for names like Smart Light Bulbs, Smart Bulbs, Smart Light Strips, Smart LEDs, Smart Light Bars, Smart Light Panels, Smart Light Squares, Smart Light Triangles, Smart Lighting, and many others. Smart Lights are also named slightly differently depending on where the light is emitted, how it’s emitted, and what the light looks like.
As with the term light, a Smart Light is also tricky to define, as it can refer to many different devices in your home. That said, Smart Lights generally refer to a category of smart devices where the main purpose is to emit light.
Keep in mind, too, that we’re not talking about the switch that’s built into your wall, called Smart Light Switch. That’s an entirely different smart device.
So, what actually makes these lights smart? Turns out, one feature alone grants these devices their smarts. That feature is simply the ability to control the light remotely via your smartphone or with a Voice Assistant. But for this feature to work, Smart Lights need to also connect to the internet via one of the many Smart Home Network types.
Overall, Smart Lights are the most popular type of smart device you can find today and are usually the first smart device people buy when turning their house a little bit smarter. What’s more, they’re easily the most important category of smart devices because of their standalone value. Smart Lights are also the easiest smart devices to set up and are one of the cheapest.
But don’t just go out and buy any old Smart Light you can find. It’s a good idea to first understand the different capabilities among Smart Lights. Just like with any other smart device out there, it pays dividends to know what you want to do with Smart Lights before you purchase any. Otherwise you’ll just wind up with boxes of Smart Lights that collect dust on your shelf. At least this was true for my dad with his recent purchase.
What Does A Smart Light Do?
Not all Smart Lights are created equal. There are features that all Smart Lights have and features that are so unique, you’ll only find them with a specific brand. So let’s dive in to better understand your options.
On/Off is the bare minimum feature for a Smart Light. But before you start thinking this is a no-brainer, remember the biggest stipulation of what makes a light smart. It’s all about remote access and control of your light. With Smart Lights, you can utilize remote systems like your Smartphone or Voice Assistants to do the manual turning on and off of your light for you.
For some Smart Lights, this is the only feature you’ll get. The main benefit of having a Smart Light Bulb that only supports this basic feature is its affordable price. So if you’re only looking to control a light remotely (which I admit is plenty beneficial enough, especially when you can avoid climbing stairs), this feature is all you’d need.
Dimming refers to the ability to adjust the brightness of a Smart Light Bulb. This is a fairly common feature for Smart Lights, and it typically doesn’t cost too much extra.
One warning, though–don’t try to use a Dimmer Switch with a Smart Light. These two smart devices are arch enemies.
The ability to change the color of a Smart Light Bulb is the first feature that really makes Smart Lights stand apart from regular lights. Color is also the main feature that typically makes people want Smart Lights to begin with. And for good reason. I use my Smart Lights to change the ambiance of my home throughout the day. From reading time to movie time–changing the color of your lights makes a big difference.
By using your Smartphone or Voice Assistant, you can change the color of your Smart Lights to any hue variation you can imagine. And I do mean any. The number of color options Voice Assistants support is mind boggling. It goes far beyond standard colors like red, blue, and yellow.
That being said, the one major challenge of this feature is that not all Smart Lights support the same spectrum of colors. Voice Assistants also support different colors names. Between both considerations, knowing just what works and what doesn’t for your Smart Light is pretty frustrating.
Fortunately, I’ve done the leg work of categorizing all the colors each Voice Assistant supports, so you don’t have to keep guessing. Check out the below lists to learn more.
The first two features aside, here’s where Smart Lights up the ante even further from normal lights. Custom refers to the feature of customization of your Smart Light Bulb. Custom is made possible by the specific company and Smart Lights brand you choose.
As an example, Philips Hue, the largest and most popular Smart Light brand, offers a wide variety of custom features for Smart Lights. One that’s a favorite of mine is called Hue Sync. This feature allows your lights to change color based on what is showing on your TV. So if the background on your TV show is mostly purple, your Smart Lights turn to a similar shade of purple.
Another brand of Smart Lights is Nanoleaf. This company has a unique style and shape for its Smart Bulbs, like using triangles and square panels instead of the more traditional bulb shape. What’s even more interesting about these custom shapes is what you can do with them. For instance, you can have the light colors change into different patterns automatically. This is quite fun to tinker with especially if you have company over.
The above brands and their unique customizations are just two examples of what you can expect with this feature. I definitely recommend you spend more time seeing what other customizations are out there for Smart Lights before deciding on a particular option.
Controlling your Smart Lights remotely with either your Smartphone or with a Voice Assistant is only the first step in making your lights smart. The power of Smart Home technology really centers around Home Automation.
Home Automation allows you to set up “Rules”–or patterns of If This, Then That–with your Smart Lights. These Rules largely vary and are meant to provide even more convenience in your everyday life. For instance, you can set up Rules that automatically turn on the lights for you when you walk in the door, or have them turn on when the sun sets every evening.
As a further example, one of my favorite automations I’ve set up is where my Smart Lights blink when the kitchen timer goes off. So wherever I am in the house, even when out of reach of the timer’s sound, I know dinner is ready when my lights blink.
How much do Smart Lights cost?
Before going out and outfitting your home with Smart Lights, it’s worth taking a look at other smart devices, like plugs and switches, that serve as possible alternatives. After all, depending on what you want out of your Smart Lights, these other options might be better suited–and even cheaper–for you.
That said, if you’ve made up your mind in getting Smart Lights, expect to have some sticker shock with price. The cost jumps quite significantly when factoring in the above five features.
If you’re looking for Smart Lights that only support the On/Off and Dimming features, you’re looking to spend $10-15 per Smart Light Bulb. While at first blush this doesn’t sound devastating for your wallet, the cost adds up when considering outfitting a full room or your entire home. After all, consider how many lights you have in your home or those you use daily. If the answer is more than a handful, you’re looking to spend upwards of $100 for just basic functionality. The good news is buying Smart Lights in bulk is cheaper, and it’s easy to find multiple brands that offer Smart Lights in packs of four.
But if you’re looking for a more advanced feature instead, like with color, expect the price of a Smart Light Bulb to double to $20-30 per. As before, you’ll want to hold out for bundle deals and bulk pricing. Fortunately, it’s common for Smart Lights with the color feature to go on sale, especially during the holiday season.
Custom Smart Lights are a different beast entirely. Because custom features depend on the specific brand you choose, the pricing is all over the place. For instance, the Nanoleaf Light Panels pictured above are expensive, starting at $300 for a bundle of 15 Smart Light Bulbs, or what the brand calls panels.
Moreover, keep in mind some Smart Lights also require a hub to connect to your network in order to work. Buying this hub, which ranges from $40-$70, is yet another upfront cost you may have to factor in when purchasing Smart Lights.
How do you install a Smart Light?
Fortunately, Smart Light installation is easy. Just unscrew the current light bulb and simply screw in your new Smart Light Bulb instead.
The more challenging and often overlooked part is with getting Smart Lights setup on your network.
How does a Smart Light work with a wall switch?
Not well. Smart Light’s Biggest Enemy is the wall switch.
Should I get Smart Lights or Switches?
Unless you want more advanced features like color control, try purchasing Smart Switches and Smart Plugs instead. These two smart devices last longer and generally work better with other devices in your home.
What do I need for Smart Lights?
At the bare minimum, you’ll need a Smartphone. But really, if you want to get the most out of your Smart Lights, you need a Voice Assistant, like Alexa, Siri, or Google Assistant.
Some Smart Lights, like Philips Hue lights, also require something called a hub that connects your lights to your network. However, others like LIFX only require WiFi to work.
What is a Smart LED Bulb?
Most Smart Lights are actually LED bulbs, as well. LED refers to a specific type of light bulb, but it doesn’t really refer to anything “smart.” The five features above are what really makes your lights smart.
You can also find Smart Light Bulbs that aren’t LED, like older halogen bulbs.
What are WiFi Light Bulbs?
WiFi refers to the type of network connection that Smart Lights use in order to connect to your network. If your Smart Light Bulb uses WiFi–instead of something like ZWave–you save yourself the need to buy a hub.
Know that there are tradeoffs to WiFi Smart Lights, though, especially when you have many of them in your home.
Do Smart Bulbs work in lamps?
They do, although I bet you’ll run into some of the same problems that users with Smart Lights and Wall Switches regularly encounter.
Security and Privacy
It’s worth noting, if even briefly, the security element for not just Smart Lights, but all smart devices. A big concern when having all of these devices connected to your home network and the internet is with their security. Many devices out in the market today have poor security, which gives Attackers an easy way to access your new device and home network and use it for their own purposes. To learn more, see Smart Home Security.
As a general rule of thumb, before buying any smart device, first research the brand you’re considering to make sure there haven’t been recent security breaches.
When people today think of taking the leap into making their home smart, updating their normal light bulbs is usually the first step. While traditional lights are often turned on/off via a wall or lamp switch, Smart Lights have the benefit of remote access and control. Long gone are the days where you stumble down your stairs to turn off your porch light. With Smart Lights, you can now turn off the same light with just your Smartphone or with a Voice Assistant.
This feature is just one out of five that Smart Lights offer in providing you more convenience in your everyday life. Whether you’re keen on setting the mood with dimming the brightness of the light itself or in changing colors of the light altogether, Smart Lights have multiple other capabilities.
What’s more, Smart Lights are also the easiest smart device to set up, one of the cheapest smart devices out there, and have the best standalone value. So look no further when taking the leap. You can easily turn your home into a smarter house by swapping out your normal lights for Smart Lights.
Interested in learning more about other smart devices? View smart device categories explained.