What is Smart Lighting?
Smart lights can be controlled wirelessly or set to an automated schedule, and yes, they will still work with the traditional on/off switch. The bulb connects to either the in-home Wi-Fi network, Bluetooth, or a hub. This connection is what allows the light to perform its “smart” functions, like mobile control on a smartphone.
The smart functions most commonly associated with smart lights are remote control on a phone or tablet and voice control through a compatible voice assistant like Amazon Alexa, Google Assistant and Apple Siri. Automated schedules are popular because this allows the user to set daily routines which automatically turn the lights on and off at predetermined times.
Depending on the smart bulb model, other features may include dimming, vivid color schemes, and switching the hue from soft to bright white. These are the types of features that will be advertised on the package when searching for smart lights.
What is Needed For a Smart Lighting System?
It’s important to decide which platform will control the smart lights. Also, are there already smart devices in the home, like a voice assistant? Is the bulb compatible with those devices? These are questions that will need to be researched with each smart bulb.
For the platform, each light will require a connected point. It could be Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, or a specific hub or bridge, which may or may not be included with the product. This is definitely something to think about. But remember that not all smart lights require a hub.
If the smart light requires a hub then that network of devices will be controlled by a hub that plugs into the home router. This allows all connected and compatible devices to communicate with one or more lights on that network. This may be a smartphone or tablet, or even a voice assistant. Once the platform is set it’s easier to use the smart lights in conjunction with other smart systems such as thermostats, cameras, door locks, etc.
How to Install a Smart Light Bulb?
Installing a smart light bulb is just as simple as a traditional light bulb. Remove the old light bulb and screw in the new bulb.
The smart light bulb will immediately start functioning as a traditional light bulb, but with smart features. In order to take advantage of the features, download the smart light app to a smartphone or tablet and set up the light.
Once the app is installed, add the smart bulb to the Wi-Fi from the app. This step should be evident, but it may say something like ‘search for available devices.’ Find the smart light and tap to connect. Once connected, control the light features from the phone or set an automated schedule.
The most popular way of automating smart lights is to set a schedule on a voice assistant.
Google Assistant, Amazon Alexa, and Apple Siri are all capable of being a connected control point, which makes adding smart lights a convenient option.
What is the Cost of Smart Light Bulbs?
The simple answer is not as much as one might think. LED bulbs last between 8 to 25 times longer as compared to halogen incandescent lights. In other words, they only use 25% to 30% of energy1. This is important because most, if not all smart lights are LEDs.
In terms of upfront costs, smart LED lights are more expensive. But because the lifespan of an LED bulb is 25,000 hours, compared to only 1,000 hours for incandescent bulbs, the lifetime cost of incandescent bulbs exceed LEDs. Replacing just 5 of the most often used bulbs with LEDs can save up to $75 a year.2
Smart LEDs are designed to shine for decades, so paying a larger sum upfront for one smart bulb may be a smart long-term investment. And as new competitors enter the lighting industry, the cost of LED light bulbs will decrease.
Smart lights such as Philips Hue and Sengled are likely to cost less than $15 for each bulb. Even color-changing smart bulbs can be reasonably priced at around $30 per bulb. When considering an upgrade to smart LED light bulbs, the costs are relatively low.
How Many Types of Smart Light Bulbs Are There?
The type of smart light will vary depending on the light fixture and the base fitting of the bulb. The main types of bulb bases include screw, bayonet, wedge, or bi-pin. The bulbs are categorized ranging from medium to candelabra and given a reference letter and number. For instance, the standard model used in the U.S. is E26, the E stands for Edison and 26 is the base measured in millimeters. Standard screw base bulbs, also referred to as Edison screw bulbs, fit common fixtures like lamps, chandeliers, ceiling lights, can lights, flood lights, etc.
The most common types of bulbs with E26 bases are A-shaped bulbs (A19, A15, A2), Globe-shaped bulbs (G30, G25, G16.5), PAR (parabolic aluminized reflector) spotlight and flood light bulbs (PAR16, PAR20, PAR30, PAR38), and BR (bulged reflector) spotlight and floodlight bulbs (BR20, BR30, BR40). For reference, the A19 is the most common bulb used in homes in the U.S.3
All smart light bulbs are LEDs and draw less power when than traditional incandescent light bulbs. The most common smart bulbs are 5.5W or 9.5W for candle and spotlight bulbs. This is almost equivalent to a 60W traditional light bulb and a 50W spotlight bulb.
There are two types of bulb lighting, white and multicolor. Smart multicolor bulbs are more complex and cost more than smart white bulbs.
Bulb color is typically referred to by the color temperature and measured in degrees Kelvin (K). The common types of light bulbs used in most homes are warm white and soft white. The other common types of color temperatures are neutral and cool, which are most commonly used in schools and business offices.4