The lights went on for science-fiction writer Ray Bradbury about smart home tech before the actual technology came out. In 1950, he wrote a short story where the smart home keeps going after the humans are gone.
Creepy, but luckily, fiction.
Meanwhile, inventor Emil Mathias became obsessed with automation and turned his home into “Push-Button Manor.” No smart bulbs yet but he had conveniences like automated window shutters and the precursor to automated security.
In the late ’60s, a smart device for the home called Echo IV came out. It turned off kitchen appliances, controlled temperature, and did the shopping list.
This Kitchen Computer tanked. The price was too high and the advertising terrible.
In the 2000s, smart tech became more marketable, and today, the world of smart tech is your home’s oyster. You can control almost everything from your phone — security cameras, window coverings, locks, temperature, appliances, and of course, light bulbs.
And there are so many options! But with so many options, how do you pick the best bulbs, you ask?
To help, we’ve put together nine of our top picks. Keep reading to learn more about smart lights and find the best smart bulbs for you.
The Basics About Smart Bulbs
Let’s just cover the basics of smart lighting first so you can be smart about this new tech. Smart bulbs let you control your lights remotely with your smartphone, tablet, or another smart device. Some let you control them by voice.
They are eco-friendly and can save you money on energy bills since you can set them to turn on and off on a schedule, in reaction to a motion or other event, or whenever you want or need.
Plus, who wants to get up and turn off or dim the lights, when they can tap a screen and be done?
Smart bulbs use LED technology. That’s an acronym for light-emitting diodes. They also use other smart tech.
How You Control Smart Bulbs
Some smart bulbs you can control directly from your phone or tablet. Some smart bulbs need to connect to a smart hub and you control them through your smart hub dashboard on your phone.
Some smart bulbs you can control with Bluetooth, but only when in range. These you can’t control remotely when away from home.
Some smart bulbs have geofencing that connects with the GPS on your phone. This lets you set lights so they turn on or off depending on how close or far you are to your home.
You can voice control your smart bulbs if compatible with a voice-control system like Alexa.
If you’re controlling multiple bulbs, you can control them simultaneously with an app. You can set them to react to other actions too. Say you arrive home and open your garage door. This can trigger your light to go on or multiple lights. It’s like a digital sensor or sorts: If this happens, then this.
With the app, you can dim all lights in a group instead of doing them one at a time and vice-versa.
Features of Smart Light Bulbs
In addition to the geofencing and amazing ability to sync up to your devices and let you control from afar, smart bulbs have a few other fun features you should know about when thinking about which to purchase.
Some smart lights can change color and come in a wide variety of colors. Use them to create a mood. Some sync up to your TV and can change as programmed when a show comes on or ends.
Do you have HomeKit, Alexa, or Google Assistant? Bulbs that connect to these devices can be controlled by your voice. Tun on, turn off, and everything in between.
As mentioned, some smart bulbs respond to triggers like how far away or how close you are to home. Some can be set to respond to the weather. So if it gets cloudy, the lights go on.
Some get triggered by your security features, like cameras or gates or locks.
Brightness and Warmth
As mentioned, some smart bulbs have a variety of colors in one bulb. Many are simply white and are like your typical 60-watt incandescent bulb.
Still, some bulbs shine more intensely than others and with a light that’s more bright. The term used to describe the brightness of a light is called lumens.
Some bulbs send their brightness out in one direct, narrow beam. Others shine their light out brightly.
Also, some lights are softer while others are harsher. Harsh lights are great for offices where you want to stay busy and alert. Soft lights are great for your living room or bedroom when you want to make a place relaxed, warm, and cozy.
The temperature of the bulb’s color is how to tell if a bulb is harsh or soft. The high temperatures are harsh. Look for temperatures around 8,500K. The low temperatures are soft. Look for temperatures around 2,500K.
Cost and Savings
Smart bulb tech is still new and in demand and so the price tag is still relatively high, especially in comparison with standard LED bulbs. That’s a drab but also a good investment.
Besides benefiting you with convenience and contributing to making your place more relaxed, safe, and therefore more stress-free, you can also lower energy bills over time with smart lighting. Plus, these bulbs last a really long time.
You can get some good bulbs under $100, making it a lower initial investment than it used to be. But also think about the devices and other tech, you’ll need for your home and what you want.
Start with that: what you want. Look at the big picture and plan it out. Be smart like your bulbs. Consider all elements of your home that you want to make smart and coordinate your bulbs with that.
Make sure everything works the same way. Or plan to try it out with a few things, like a few lights. Just know that you may need to change it up and invest more when you want to expand.
The Best Smart Bulbs
Here is our list of some of our top picks. The market changes fast as tech changes fast. Grab what’s best now and keep your eyes open as new smart lights pop up. In other words, stay informed always, just like you’re doing now.
Some things to look for include cost and how well bulbs integrate with apps, your phone, and other tech. Also, you can look at how eco-friendly each bulb is.
1. Get Your Toes Wet With the Sengled WiFi
This is a great bulb to get started. It doesn’t need a hub. Instead, it uses your WiFi network. The WiFi needs to be 2,4 GHz.
Set up is a no-brainer, too, making it the perfect starter smart light.
The cost is low. It has a soft white light that you can dim if you want. It’s 2700K.
You can use Alexa and your voice to control the light. You can use your phone too.
To set it up, simply get the Sengled Home app. Put the bulb in the socket. It’ll flash when ready.
Then go to your app dashboard and connect your new bulb. And let there be light.
2. Try the Element Classic A19 Kit for Starters
This is another great starter if you’re new to the world of smart lights and smart devices. This one uses a hub. It’s included.
Also included are two soft white bulbs and an ethernet cable. The whole kit and kaboodle of bulbs works with Google Home devices and Amazon Echo for voice control and Ios and Android for phone control.
This bulb is very smart. It knows how to use only 9 watts of power to emit 800 lumens of brightness. To top that off, it works for up to 25,000 hours!
The system also tells you the energy performance, including energy used and money savings.
With this system, you can connect all lights in your space and control them together. This means you can turn them all off or on at the same time. You can set timers for your lights. Wake up to light at a certain time, for example.
3. Get Some Smarts and Color With Philips Hue Premium Smart Bulb
This bulb gives you gorgeous color. It shines bright and listens well.
It’s also on the pricey end of bulbs. Plus, you’ll need a hub of the Philips Hue hub variety.
This bulb is reliable as it’s high quality. You’ll need the Philips app for your phone. It also is compatible with Apple Home Kit, Alexa, and Google Assistant.
4. Set the Mood With Philips Hue Dimmable LED Smart Bulb
This one is the cousin of the Philips Hue bulb. It’s a bit less expensive and doesn’t have color but you can dim it and it’s reliable and high quality just like its relative.
It also uses the same Philips Hue hub and all the same voice-controlled friends, like Amazon Alexa, Google Assistant, and the Home Kit.
5. Philips Hue White and Color Ambiance A19 Starter Kit
This kit is the ultimate starter kit and we recommend it highly, but it’s very pricey. Though, you can buy the individual bulbs to add on for less.
Why is it so great? You can customize it. The blues and greens have great consistency in color. This is a huge improvement over previous blues and greens.
Bulb brightness is like 60 watts at about 500 to 800 lumens.
It lasts a very long time. By long we mean up to 22 years! That’s about 25K hours.
This kit integrates well with other fun third parties. It also is easy to use and flexible with the app, though some routines are not so easy to set.
Setup is very easy. You put in your bulbs and connect with the bridge via ethernet to the router one turned on. Get the Philips Hue app to use with your smart device, either Android or iOS.
Set up with your app dashboard. Control remotely with WiFi.
6. Save Smart with the Sengled Element Classic Bulb
This smart bulb is a quarter to a fifth of the cost of some of the pricier smart lights, like the Philips individual bulbs.
Buy this one solo or in a pack. Use it with a Samsung SmartThings hub, Amazon Echo, or the Sengled hub. Voice control it with Google Assistant.
This bulb gives you high-quality, reliable light even at the lower price.
7. Turn On That Happy Rainbow in Your Room With the FluxSmart Wi-Fi LED Light Bulb
You like color? You like 16-million-plus shades? That’s what you’ll get with this bulb. It’s a mood galaxy.
This bulb uses the Flux Wi-Fi Pro app that’s compatible with Android and iOS devices. Use this bulb with Good Assistant, Amazon Alexa, and IFTTT.
This bulb has a two-year warranty and should last up to 20K hours.
We love this one because we love our music and you can program it to turn on when you wake up to your favorite tune. You can also sync up different colors with different music.
8. Go to the Go-Go and Travel With the Philips Hue Go Bulb
This bulb comes with a light case and is ready to voyage with you on all your adventures whether work or play.
Plug it in to charge. Unplugged it can go for up to three hours. In all, it should have the going power of 20K hours.
This bulb has a turn-on button on the back and also works with the Hue bridge so you can use your smartphone to control it. It’s also compatible with Google Assistant, Home Kit, and Alexa.
The light is 300 lumens and boasts effects like five natural light settings, daylight, and warm light.
9. Be Confident in Your No-Frills Approach With Kasa’s Smart Wi-Fi LED Light Bulb
Want to save energy? Save up to 80 percent over your regular bulb. Want a bright light that’s just white and does its job without any bells and whistles? This is your bulb, shining gorgeously at 800 lumens. And it should stay by your side for up to 22 years.
All you need is Wi-Fi and the Kasa Smart app. No hub. It will speak to you directly, figuratively speaking. And it listens well too when you use your smartphone or other smart device to communicate remotely.
It also works with Cortana, IFTT, Nest, Echo devices, and Google Assistant.
We love how it turns on and syncs up with the daylight outside.
Turn on the Smart Lighting in Your World
Now that you have the smart skinny on the smart bulbs, it’s time for you to pick your favorites or those that go with your current devices, hub, app, or other systems or that go with your budget or other needs.
Did any pop out at you? Start there as long as they are compatible with what you have. Or get compatible if needed.
Also, check out these 17 Great Uses for Smart Lights before you dive in.