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Converting your house into a smart home sounds intimidating. Yet, there are more than 45 million smart home devices installed in American homes.
Why are so many people updating their homes with smart technology?
Consumers want to control their home environment. They also want devices that reduce their utility costs.
Ready for smart bulbs, cameras, motion detectors, speakers, fire alarms, and baby monitors? Do you know how to do it yourself? Are you willing to pay big bucks for professional installation?
But wait, do you need all those components?
Most homes are somewhat smart already. Household appliances have built-in controllers. Washing machines, dishwashers, and central heating systems are programmable.
You don’t need to connect your fridge to the Internet. But, you do want a remote control for lighting. Smart lights are the most popular smart gadget buy.
Smart home lighting adds safety and security by illuminating your way at night. It ends fumbling in the dark for a light switch on the wall.
Creating a smart home costs time and money. If you’re not ready to go all-in, consider lighting as your smart home starting point.
What is Smart Lighting?
Smart lighting uses an app to control the lighting in your home.
You can transform your home with a voice-activated command or a tap on your smartphone or tablet.
Turn the lights on or off, change their colors, and adjust the brightness.
Dim the lights for a romantic dinner, add color to a party or use soothing lights to calm an upset baby. You can switch the lighting to match any situation.
Let’s dig into what you need to know before outfitting your install smart home lighting.
Think About Your Budget
Smart lighting uses LEDs and technology. This makes it more expensive than traditional lighting.
Smart lighting can include lightbulbs, speakers, switches, outlets, hubs, and stand-alone devices. The method and number of devices determine the price.
There’s a big price difference between a few lightbulbs and an entire home of smart lighting.
Some bulbs connect to your phone or tablet using Wi-Fi or Bluetooth. Others connect via a smart home hub.
The hardware and software that connects your lighting to your speaker or phone is the smart home hub. You must buy and install the hub before you can use the smart bulbs.
If you shop in a store, discuss your budget and goals with a sales rep. Make sure you buy all the components you need for the results you want.
When you buy online, read all the documentation. Look for extra accessories needed for the lighting to function.
Smart lighting most often uses your Wi-Fi network. That means adding devices affects your internet usage and connectivity.
You may need a wireless range extender to achieve good results. Each new component adds to the cost.
The price of smart lighting depends on your goal. If you’re on a budget but want a light on at night when you come home, get a smart light bulb or plug. It’s a simple and sensible solution.
Begin with Smart Lightbulbs
Lightbulbs are the easiest way to experiment with smart lighting. For less than $20 you can swap a lightbulb and upgrade your lighting.
Smart bulbs come with standard fittings. You can put a smart lightbulb in a standard socket.
There are white or color-changing bulbs. Color-changing bulbs are more expensive. White bulbs come in warm and cool casts.
Some smart light bulbs work with an app you download to your smartphone or tablet. Other bulbs work with voice commands via a wireless smart speaker.
Control the lights when you’re on vacation. Turn down the lights from the couch at the start of your movie. A smart lightbulb can turn on and off, play music, and add color.
Some smart bulbs with built-in speakers change colors and pulsate to match the music. Perfect for a teen’s room or party.
Smart bulbs mean no more stumbling around in the dark. You can turn the lights on as you enter a room or schedule them to light at specific times.
If you rent your home, smart bulbs give you the convenience of smart lighting without holes in the walls. Smart bulbs that screw into tradition sockets and sync to an app are easy and flexible. Plus, you can take your smart lighting with you when you move.
Smart light bulbs work with a traditional light switch, too. If you flip the switch the old fashioned way the light turns on. That’s good news if the Wi-Fi goes down.
It’s important to note that when a physical light switch is off, the smart bulb powers down. A voice command or app won’t turn it on until the switch is reset to the on position.
Smart light bulbs are popular. You can buy them at most home improvement stores and online merchants.
Smart Light Switches
Smart switches use a controller mounted to the wall or an app on your phone to turn lights on and off. One advantage is a smart light switch works with lights that don’t have smart bulbs.
That means you can update the lighting without replacing every bulb in the house. If a wall switch operates several recessed ceiling lights in a room you can change the switch. It’s easier and often less expensive than replacing all the bulbs.
Pay attention if you have rooms with three-way lighting setups. When two different switches control one light you need the right switch. Not all switches support rooms with more than one light switch.
Most are compatible with Alexa, Google Assistant, and Nest products. You can connect the switch to other home systems. For example, you can program the switch to turn on the lights if your security system detects an intruder.
Smart switches are more expensive than bulbs. The higher price point makes it expensive to put smart switches throughout the house.
Some smart switch models are part of the home’s electric service. Other models attach to the wall without wires. You can remove them to use as a remote control.
The best smart plugs and power strips let you control anything you plug into the wall.
Smart outlets are great for individual fixtures like lamps that don’t have a smart lightbulb. The plug syncs with your smart home hub and voice assistants.
Besides turning lights on and off, some outlets track energy use. The plug can detail energy use in real-time or provide a report that covers weeks or months.
Many smart plugs offer an away mode. It powers devices on and off during certain times to simulate someone being in the house. It’s a good way to prevent intruders when you’re out of town.
Don’t forget about outdoor smart plugs. Smart lighting for your home includes holiday and landscape lighting.
How to Use Smart Lighting with Other Technology
Always check compatibility between smart lighting brands. If you don’t, you’ll buy devices that don’t work to their full potential.
The best idea is to choose the system for your smart home first. Right now you may only want lightbulbs. But, consider compatibility so you can add a hub or more devices later.
Decide if you want Apple’s HomeKit, Samsung’s SmartThings, Amazon’s Alexa or Google Home. Once you choose, only buy compatible bulbs, switches, plugs, and devices. This guarantees all your components can talk to each other.
Compatibility between devices lets you build routines. You can create automation to make your smart home perform better. You can control your lights with a smart speaker, your watch or phone.
Another option for linking devices is “If This, Then That” (IFTTT). IFTTT is a free service that gets different apps and devices talking to each other. It automates your smart lighting when the devices and services speak different languages.
IFTTT is like a smart home hub in the cloud. Most smart home products and services work with IFTTT.
To use IFTTT with your smart lighting, go to the website. Click on the device or service you want to use to trigger an action. Link them to your account.
Next, point and click on the service or device you want to respond when the trigger occurs. Here are some examples of triggers and responses:
Flash a colored light when you receive an instant message. Schedule lights to come on when you arrive home at night.
Sync the lights to a motion sensor so they turn on when someone enters the room. Make the lights go on and off at certain times. Link the light color to the weather or air quality rating.
Build lighting groups to turn on all the lights in a certain space with a single voice request. Turn on lights inside, outside or on a certain floor together.
Smart Devices Throughout Your Home
You’ve installed smart bulbs, plugs or switches where you want and need them. But what if you don’t want to use your phone to control the lighting?
How about voice commands instead? There are situations when voice-controlled lights make life easier. Here are a few:
- You walk into a dark room carrying heavy bags in both hands.
- You’re in bed and forgot to turn off the downstairs lights.
- You’re up to your elbows in dirty dishwater and need more light.
- You’ve settled on the couch for a movie and the lights are too bright.
To use voice commands you need a smart speaker within voice range. Once your smart lights connect to Wi-Fi, use the speaker app to connect them to your speaker. Now, you can tell your speaker to turn on the lights.
The layout of your home determines how many speakers you need. A loft apartment or open floor plan may only need one. A three-story home with lots of walls often needs more speakers to connect everything.
Before you buy anything, look at how you use your home. Walk your home to identify walls that block sound.
Consider a full-size smart speaker in the area you use the most. That speaker can connect to smart lights, outlets, and plugs throughout the home. Add speakers in places where the main speaker can’t hear your voice.
Extra speakers don’t need to be deluxe models. A mini speaker works for voice commands in remote spaces. It extends voice control throughout a large home for less money.
Another option for home automation is a hardwired system. It’s a popular choice when building a new home.
A hard-wired system is part of the home. Contractors build electrical wiring, conduits, a wiring closet, and speakers into the home. Homeowners plug gadgets into the existing outlets.
A wired connection is faster than a wireless one. It’s a good choice for families who use high-traffic applications.
Smart Home Lighting Can Simplify Your Life
Now that you understand smart home lighting, you can choose the best setup for your situation.
If you want colorful lights that change to match your mood, the music or a movie, install smart lighting. You can create a disco or a haunted house without expensive decorations.
Smart lighting is a great way to simplify your life. No more turning off all the lights before bed. Say goodbye to stumbling in the dark late in the middle of the night.
Smart lighting can keep you safe, put you in a fun mood, or soothe the kids after an active day. It can light up your home and yard, or tone things down for an intimate meal.
Start with a lightbulb or customize your entire house. Check out this post on great uses for smart lightbulbs. Your options are only limited by your imagination.