The Basics of Smart Lighting

It seems that the days of the incandescent or hot filament light bulb are numbered. As in so many areas of our lives, smart technology is taking over. There is a growing trend towards fully automated homes and smart lighting is just one step on that path.

Smart lighting is designed primarily for energy efficiency but it also offers flexibility, extra security and of course cost savings. But what is it, and can it benefit your home?

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[Photo Credit]

The Basics of Smart Lighting: What Makes it So Smart?

Traditional lighting options, such as the filament, fluorescent or halogen bulbs, are binary in nature. In that, there tends to be one switch that is either on or off and you need to be there in person to operate it. Gosh, isn’t standing up and flicking a wall switch so very last century?

Smart lighting, on the other hand, allows you to adjust brightness, colour, intensity, and timing from a remote location. The possibilities are endless from setting the scene for a romantic occasion or house party, to security lighting that will simulate occupancy and deter intruders.

Smartphone technology now allows you use apps on your phone to control your lighting from anywhere in the world or, if you are feeling very comfy, from your sofa. A good app will not only allow you to switch lights on and off but also to dim and set lighting schedules.

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[Bloomberg via Getty Images]

How Can I Make My Lighting Smart?

Bulbs or switches? That is the question!

When planning your smart lighting the first decision you have to make is whether you want to go for smart bulbs or smart switches. On cost alone, switches are the least expensive option. Especially if you can control multiple light fixtures from one switch, but there are other factors and features to take into consideration.

Smart Bulbs

Let’s talk about bulbs first. With oh-so-simple plug in and play functionality, they look just like regular bulbs except for the price tag. Cost aside, the main issue with the bulbs is that the switch will always need to be on to power the built-in WIFI radios in the bulbs that receive lighting commands from your phone or tablet. Your bulb is only smart if nobody accidentally switches it off…

That said, bulbs offer a great deal of flexibility in terms of adjusting brightness and colour. With colour changing bulbs, such as Philips Hue, you can change the white colour temperature to simulate natural light throughout the day, as well as create animations and light shows.

Source: Engadget

Smart Lighting Switches

Smart lighting switches do not require smart bulbs. You can use any regular bulb, but it’s probably worth pointing out that you will need the dimmable variety if you want to dim the lights, (check the packaging to be sure).

The possible downside of smart switches is that they do not suit the wiring in every house. The installation of smart switches will require neutral wires in the switch boxes. As these are not required for regular switches, some older homes (pre-seventies) may not have had them. We’d strongly recommend checking this before embarking on your smart lighting project.

Smart Bulbs AND Smart Switches?

You can also combine smart bulbs with smart switches. It gives you the ability to set up the switch to control whatever lights you require. Plus switch them all off or on with one touch. You can also turn them on and off just like you would with a traditional switch.

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[Source: Engadget]


Assuming here that you’re not going for a full home automation project, of which lighting would only be a part, most smart lighting switch packages require self-installation. Therefore, a fundamental grasp of household electrics is needed. You’ll be replacing the entire old unit with a smart switch, which will involve some basic wiring (including the neutral wire) to allow wireless access.

When choosing the best smart bulbs for your home, you’ll find that in terms of functionality there is not much between the main brands. Price is, of course, a major factor but when making your final purchase decision you’ll also want to consider the setting and location within your home of your smart lighting and what kind of activity you will use the light for.

In your living room or bedrooms, your priorities may be ambience and integration with your music and entertainment, while in the kitchen or bathroom the emphasis is more likely to be with bright natural light.

You’ll also need to consider the way in which the bulbs communicate with your devices and whether they function as a separate gateway unit.

The Best Smart Bulbs on the Market in 2017:

Philips Hue White and Colour Ambiance Bulb | £49.99

Philips Hue White and Colour Ambiance Bulb

If you are just dipping your toe into the world of smart lighting and you want to go for a single bulb, the Philips Hue White and Colour Ambiance bulb is a great choice.

The one bulb boasts the Hue trademark 16 million colour choices, which are available in the Hue app, as well as the ability to select white lighting options and programme colour scenes.

These smart bulbs also connected with third-party apps to sync your lights with music and video. Is someone say disco party?

Product Tech Specs:
Wattage: 10 Watts
Brightness: 800 lumens
Life Expectancy: 20 years / 25,000 hours
Compatibility: Wink, Alexa, Apple HomeKit, Nest, SmartThings and select third-party apps.


Philips Hue White and Colour Ambiance Starter Kit | £159.99

Philips Hue is hardly a new kid on the block. This entry level product is a great out of the box lighting starter solution. It includes three Philips smart bulbs and a Hue Bridge. It’s the gateway device that allows you to wirelessly connect and control up to 50 Hue devices at once.

Philips Hue White and Colour Ambiance Starter Kit

Hue colour smart bulbs output white and colour light allowing you to set the ambience in the room. You can select the colour and brightness that you want and even recreate colours from your photographs (hello selfie o’clock).

You can set lighting schedules to keep your household running efficiently and securely, and sync with music and movies (for that 4D feel). Philips Hue is also compatible with IFTTT where you can set-up recipes for smart lighting.

Product Tech Specs:
Wattage: 10 Watts
Brightness: 800 lumens
Life Expectancy: 20 years / 25,000 hours
Compatibility: Wink, Alexa, Apple HomeKit, Nest, SmartThings and select third-party apps.

LIFX Colour 1000 WiFi Smart LED Bulb | £59.99

LIFX Colour 1000 WiFi Smart LED Bulb

One of the best smart bulbs on the market in 2017 is LIFX colour 1000. Like the Philips Hue, the LIFX Colour 1000 smart LED bulb boasts a spectrum of up to 16 million colour choices and 1000 shades of white that are adjustable and dimmable.

The main feature of this easy to set up smart bulb is that no hub is required. All you need is the bulb and a smart device as they use WiFi and come with the control hardware built-in. LIFX is compatible with a wide range of smart devices and integrates with products within the Nest and SmartThings range as well as the Amazon Alexa family.

With LIFX you have the option to group your smart bulb lights allowing you to control multiple lights at once thereby operating by an individual bulb or by room and even the entire house. Ultimate power.

The LIFX companion app is freely available for Android, iOS and Windows.

Product Tech Specs:
Wattage: 11 Watts
Brightness: 1055 lumens
Life Expectancy: 22.8 years / 25,000 hours
Compatibility: Works with Alexa, Apple HomeKit and Google Assistant.

WeMo Smart LED Bulb Starter Kit | £59.95

WeMo Smart LED Bulb Starter Kit

This set of smart bulbs from Belkin includes two WeMo Smart LED Bulbs and the WeMo link giving you the facility to link up to 50 bulbs that can be controlled individually or in groups. Using iPhone or Android devices you can switch lights off and on, dim them and create custom schedules.

Like the Philips Hue, the WeMo Smart LED Bulb will replace your existing bulbs. You will be able to control and schedule your lights from anywhere via the WeMo Link, Wi-Fi and the WeMo app.

You can also create various recipes with your lights and other actions via IFTTT.

Product Tech Specs:
Wattage: 9.5 Watts
Brightness: 800 lumens
Life Expectancy: 23 years / 25,000 hours
Compatibility: Not Compatible with Amazon Echo and Alexa

Now that you know your smart bulbs from your dumb bulbs you’re good to get going. Let A Fancy Home know on Facebook if you decide to invest in a smarter system for your house!