One of the best things to come out of the smart home revolution is smart lighting. If you’re thinking about making your own home’s lighting smarter, or you want to introduce the concept to some folks on your holiday gift list, here are the products we recommend time and again.
Smart light bulbs work with existing light fixtures and lamps but give you control over things such as lighting temperature, turning the lights on and off, dimming, and setting schedules for your lights. For instance, you can set a bulb’s lighting temperature (meaning the “color” of its light) to daylight during daytime hours and switch to a warmer color temperature after the sun goes down.
With smart bulbs, you can even schedule them to turn on for an hour or two each evening while you’re out of town to give the appearance that your house isn’t empty. This works the same if you don’t like to walk into a dark house, many have sensors for when you get close to home, they can flip on a few lights for you (or if you know your schedule, you can plan when they should turn on.)
Most of the bulbs we’ve found are recommended for indoor use only. For outdoor smart lighting, you’ll also want to look at smart fixtures or smart switches.
Earning top ratings from Wirecutter, this bulb comes at an affordable price point, with excellent brightness (1100 lumens) and all of the fun features you’d want in a smart light bulb, including compatibility with Alexa and Google Home.
These smart bulbs from Wiz pack a ton of features at an affordable price (the two-pack runs about $11/bulb). In addition to colors and schedules, as well as voice control, these bulbs can also be set to work as motion sensors, so they turn on automatically when you enter a room. And, if you don’t like controlling these bulbs from the app on your phone, you can purchase a separate physical remote to control whole sets of bulbs, just like a light switch would.
Folks seem to really like the Kasa smart light bulbs, especially if they are using other Kasa-compatible products like smart plugs (we recommend the KP115 Mini). For lighting, we do like bulbs more than smart plugs because you can dim these bulbs, as well as change the color temperature.
If you’re looking for an upgrade pick, this is the one. The Phillips Hue smart light ecosystem has all kinds of cool bulbs, switches, sensors, and more (including a great outdoor flood light). The only caveat is that you need the bridge/hub to take advantage of all the features. If you’re planning to do your whole home in smart lighting, you’ll want to consider this starter kit. You get two bulbs, a physical light switch, and a bridge. I still like physical switches because I’m not the only one using lights in my home. My parents aren’t smart home folks, so it’s nice to have a button they can press to turn lights on when they stay in the guest room. The same goes for folks who may not be comfortable with voice commands or don’t like to keep their phone handy.
If you’d like hardwired switches and are thinking about a whole-home automation system, Lutron Caseta is a great balance of affordability and high tech. Swap out your existing light switches for smart switches, and you can take full control of your fixed lighting. The Caseta system also integrates with smart blinds (can you imagine your shades automatically opening each morning?), smart thermostats, and even smart speakers such as Sonos speakers. Because it’s hardwired, switches still function even if the wifi goes out, but your lighting temperature is dependent on what (regular) bulbs you’re using.
Mixing electricity with the elements requires some additional protections that indoor bulbs don’t have. One good solution is to replace light switches with smart switches (like the Lutron Caseta system above). But if you’re just looking to control one light in the yard or seasonal decorations, there are still affordable options available.
Cree is a well-known lightbulb manufacturer, and this is one of the only smart outdoor flood light bulbs we’ve found from a manufacturer we trust. All of the benefits of indoor smart bulbs in a package that’s weatherproof and UL-listed for use in exterior fixtures.
Feit is also a well-known name in light bulbs, and this bulb is also rated for exterior use. It’s not as bright as the Cree bulb above, but still a good value and offers all of the standard smart bulb functionality.
Illuminating outdoor pathways is important for safety (and nice aesthetically, too). We like this set of Ring path lights because they’re solar-powered (no need to hard wire), are motion activated (so they’re only on when they need to be), and controllable from the Ring app to set schedules for them to be on or to alert you when they’re triggered.
Outdoor lighting is essential to home security. Blink makes a full line of security cameras, and their smart outdoor light and camera combo is a great option to keep portions of your yard illuminated at night and also record video of anything moving in the yard.
We love Kasa smart plugs, and their outdoor dimmer plug is just the ticket for controlling seasonal decorations. Set them to be on as soon as the sun goes down, and turn off after everyone goes to bed. Plus, you can have them turn on and off when you’re not home so you can come home to a magical house full of holiday cheer!
When you’re investing in smart lighting, it’s important to think through your whole plan. Are you just interested in bulbs? Are you planning to automate your whole home? Do you want other non-lighting smart home features? There are lots of options out there, and more than anything, we recommend finding and sticking with a system made by a brand you trust that has all of the features you want today and might need in the future.
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