It’s no coincidence that the light bulb was one of the earliest devices that first made use of electricity. We need light, as it keeps darkness at bay even when the sun has set. We regularly use LED lights for greater efficiency, but now smart lighting has become even more popular than ever before. With automated lighting, you can do things with your lights that weren’t possible before.
Benefits of Smart Lighting
So what can you do with a remote control lighting system? As it turns out, there are a handful of possibilities:
1. Switch the lights on or off remotely. There was a time when wealthy people had light switches near their beds so that they didn’t have to get up to turn off the lights from the wall switch before going to bed. But today, you can just use your smartphone or tablet, which tend to by right by your side wherever you may go. You just use an app to turn on or turn off your lights.
In some cases, you can even use voice activation for your bedroom lights. There are even some lights that can automatically turn on or off by using your smartphone’s GPS to determine where you are.
And you’re not limited to just the lights in your room either. You can use the app to also turn off the lights in your children’s bedrooms when it’s time for them to go to sleep.
2. Scheduling. With home lighting automation, it’s a simple matter to set a schedule for your lights. You can have each light (or group of lights) to turn on or off at specific times. You can even set them to turn on or off at random times so that burglars casing your home won’t think that no one’s home. That’s the problem with simply scheduling a light to turn on at a specific time—bad people know that it’s an automated function.
3. Motion detectors. In some cases, lights can be activated when a sensor detects motion. This is extremely useful for security outside the home, as it exposes anyone skulking around your house late at night. And it can also make things easier when guests go to the bathroom down the hall. It can even alert you when your children sneak out at night, or if they’re walking in their sleep. The sensor can not only turn on the light for the child, but a light can also turn on in your room to notify you if people are walking about the house.
4. Lights as notification. Your lights can also function as signals for other events. For example, if you’re having a party at home with loud music, it’s entirely possible that you won’t hear the doorbell or someone knocking at the door. But with smart lighting, it can visually inform you if someone’s outside your door.
In fact, the lights can serve as a notifier for anything. It’s even possible for you to get a lighting system that’s networked to your social media! You can get lights to blink (or to turn a different color) when you get a text message, an email, or a particular message through Instagram.
5. Energy savings. You can save a lot in energy usage, particularly when you use LED lights with dimmers. Sometimes you just don’t need full brightness from a light bulb, and the dimmer can cut down on energy usage to reduce your electricity bill.
In addition, you can also turn off lights you’re not currently using. There’s really no point in illuminating a room when no one’s there (aside from security reasons), so these lights can just turn themselves off.
6. Ambience. Lights can set moods and can be appropriate for several types of settings. You can preprogram a lighting scheme for a romantic date, or for late night illumination. You can even set the lights properly when you’re watching TV, so it’s not too bright in your room and you can still see the remote and your snacks.
In some cases, the lights can turn on gradually in the morning. The kitchen areas can be more brightly lit so people can get their dose of java, while the rest of the house can only get minimal lights. That should keep the shock of bright lights to a minimum when you’re getting out of bed before dawn.
Today’s most modern lighting systems don’t just have dimmers. They may even be able to change colors too. That can really set a whole new mood for any room in the house.
Now that you know just how helpful a home lighting control system can be, it’s time for you to pick one. You’ll need to think about the cost, and how its protocol can make it easy for you to integrate with other smart devices like your security system. Setup considerations are vital, and you should take a look at its features and how easy it is to use.
Here are some of the most popular lighting systems that can really brighten your day:
1. Philips Hue. This is a wireless home lighting control system that has garnered quite a bit of praise among expert and customer reviewers. The Hue Connected version is quite expensive, but the Hue Lux Starter Kit lets you dip your toe in for about half the price of the Connected.
It’s extremely sophisticated, and it allows you to do multiple automations especially with IFTTT integration. So you can do all sorts of things with the “if this then that” recipe, such as having a light wink or flash blue when you receive a notification through Facebook. Yes, it’s that versatile.
Even in its simplest, it’s extremely useful and its settings can be much more complicated. You can use the lights as an alarm for everyone in the house, so that you can wake up everyone at 6 AM with blinking lights. Play music for your party, and the lights can flash in time with the music.
The starter pack offers 3 light bulbs, along with a wireless base that can accommodate up to 50 light bulbs all around the house.
2. TCP Connected. It’s still a bit expensive, although not quite as expensive as the Hue Connected. Your initial purchase gets you three 11-watt LEED bulbs that have the same illumination as a 60-watt incandescent. But it uses 80% less energy than an incandescent bulb and it’s rated for 25,000 hours of light. That’s more than 5.7 years even if you use it 12 hours a day.
A single kit lets you control up to 250 bulbs at a time. It’s very easy to install, and the TCP website offers very helpful videos to help you install, set up, and control the lights. You can get an app so the controls are available for your smartphone. All in all, you can set everything up in a matter of minutes.
The drawbacks (aside from the price, although the Hue is more expensive) include a lack of a web PC app, so you can’t use a laptop or a PC outside the home that’s not integrated with your home automation system. And there’s no IFTTT integration too, so you can’t be as imaginative in picking the triggers for light activation. Finally, they have dimmers but they can’t change colors.
3. Belkin WeMo. This home lighting automation system is a bit like the Philips Hue, except it’s more affordable. Its similarities include the need to replace current light bulbs with WeMo bulbs, a 50-bulb limit for the WeMo Link, the use of the WeMo app for smartphones, and compatibility with IFTTT.
You can dim the lights too, but so far you don’t have the option to change colors. But these 60-watt bulbs can last for a very long time. According to Belkin, you can expect to use them for the next 23 years!
4. GE C Starter Pack. The C by GE is a system that seems specifically designed for home automation newbies. It’s extremely affordable, and you immediately get 4 light bulbs with your starter pack. You get 2 C-Life bulbs for the living room, and another 2 C-Sleep bulbs for the bedroom. The C-Life variant is understandably brighter, and it doesn’t have a dimmer. The dimmer is reserved for the C-Sleep bulb, and it’s already dimto begin with. They all have a lifespan of about 25,000 hours.
You don’t even need a hub to connect to them, because you can use your smartphone to control the brightness via an app and Bluetooth. You get various setups for when you wake up, when you get home, when you’re watching a movie, and when it’s time for bed. You have sliders to control the brightness, and they’re very responsive. Dimming and turning on or off lights offer near-instantaneous results.
There are several notable drawbacks, however. One’s is that there’s no Android support just yet. The use of Bluetooth limits the range of the controls, so you can’t adjust the lights when you’re not home. And finally, you don’t even get to use a schedule for the lights.
5. TicTeck. It may have a funny name, but the low price is no joke—it’s arguably the most affordable smart light bulb of them all. You can get one for just $10, and yet it can change colors and you don’t need a hub to control them. Its dimensions resemble that of regular incandescent bulbs, so if you’re finally moving on from your incandescent setup you don’t need a massive redesign of your lighting system.
To control it, all you need is the free app and an Android or iOS device. Make sure Bluetooth is on, activate the app, tap “Add Device”, and the connection is achieved smoothly with no complications. Your device can handle up to 32 bulbs at a time. Of course, that means you need to be nearby to control the lights because of the Bluetooth range limitation.
There isn’t any IFTTT integration, but you can do plenty with the lights as is. The Colorful feature will set the bulb to shift colors from one to the next, and you can set the pace of the color change. The app comes with a game that resembles Bejeweled, and your color choices during the game will also change the color of the bulbs. The Music feature will have the lights react to the beat of the songs, while the Night Light feature dims the bulb and you can choose the shade of the light.
Finally, there’s also a timer so you can use multiple lighting schedules. You can set the lights to a group that follows the same schedule, which you can alter or repeat as many times you want.
6. Elgato Avea. It’s only compatible with iOS devices with Bluetooth, but then you don’t need a hub as well. The bulbs can change colors, and the most notable feature of the system is that it already has preset color scenes you can use (or modify). You can also group various bulbs to the same scene. One nice setup is the “wake up” feature, which gradually increases the brightness of the light in the morning. This can simulate the sunrise so you’re not startled by a too-bright light so early in the morning.
The Avea can also last for about 25,000 hours, although it’s a bit dimmer than other smart LED bulbs.
If you’re new to home automation, your best option is to start with smart lighting. Basic smart bulbs can be very cheap as long as you don’t need complicated setups. But if you’re integrating these lights with the rest of your smart devices, then you’ll need to get the IFTTT integration feature.
With your smartphone, you can turn the lights on and off, and get them to activate, dim, blink, or change colors. Now your lights can really brighten up your day!