Smart lighting as a whole is a broad category, so it may be helpful to break things down into different components to help you get a sense of how you might be able to add this useful and convenient technology to your home.
There are two main ways in which you can add smart lighting to your home: smart light bulbs, or smart dimmers and switches. Each solution has its own benefits and drawbacks, and the best option for you depends on your wants and needs for your home.
Smart light bulbs are easy to install and often offer a wide range of colorful solutions to bring a punch of personality to any room. One of our top picks for smart bulbs is the Philips Hue Gen 3.
If you opt for smart switches, however, you can automate lighting for your entire home and even use it in combination with security systems. The ability to use regular light bulbs with these systems will also save you money in the long run, although the initial startup costs of installing all the dimmers and switches may be cost-prohibitive depending on your choice in model. For a more affordable and accessible system, consider taking a look at the Lutron Caseta Wireless.
What Makes a Good Smart Lighting Setup?
Remote Control – A good smart lighting setup will offer remote control of your lighting — and many of the best systems allow you to adjust your settings from wherever you have an internet connection. Good support for remote control means you’ll have complete access to your smart lighting from wherever you happen to be, which is one of our primary considerations when looking at these different systems.
Geofencing – Geofencing is a large part of what makes smart lighting “smart.” Having lights that can sense when you’re at home and when you’re not can save energy and give you some added convenience. It also helps address that nagging feeling that you might have left the lights on when you left home in the morning (although if you opt for a system with a remote control like we discussed above, that shouldn’t really be an issue!)
Long story short, Geofencing ensures that you’ll never be left in the dark.
Scheduling – While Geofencing can go a long way toward making responsive and automated lights a reality, the ability to put your lights on a schedule is another main perk that you should look for when shopping around. Most of us have an established routine, and having lights that can respond to that schedule is a definite plus that sets excellent smart lighting apart from the rest.
DIY – Lastly, you’re really going to want to look for smart lighting that is easy to install and setup. While there are some excellent smart lighting solutions like the Lutron Ra 2 Select that offer a large amount of control and customization, they sometimes need a professional installation that can be expensive and time-consuming. Those systems are excellent for those who are familiar with building a smart home and confident in their decisions, but for newbies to smart lighting, we recommend a system that is easy to set up and break down.
Thing to Consider Before Buying Smart Lights:
Space – One of the primary aspects to keep in mind when purchasing smart lights is the needs of your home. How many smart lights do you need? Varying systems have varying capacities, and what works for a living room might not work for a large home.
Some smart lighting options like the Caseta Wireless have a 50 device maximum, while if you were to expand to the RA2 Select or RadioRA 2 you’d have access to 100 and 200 device support respectively.
As far as the Philips lights go, the documentation says that you can use up to 50 lights on one Hue Bridge — although some users report they could only activate between 32 and 35 lights before needing to add another bridge.
So, when making the decision between the various smart lighting solutions, make sure you keep the needs of space you’re intending to light up in mind.
Integration – Are you interested simply in colorful lights that can activate on a schedule? Or are you looking for smart lighting that can integrate with other smart products for a fully-connected home? We cover a wide range of smart lighting products on this site, but not all are built with integration in mind, and no product is compatible with everything. If you’re tied to a specific home control system, for example, you may have to pass up bulbs or switches that do not interface well with it. Keep your plans for your home at large in mind when shopping around for smart lighting, as not all brands are created equal when it comes to integration.
Entertainment – Just as smart lighting offers an unprecedented amount of convenience to your home, there are a lot of bulbs, dimmers, and switches on the market now that can add a lot of fun as well. Colorful light bulbs like the Philips Hue offer entertainment options that can take watching Netflix, listening to music, or playing your favorite game to the next level with dynamic color adjustments to match the mood. Ilumi bulbs can even play the Simon game with you, and are a particularly good choice for those looking for fun more than they are utility.
Long story short, make sure you figure out the main reason you’re shopping for smart lighting. Whether it’s convenience, security, or entertainment, there’s a wide range of products that handle some better than others.
What’s the Best Smart Lighting Solution?
As mentioned above, there are two main types of smart lighting solutions. When it comes to light bulbs, our favorites would have to be the Philips Hue Gen 3 and LIFX Mini — both of which offer a combination of a wide product family and excellent integration.
As far as home lighting automation goes, the Lutron Caseta Wireless is probably the best choice provided that your home is an average size. If you’re looking for an alternative that is a little more involved and better suited for larger homes, you can also consider the RA2 Select or RadioRA 2.