A Guide to Smart Light Bulbs

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Smart LED Light Bulb in Hand

There is no denying that smart lighting is gradually but certainly replacing conventional and traditional lighting systems. And it is proving to be more than just a fancy way of controlling the lighting within your home. Nonetheless, this is a relatively new concept to a huge portion of the population; hence the need for this comprehensive guide to smart light bulbs.

What is a Smart Light Bulb?

A smart light bulb is an advanced LED bulb that is controllable and customizable via wireless communication standards. Since they use light-emitting diodes (LED) in place of conventional filaments, smart light bulbs last must longer. They also use considerably less electrical energy than their traditional light bulbs.

How do Smart Light Bulbs Work?

Philips Hue White and Color Ambiance A19 60W Equivalent LED Smart Bulb Starter Kit, 4 A19 Bulbs and 1 Hub Compatible with Amazon Alexa Apple HomeKit and Google Assistant, (All US Residents)
Through applications on your smart devices such as a smart speaker (Amazon Alexa, Google Home, Apple Homekit, etc.), smartphone, or tablet, smart lightbulbs can be controlled (including voice control), automated, and customized to the needs and preferences of user(s). The wireless communication pathway can be realized either via Wi-Fi, Z-wave, ZigBee or even Bluetooth wireless communication technology.

Some brands, for instance, the Phillips Hue, require an additional special gateway known as a hub for their smart light bulbs to work. The Hub or gateway is a separate unit that relays commands and instructions to the smart light bulbs. At the core of this assembly is a native application installed on the smartphone or onboard the home automation hub where a user can control the different aspects of the operation of the smart bulbs.

Some of these aspects revolve around the following:
  • The ability to remotely and conveniently adjust the level of brightness of the bulbs in your home or office from anywhere. This also includes the luxury of switching off/on the bulbs without necessarily being physically in that room or even when away from home.
  • Setting up an automated home or office lighting schedule tailored to your lifestyle. You can also schedule the smart light bulbs to switch on or off at a specified time.

Do Smart Light Bulbs Need Hubs?

LIFX 1100-Lumen, 11W Dimmable A19 LED Light Bulb (LHA19E26UC10) Multi Colored - 75W - New
Some smart light bulbs require a hub while some don’t. Not all smart light bulbs today require a special hub/gateway to controlled via wireless connectivity. The smart light bulbs that don’t require a hub simply operate over the standard wireless communication protocol (e.g Wi-Fi or Bluetooth). A good example of such a smart light bulb is the LIFX A19.

How do smart bulbs work with switches?

Smart bulbs are usually pre-programmed to work with conventional switches the same way a regular light bulb would. This implies that even without utilizing the advanced features of wireless connectivity and full potential of smart bulbs, they can work just as well as your conventional bulbs do.

The catch, however, is that the operation of the interconnected wireless lighting control system assumes that all switches are in the ‘ON’ position when issuing commands. In other words, when you physically turn off the lights, they will stay electrically off until you turn the physical switch on again to allow the flow of electricity.

There are also smart switches which are a cheaper alternative to smart light bulbs. A smart switch works similarly to a smart light bulb in that it can be controlled via wireless connectivity. Therefore, because you have far fewer switches in your home than you do light bulbs, replacing all the regular switches in your home with smart switches is a much cheaper option than replacing every regular light bulb in your home with a smart bulb.

Are smart light bulbs safe?

There are growing concerns about the vulnerability of smart home automation systems to hackers with malicious intent. The argument is that smart light bulbs, speakers, and other smart devices that wirelessly connect to your home’s network can create vulnerabilities that can be exploited by hackers.

As such, a hacker who can infiltrate his/her way into your home’s network, can turn off the interconnected alarm system and unlock your doors to facilitate a ‘smart break-in’. Fortunately, there are numerous ways to mitigate these security risk. Such as hiding your home network and using a secure WPA network access password. Also regularly updating the security features of your smart devices.

Do Smart Light Bulbs Save Money?

Kasa Smart LB120 Dimmable LED WiFi Smart Light Bulb, 60W Equivalent, Tunable White
Yes, smart light bulbs do save money. It is no secret that traditional incandescent bulbs are less energy-efficient than LED smart light bulbs, but the savings don’t end there. For example, how many times have you forgotten to turn off the lights when walking out of a room? Probably too many to keep count. These are the little things/habits that eventually rack up your energy bills.

Luckily, most smart light bulbs are fitted with or can be used in conjunction with motion sensors.  These sensors automatically turn off the smart bulb if motion is not detected in a user-defined amount of time. You can also pre-schedule and sync your light bulbs precisely to your daily habits for further energy savings. And don’t worry, as smart bulbs consume very little (essentially negligible) electricity when off or on standby position.

Do Smart Light Bulbs work in Any Lamp?

Smart light bulbs are basically designed to work with any lamp as long as the bulb is electrically compatible with the socket of the standalone lamp. However, if a smart bulb is not compatible with a particular lamp, a smart plug may be the better alternative. A smart plug used with a lamp containing a regular non-smart lightbulb will allow you almost the same control, flexibility, and luxuries of wireless connectivity to your smart home hub or smart devices as you would have with a smart bulb. Smart plugs can also be used to monitor the lamp’s energy consumption.

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