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Home / Tips and Tricks / 7 things you should know about Smart Lights before you buy a boatload of them

7 things you should know about Smart Lights before you buy a boatload of them


There's no shortage of options in the lighting area – especially smart lights, which are as cheap as the smart home.

Chris Monroe / CNET

From light bulbs and plugs to light switches and wall panels, Smart Lights is a popular smart home entry point. And with many new options on the market – including Smart LEDs that do not cost much – you might be tempted to fill your whole house with things.

And maybe you should! There's a lot to say for a lighting configuration that's suitable for the whole house, including the benefits of automated holiday mode lighting that helps make it look like you're home when you're away from home, as well the entertaining novelty of color-changing light bulbs You can turn off all the lights your kids have turned on with a single voice command when you go to bed.

Before you fill this cart, however, you should become familiar with the advantages and disadvantages of intelligent lighting. You will get the best bulbs and switches for your smart home. For this purpose, here is a brief description of what you should know before you buy.

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Voice platforms from Google, Apple and Amazon are particularly well-suited for an intelligent lighting setup.

Chris Monroe / CNET

You want to select a platform.

The first question you should think about before buying Smart Lights is: Which platform would you like to control? Most options have their own control apps that allow you to group lights and schedule their power on and off at specific times. However, there is a good chance that you want to optimize more than just your lights.

If this is the case, consider a broader smart home platform that supports all possible devices.

Pairing Smart Lights with Speech Assistants is one of the most popular ways to do it. Whether it's the Google Assistant, Apple's Siri, or Amazon Alexa, anyone is looking for a powerful home-use checkpoint, especially if you're prepared to use a intelligent speaker or Intelligent Display to install. In a central place in your home. If you have one, adding light sources that your favorite assistant can control is almost a breeze, and you can use them with cameras, thermostats and intelligent security systems.

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Tips and tricks for smart bulbs


Yes, some need a hub.

Smart lights use wireless transmissions to send and receive their signals, and different lights use different methods to get the job done. Some use built-in Wi-Fi radios to connect directly to your router. So you can remotely control them wherever you have an internet connection. Others use Bluetooth radios to connect directly to their phone when they are within 50 feet of each other. To control light bulbs remotely, you need a Wi-Fi hub that forwards their signals to your router and to you through the cloud.

And then there's Zigbee, which you can think of as a local wireless network for your smart home devices. Many intelligent lighting products use ZigBee to send their signals. In this case, you will need a ZigBee hub connected to your router to translate these signals to your home network. Most ZigBee bulbs offer their own version of a hub, and setup is not usually complicated at all, but incurs additional costs.

Nevertheless, things are getting easier and easier. Philips Hue, Zigbee's best-known brand, recently began adding secondary Bluetooth radios to its products, allowing you to skip the hub and connect directly to your phone for basic control. You'll also find a range of smart home devices that are suitable as a ZigBee hub – particularly the Amazon Echo Plus and the second-generation Amazon Echo Show . Both of these can turn these smart ZigBee lamp signals into something that your wireless router can understand.

They cost less than you think.

It's not that long ago that some people paid $ 20 or even $ 50 per lamp Just to bring regular, disconnected LED lights to their homes. The bill made sense – your average LED increases your utility bill each year by about a penny, compared to about $ 7 a year for a comparable incandescent bulb. This means you save about $ 6 a year on a single light bulb compared to a traditional light bulb. With LEDs on for decades, it was a wise investment to pay tens of dollars in advance.

Then, in 2014, rising efficiency standards and market-moving government subsidies drove the industry on the move, leading to many new options in the aisle. The new competition helped lower prices, while consumer demand spurred the industry to further innovate.

The result: LED lamps that have been getting better and cheaper. And no, recent efforts to reset these efficiency standards should not change that reality – the lighting industry has already ushered in the LED age, and there is no indication that they are interested in reversing the course , [19659006] The same buyers market also extends to Smart Lights including great picks by names like Wyze Sengled and Philips Hue which you can get for less than $ 15 each light bulb. In the meantime, a decent smart light switch does not have to reset you more than $ 30. Even fancy color changing light bulbs are not that hard to buy these days because time-tested options from reputable brands like GE are available for less than $ 30 each .

If you set your smart lights to sleep at night or wake you up in the morning, you can make the most of it.

Tyler Lizenby / CNET

It can help you find a better night's sleep

Your brain is quite sensitive to light which plays a big role in our sleep cycles . When it's dark for a while, our brains tell us that we are tired and that we should go to bed. When the sun rises and it gets light again, our brains feel it and tell us it's time to wake up.

Smart Lights Can Help You Hack This Biological Clockwork By simulating a beautiful, slow sunrise Help get out of bed early in the morning. Personally, I also find it easier to fall asleep when I set my bedroom's smart lights to a low level and then ask them to slowly fade out within 20 minutes.

Lifx lamps are a good choice cases like this one because their first-class integration with IFTTT allows you to trigger a custom crossfade with something like a voice command. Philips Hue is also a good choice as its lamps can be automatically synchronized with your Google Assistant alerts in the morning. Simply turn on the function, set an alarm with the wizard, and the bulbs of your choice will begin to glow slowly for 30 minutes before turning off.

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You must leave the light switch on when using smart bulbs. Otherwise, your voice controls and automations will not work. This is not a problem if you use a smart switch instead, [Tyler Lizenby / CNET]

Not just bulbs – consider switches and plugs as well

If you're looking for smart bulbs, you'll find the most options (and most of the lowest prices) if you stick to smart bulbs. That is, you should definitely consider including intelligent connectors and smart light switches in the mix .

On the front of the plug you'll find many options for about $ 20 or less that can automate everything you put into it. If you're using a lamp, you can automatically turn it on and off whenever you want, or by using voice commands. You can use any light bulb. Smart plugs are also great for alternatives such as decorative fairy lights.

Smart light switches are easier to install than you might think and you can save money if you connect a whole set of light bulbs a single switch. Another advantage of a smart switch: Your automation and voice control continue to function even when the light on the switch is turned off .

And hey, when we talk about switches …

Smart bulbs are great for dimming, but if you use one with a dimmer switch, the two dimming mechanisms can crash and cause the light bulb to flicker.

Tyler Lizenby / CNET

Smart lights do not work well with dimmer switches.

At least not with old-fashioned. Smart bulbs have their own built-in dimming mechanism. So if you use one in a device that is connected to a dimmer switch, the double dimming mechanisms may collide, causing the bulb to light up unexpectedly when dimming.

The good news is that these built-in dimming features are generally excellent. They have smooth, precise brightness controls that will not flicker or humming, as you often observe with dumb light bulbs and conventional dimming controls. Only do not use them in a luminaire that already has its own dimmer.

Another note: We see a growing number of intelligent dimmer switches that have been designed to pair nicely with smart bulbs . With switches like these you can dimm old-fashioned on the wall without your bulbs spinning (or are no longer reachable when you turn off). An additional investment, sure, but possibly worthwhile.

Chris Monroe / CNET

The top row in each shot is a Lifx Mini White LED that uses a logarithmic dimming curve. The bottom row is a TP-Link Kasa KB100 LED, which uses a linear approach. With the linear Kasa LED, you get barely noticeable brightness differences across the upper half of the dimmable area of ​​the light bulb. The logarithmic Lifx LED gives you less differentiation at the bottom of the lamp area.

Chris Monroe / CNET

Different light bulbs dim differently

While we are dealing with dimming, it should be noted that various intelligent light bulbs can dim slightly differently . This is because the human eye perceives brightness changes logarithmically. This means you'll need a larger lumen drop when things are really bright to notice an actual change. Use a logarithmic dimming curve that drops the light slightly faster in the upper half of the dimmable area of ​​the light bulb (setting 70) % may get 50% of the total lumen output). Other bulbs, like the TP-Link Kasa LEDs, skip this approach and instead use a linear dimming curve that keeps to the percentage you set things to dim up and down. Darken such a light bulb to 70% and you get 70% of the total lumen output of the light bulb.

The noticeable difference between the two approaches is that you will notice more differences between the settings above. Half the dimmable area of ​​the light bulb when using a logarithmic light bulb. Then things are flattened in the bottom 20% or so.

With a linear dimming light bulb, you will not notice so much difference between the settings in the top half of the dimmable area of ​​the light bulb because the light does not drop off fast enough to explain how our eyes work. That means you will definitely notice a bigger difference between these settings in low light conditions. Neither approach is perfect, but if you are an advocate of dimming you should understand both .

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