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Home / Tips and Tricks / Intelligent Lamps, Plugs and Switches: Which one is right for you?

Intelligent Lamps, Plugs and Switches: Which one is right for you?



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Tyler Lizenby / CNET

When it comes to launching a smart home, lighting is one of the easiest ways to get started. You can assume that this starts with a smart light bulb. However, there are other ways to give your lighting a smart touch. In addition to smart bulbs, cloud switches and plugs can help create a well-lit and connected home.

Every street of intelligent lighting is different. Such are the needs of every home. In some cases, you can even combine approaches to create a more complex and comprehensive set-up. To do this, you first need to understand the pros and cons of each approach.

Let's take a look at your options and the best uses.

Smart Bulbs

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Philips Hue lights come with a hub connected to your router.


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Smart bulbs come in many shapes, sizes, colors and configurations. With intelligent light bulbs you can decorate any existing light such as a kitchen pendant light or a bedside lamp. They are ideal for lamps with a light bulb or for groups of lamps that you want to decorate or make more colorful .

Many intelligent lamps, including those of well-known names like Philips Hue and Sengled send their signals using an energy-efficient wireless standard called Zigbee. You can purchase these smart bulbs singly, in pairs, or in starter kits (such as this one from Philips Hue ) that contain a bridge to convert the Zigbee signals into Wi-Fi network signals that your router can understand , This allows you to control your lighting using remote controls, a mobile app or a voice assistant.

Other smart bulbs, including those from Lifx and GE's new Intelligent Bulbs C send their signals over Wi-Fi or Bluetooth and can be connected directly to your phone, router or with a phone Smart home controllers such as the Google Nest Hub .

Smart Bulbs are also team players. You can work with Amazon Alexa Google Assistant or Siri via HomeKit alongside other smart home devices in scenes and routines. The same applies to intelligent switches and plugs that take us to the next category.

Smart Switches

Smart Switches are a great way to make your lights smart without having to bother to replace every light bulb in your home. If you have a wall switch that controls multiple recessed lights in an open area, replacing this switch with a smart switch is easier and possibly less expensive than replacing each bulb.

Wired smart switches such as those from Lutron and Wemo replace your existing switches and are plugged into your home's power like a dumb switch.

Lutron's Caseta switches communicate with their proprietary ClearConnect wireless signal, requiring a bridge that connects to your home router. Wemo's Dimmer Light Switch connects directly to Apple HomeKit to dimm the lights via voice or app control.

There are many other interesting smart switch options that can be used to fix day-to-day glitches, such as: Click on a Touch-sensitive Switch from RunLessWire and the Lutron Aurora Switch to control Philips Hue lamps from the wall without interrupting power and voice commands, automation and power Execute functions App controls useless.

One thing to watch out for: some smart switches do not work with three-way lighting setups (where one light is controlled by two different switches in your home). Take a look at what's in your household and make note of the requirements like a neutral cable. Turn off the circuit breaker before performing any electrical work, or consult a qualified professional to perform the installation.

Smart Plug

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There are several smart connectors available.


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If you want to use standalone lights such as lamps, consider a smart plug . Without replacing the bulb you can connect your lamp with voice assistants and smart home hubs.

Smart plugs not only turn products on and off. There are some useful features hidden in Smart Plug apps. Some intelligent plugs monitor the energy and report in real time a daily, weekly, or monthly report on how much energy it uses.

The absence mode available in many smart plugs randomly simulates someone being at home turning on and off devices during a specified time window. This is a useful way to deter intruders if you are not in town .

Read more: These smart plugs are the secret of a seamless smart home

The biggest disadvantage of smart plugs is the design. Some smart plugs look good, but block adjacent sockets with their size or shape. Other plugs are extremely ugly, but keep adjacent sockets free for other purposes.

If you're looking for a space-saving connector, a mini model might be for you. And do not forget to check out the outdoor models .

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Upgrades and Accessories

Many smart bulbs, smart light switches, and plugs can be synced through their mobile app or through the free online automation platform IFTTT (If This, Then That) with a motion sensor you come when you are through your home pull. These smart lighting options can also be activated at specific times or on your arrival at home. Depending on the product, the same planning functions are also available in some Smart Lighting apps or via the connection to your Smart Speaker.

The options for Smart Lights and Internet Integrations are broad and support a lot of cool use cases that go beyond voice control. For example, in the CNET Smart Apartment (19459013) (19459005) we have color changing lights tuned to the air quality report for the city on that day. It's green forever or yellow for a warning.

No matter how you approach smart home lighting, you will not want to run through your home before bed to turn off all lights or trip down the hall to find the light switch for a midnight snack ,

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