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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 intelligent light bulbs, switches and plugs connected via the cloud can also contribute to a well-lit and networked 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 buy such smart bulbs singly, in pairs, or in starter kits (such as this from Philips Hue ) that contain a bridge that converts the Zigbee signals into Wi-Fi signals that your router uses can understand. This allows you to use remote controls, apps or voice assistants to control your lights.

Other smart bulbs, including those from Lifx and the new C from GE send their signals over Wi-Fi or Bluetooth and can connect B. directly to your phone Your router or with a smart home controller 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 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. The Dimmer Light Switch from Wemo is directly connected to the Apple HomeKit.

There are many other interesting options for smart switches that solve everyday lighting problems, such as: For example, the RunLessWire click-to-touch switch and the Lutron Aurora switch can be used to control Philips Hue lamps from the wall without interrupting power and voice commands To disable automations and app controls.

What you should look for: Some smart switches do not work with three-way lighting systems (where one light is controlled by two different switches in your home). Take a look at what's in your house and, as always, make sure you 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 intelligent light bulbs, switches, and plugs can be synchronized with motion sensors through their apps or through the free IFTTT (If This, Then That) online automation platform. You move through your home. 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 many and support a lot of cool use cases. 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 light your lights, you will not want to stroll around your house before going to sleep to turn off all the lights, or stumble across the hall to find the light switch for a midnight snack.

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