By now you know that low-energy bulbs like compact fluorescents and LEDs save electricity and last longer. But did you know that there are light bulbs that turn off and on and even dim themselves when you tell them to?
No, we’re not talking about a “Clapper” or even timers. The brains are in the bulbs themselves.
Smart bulbs can be operated through your smart phone or set to respond to verbal commands through devices like Amazon’s Echo or Google Home. And when paired with one of these gadgets, the bulbs get even brainier.
Smart Bulb Types
Smart bulbs produce light from LEDs and come in two basic configurations—single output and multiple output. Single output bulbs are just that—they’re white light, typically soft white, usually around 60-watt equivalent. But all are dimmable, so you can regulate them over a range of brightness.
Multiple output smart bulbs have a range of options including color palettes and output levels. Some even include preset and customizable mood and environmental settings. Others let you synch your lighting to music or on-screen dialogue in movies. Some offer a wide range of white light color temperatures from the warm glow of sunset to bright midday light. And a few even have built-in speakers.
Smart Bulb Controls
You have some choices of how to control your smart bulb(s). All come with controllers built in and apps that let you set them up to your control device(s) via Wi-Fi, ZigBee, or Bluetooth connections through a smart phone or tablet. To control the bulb(s), most require the use of a hub, available separately or as part of a package. With wireless connectivity, you can control the bulbs from remote locations and even tie them into smart home hubs and security networks. Some even include geofencing capability that uses GPS to trigger actions based on your location. Bluetooth-only bulbs don’t require a hub, but you have to be in range to operate them and offer fewer options.
Setup is easy; just download the bulb’s app and follow a few simple instructions. Not all bulbs are compatible with all connections, so read the packaging before you buy.
Talking to Your Smart Bulb
Most smart bulbs allow you to integrate their controls with smart home devices like Amazon Echo, Google Home, Apple HomePod, and Nest. Use the device’s app to “discover” the smart bulb(s), label them, and set their control parameters. It’s a one-time process that’s easy to do by following step-by-step instructions on the app. Then with voice-activated devices like Echo, you can simply tell your smart light what to do and when to do it.
Smart Bulb Costs
Smart bulbs’ costs vary mostly by their features. The bulbs themselves range from around $10-$15 for single outputs to $50 or more for fully-featured ones. If your smart bulbs require a hub, expect to pay around $25-$50 extra. Many manufacturers sell startup kits that include multiple bulbs and a hub for less than you’d pay separately. And you can add up to 50 bulbs to a single hub for the price of the bulb alone.
Operating costs are low, too. Since they’re LEDs, they use only 10-12 watts of electricity and last up to 25,000 hours. That’s over 20 years at three hours of usage per day.
Learn More About Smart Bulbs
There’s lots of information about smart bulbs on the internet, but this article by PC Magazine compares many popular brands and gives good information about various features and costs. One major brand not in the ratings is Sengled, and we think it’s worth a look, too. Many smart bulbs and systems are available at home centers as well as online.
If you’re thinking about adding smart bulbs to your home or business, take the time to learn the ones that are right for you. And if you need electrical work to support your smart home network, the pros at Allstar Electrical Services are just a click or call away.