Your complete guide to smart lighting:
✓ Which smart light bulbs to buy?
✓ What is smart lighting?
✓ Why should you get smart lighting?
If you already know your onions when it comes to the benefits of smart lighting, then this is where you find out which products we think are the best on the market.
However, if you want to know more about smart lighting and what it can add to your life click here to find out all there is to know about smart lighting.
Cut to the chase…which smart lighting system made it into The Wifi Pad?
Which Smart lighting systems did we test?
Wemo lighting start kit
Time2 direct lighting kit
Philips Hue Lux
What are we looking for in our smart lighting tests?
We review all smart product in The Wifi Pad a.k.a. our homes to see how well they perform in real world conditions – just like your home. We are looking at the following areas:
- Ease of set up, from box to fully functioning lights
- Is an electrician or any home re-wiring required?
Dimmable mood light
- High quality, pleasant, dimmable white-only light
- For coloured lighting – fully adjustable white light, white-colour, and full colour spectrum ranges
Option to control remotely
- Extent of control over the lighting when outside of home wifi network
- Reliability of connection
- Additional security features.
Easy to control
- Quality of app
- Ease of use
Reduces your energy bill
- Will this product allow for lower energy bills?
Simple set-upSetting up both Philips Hue lighting systems could not have been simpler. Everything you needed came with the kit and we barely had to glance at the instructions to be up and running.
SecurityWe didn’t experience a single break in connectivity between our wifi, the Hue bridge and the bulbs leaving us confident that we could go on holiday and our lights would continue to work reliably in our absence.
Dimmable, mood lightingBoth the Hue and Lux are fully dimmable, allowing for adjustable mood lighting, but the Hue is where mood lighting really comes into it’s own with millions of colour options and a range of fully adjustable lighting scenes and the ability to create your own from a photo – it’s in a league of it’s own if you are looking for coloured, mood lighting.
Ease of controlThe Hue app is the same for both the Hue and the Hue Lux, however the range of scene options is more limited for the Lux given the absence of colour. The app covers all the basics adequately, but for the Hue in particular it’s only by downloading some additional apps – like IFTTT and Hue Disco that Hue will realise it’s full potential.
Remote control lightingHere is the one big downside we found with Hue and Hue Lux – you cannot add or edit alarms or timers on MyHue when you are not connected to your home wifi network- meaning you need to remember to set up holiday timers and turn them on BEFORE you leave home. However, you can still turn your individual lights on and off, and set up Geofencing remotely.
Help with reducing energy billsLike all programmable smart lighting, Philips Hue and Hue Lux will enable you to reduce your energy bills as you will only need to have lights on for the specific times that you need them, not all day for the sake of a few hours of darkness before you get home from work. Plus, as with all smart lighting Hue uses energy efficient LED light bulbs rather than the power hungry bulbs of old.
What is smart lighting?
Smart lighting, just like other smart gadgets, are lights that can be controlled remotely via your phone or tablet. All you need to operate a smart lighting system is the relevant app and access to a wifi signal.
You can choose from plain white lighting or full on disco effect a.k.a. a complete system of colour changing light bulbs that allow you to program your lights to fit whatever ambience you are going for, subtle, relaxing, working, PAR-TAY, romantic or just whatever it takes to get your kids to wake up in the morning (that’ll be the full glare, daylight white, floodlight effect btw).
How do I get smart lighting in my home?
There are two ways to achieve smart lighting in your home: smart bulbs or smart switches.
Smart bulbs: you can replace one, some, or all of your light fittings with smart bulbs that are controlled either by bluetooth, or via a hub connected to your broadband router and using a wifi signal.
The good news is you can do this yourself as there is no need to mess with the electrics.
Smart switches: smart light switches also come in two forms. A plug that you put into a regular wall socket and plug your lamp into, or wall based light switches that replace your normal light switches.
Obviously even the least handy among us will be able to tackle the plug version, however, the light switches will require some meddling with your electrics, so you might want to get the professionals on board for this one.
If you are really going for it on the smart home front, then you can get smart lighting that operates as part of a much larger home automation systems using an integrated smart hub. Brands like MK Astral, Loxone, Lightwave RF and Control 4 all offer connected whole-home automation systems.
So what can smart lighting do?
Aside from doing away with the nightly battle about whose turn it is to get out of bed to switch the lights out there are a host of other benefits to be found from smart lighting.
Remote control lighting for security:
Before the arrival of smart lighting, we had just three options when it came to lighting our homes, especially during winter when it gets dark early:
1. lights blazing all day so your house looks occupied even when you are late home from work, or;
2. lights off and saving energy (and money) but providing a personal invitation to opportunistic burglars to stop by while you are out, or lastly;
3. using a multitude of mains timers to create a small scale version of the Blackpool Illuminations via your household lamps. Effective, but generally a palava and highly confusing to babysitters when they are unexpectedly plunged into darkness at 11pm.
Even if you only have a couple of smart light bulbs strategically placed around the house it will completely change your approach to lighting your home. You can leave all your lights off when you are out, yet be safe in the knowledge that even if you are unexpectedly delayed on your way home your house will be lit when evening falls.
And if you are someone who likes to leave lights on at home when you go on holiday for security reasons, but you only ever remember once you are already at the airport and it’s too late, then this must be the ideal gadget for you.
Energy saving light bulbs:
Because smart lighting systems use energy saving light bulbs, AND because you’ll no longer have to leave your house lights on all day for the sake of your house looking occupied for just an hour or two before you get home at night, you’ll save money on your energy bills. Result.
If you are looking for the full functionality that smart lighting has to offer, then colour changing light bulbs are the way to go. With some brands like Philips Hue offering up to 16 million colour options and a range of brightness settings, you can create lighting scenes to suit any mood or occasion.
Ok, so it might not be the top priority in deciding whether to get smart lighting but being able to turn the brightness of your lights up or down, or switch them off entirely without having to get out of a nice warm bed, or up off the sofa when the film is about to start, is a rather nice added extra.
Hold up – daylight from a light bulb? Well, not quite, but some smart lights can produce colour temperatures reaching 6500K which, without getting too scientific is a bluish white light similar to that which you get outside on a nice bright day. Great if you work in a basement office, or your study is a bit dingy, or even if you just miss summer.
Plus, some bulbs simulate dawn and dusk allowing you to programme them to come on gradually with a warm white light, just like the sun is coming up, or going down. Which, incidentally is supposed to aid sleep by regulating your circadian rhythm a.k.a. your body clock.
There are some other less obvious, but potentially equally useful benefits to smart lighting systems.
You can link some smart lighting systems to other smart technology in your home. So, for example, you can programme your lights to change colour, or flash, or do the fandango, to alert you to something else that is happening.
Aside from alerting us to the fact that the chicken roasting in the oven is done, or our favourite programme is about to start on telly, both of which are certainly handy for those of us with shocking memories, a visual – rather than an audible – alert to something taking place has very practical benefits for people with certain disabilities, such as problems with hearing. So if your lights can alert you to the doorbell ringing, or a smoke alarm going off it suddenly becomes extremely useful.
What else might you want to know?
Can smart lighting help with SAD disorder?
None of the lights we tested claim to be suitable as SAD light therapy fixtures, as they do not supply a high enough colour temperature or colour rendering index (CRI) necessary to match standard light boxes recommended for treating SAD. If you are looking for a SAD light therapy fixture you can find popular ones here. However, many smart lights operate as effective wake-up lights which replicate sunrise and trigger the wake-up phase of our body’s circadian rhythm a.k.a. your body clock which can assist in helping to regulate sleep patterns especially during winter months.
How environmentally friendly are smart lighting systems?
If you like to keep your eco-credentials in the black, then smart lighting can help. Smart lighting systems use LED bulbs which you probably already know use just a fraction of the energy of their incandescent predecessors. Couple this with the ability to switch lights on at the time you need them – when it gets dark even if you aren’t home yet, rather than routinely leaving lights on all day ‘for security’ and you are laughing – not to mention the fact that LED bulbs last for up to 23 years (based on an average 3 hours use a day) meaning the dozens of regular bulbs you are not ploughing through in the meantime are not creating landfill somewhere.
What are the options for fully integrated lighting systems?
Although a single bridge is able to support enough bulbs to light your entire house, if you are looking for a fully integrated, home automation system but don’t want to re-wire your house, then it’s worth checking out Lightwave RF.
Lightwave RF produces a range of smart lighting switches, sockets, heating controls and radiator valves all of which are connected by the Lightwave RF wifi link which allows you to control your lighting, heating and power via handheld remotes, sensors, smart devices or use manually just like any ordinary switch or socket.
Our complete review of Lightwave RF smart home solutions will be coming soon.
Will it work with my existing lights?
You can get smart bulbs suitable for pretty much any kind of fitting from standard screw-fit (E27), to spotlights and striplights, although some – like Philips Hue – are not yet available in a bayonet style or small screw-fit (E14). However, if your heart is set on the Philips brand you can buy adapters to connect non-bayonet bulbs to a bayonet fitting.
Smart lighting will not affect any of your regular lights.