Essential info you need to know about smart home lighting uncovered by me
Table of Contents
The following is a brief overview of some smart lighting considerations and how you can add smart lighting to your home as an add-on to your existing lighting system or a complete smart overhaul. Firstly, It’s best to work out just what you require from your lighting system before looking for possible solutions; there are likely to be things you have yet to think of, and this can save a lot of time and considerable money.
What are my smart lighting options?
There are many smart light options, from simply retrofitting your existing bulbs to basic smart LED bulbs that are just plain white with no color or dimming options and are either on or off. The other end of the scale is a complete lighting overhaul, including multi-colored multi-function bulbs, multi-function multi-colored LED strips, light bars, light bulbs that can extend your wireless network, and much more.
Are there certain manufacturers or brands I should go with?
There are a lot of manufacturers of smart devices; some offer more features than others, but the competition amongst them is fierce, and this competition forces them to include many of the same features as their competition’s devices. There are manufacturers and brands you will not of heard of before, but their equipment is as good as any. Of course, some people will prefer to stay with well-known manufacturers and brands, and that’s ok.
As well as choice, there is also a large difference in the pricing of smart lighting; the most expensive device or best-known manufacturer may not be any more beneficial for your project than a cheaper device or unrecognized brand. A good starting point is to look at buyer ratings for features, manufacturers, and pricing on legitimate non-manufacturer websites.
Retrofitting your existing light bulbs is often the first way to add some smarts to your home; most device manufacturers have a selection of smart bulbs; they are controlled by an app, either directly with a smartphone or tablet or via a Hub like Amazon Echo, Google Home, or Apple HomeKit; these particular hubs include voice-control technology for convenience.
How do direct replacement smart bulbs communicate with other devices?
The notable difference between smart and regular bulbs is that you must always leave the light switch on unless you need to replace the bulb. The reason the switch is left on continuously is so the small radio transmitter in the base of the bulb can communicate with your controlling device, for example, a smartphone, tablet, or smart hub. If the light switch is inadvertently turned off, you can no longer control your smart bulb remotely. Several manufacturers solve this problem by using a smart switch that covers the existing mechanical switch so it cannot be turned off accidentally. For example, the lutron caseta range has an option like this for a more traditional wire-free way to control your smart bulbs.
Can any home have Smart lighting?
Yes, however, some homes built before the mid1980s don’t have neutral wires, sometimes called Common or C wires, and typically neutral wires are white. If you don’t have neutral wires, you can still install many smart lights and switches; however, you will need to purchase a specific type of light switch that doesn’t require a neutral wire. Again there are many options for smart switches, including battery-operated options; fortunately, most smart lighting manufacturers also provide smart switching options to complement their range. Visit the Smart switches and no neutral wire page.
When bringing together lighting, switches, and other smart devices from different manufacturers, you will require a Hub and sometimes Bridges to control all devices from a single point; this way, they can communicate with each other. In addition, hubs and Bridges connected to the internet allow you to control devices from anywhere in the world.
Frequently Asked Questions
Smart home lighting is an advanced way to light your home; LED bulbs have been around for many years; however, those bulbs have now become very smart. Smart bulbs contain very small microcontrollers that are, in turn, connected either directly to another controlling smart device, such as a smartphone, or to a controlling device called a hub. Hubs are usually connected to the internet, allowing you to control your lights from anywhere; also, many hubs can be voice controlled to make controlling your home lighting very convenient. In addition, smart bulbs have features such as dimming, color changes, and scheduling, and some can also increase the area of your home’s network by repeating the signals they receive to other smart devices.
Think of it as retrofitting your existing light bulbs; most smart light manufacturers have the same basic features, one of which is that the smart light bulb can be a stand-alone device. Stand-alone means that the bulb can function completely separate from other smart devices you may have installed in your home. Using Philips Hue as an example, these bulbs can simply replace your existing ones. The notable difference to regular bulbs is that you leave the light switch on all the time unless, of course, you need to replace the bulb. The switch is left on continuously because the small radio transmitter in the bulb’s base can communicate with your controlling device, such as a smartphone or smart hub.
The best idea is to research the options light and switch options available before you make any decisions, as there is so much to offer with smart lighting. The installation of smart lighting is a relatively straightforward process when compared to other tech projects, and the various manufacturers provide detailed instructions and websites that guide you step by step through the process.
Not all forms of smart lighting require wiring as some can be battery operated; however, this is not a cost-effective way of lighting your house; however, one-offs in a special spot may be ok. Smart bulbs use electricity in stand-by mode, which means that smart bulbs use electricity even when they’re not glowing; this is so the radio transmitter in the base of the bulb can communicate with your controlling device, for example, a smartphone or smart hub so even when you’re not using the light its consuming battery power. Unfortunately, there is no way to determine how long the batteries will last as that depends on the actual bulb’s use for lighting; however, stand-by times can be as long as three years on one set of batteries.
So the answer is really yes, to be practical, your smart lights need a constant power supply, and for that, you require wiring.
Smart lights use wireless transmitters to send and receive data; different bulbs use different methods to do the job. Some use built-in Wi-Fi radios to connect directly with your regular Wi-Fi router; this lets you control them remotely from wherever you have an internet connection.
Some devices use Bluetooth radios to connect directly with your phone or tablet, etc, when you’re within 50 feet or so. To control bulbs from further away, you’ll need a Wi-Fi hub to relay their signals to your router and then on to you via the cloud.
There is also Zigbee, which you can think of as a local wireless network for your smart home devices. Many smart lighting products use Zigbee to send their instructions; you will require a Zigbee hub plugged into your router to translate the Zigbee instructions for your home network to understand. Check out the Matter protocol, which makes communication between all devices much easier.
Take the time!
Smart lighting is one of the first things most people include in their homes, there are many options, and some time spent exploring these options is time well spent. It is too easy to head out to the stores collecting up cool stuff only to get it home and find that the devices are incompatible with each other, or some are simply not fit for purpose.
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