Smart lighting is perhaps the most common entry point for anyone looking to start automating their home. If you don’t know anything at all about intelligent lighting, you might initially feel confused by the terminology you encounter. We’re here to clear that up for you today. By the time we’ve finished, you’ll be aware of the key differences between smart bulbs and smart light strips. Before anything else, why should you bother automating your lighting at home in the first place?
5 Key Benefits of Smart Lighting
- Unbeatable Convenience
- Reduced Energy Consumption
- Improved Lifespan of Bulbs
- Added Layer of Security
- Create Customizable Mood Lighting
1) Unbeatable Convenience
The primary reason for most people investing in smart bulbs or smart light strips is convenience. With intelligent lighting, you can control your lights hands-free or using an app on your smartphone even if you’re not at home. By automating and scheduling most of the workaday functionality of your lighting, you’ll minimize time wasted on tedious tasks at home.
As with most smart devices, if you want hands-free control, you’ll need the requisite smart speaker. Why else should you think about smart lighting beyond the appeal to your lazy side?
2) Reduced Energy Consumption
With EnergyStar-certified smart LED bulbs, you’ll use up to 90% less electricity than traditional incandescent bulbs. Many manufacturers make bold claims about savings of 25% or more on your utility bills. We feel this projection is highly ambitious. Instead, look to achieve realistic savings of perhaps 10% on heating and 15% on cooling.
3) Improved Lifespan of Bulbs
Not only will you use less electricity, LEDs are built to last much longer so you’ll save money over time, too. Many smart LEDs offer lifespans of 50,000 hours.
4) Added Layer of Security
Since you can control your lights remotely and also automate lighting, installing smart lighting can help you keep your home safer when you’re on vacation or working late at the office. By making your home look occupied even if it’s empty, you’ll dissuade any casual burglar who might think at a glance there’s somebody home.
Many smart bulbs come with Away mode so you can accomplish this at the push of a button. Say hello to randomized lighting and kiss goodbye to any unwanted intruders.
5) Create Customizable Mood Lighting
If you opt for smart LED strips, you’ll have even more scope to create a totally customized lighting scene depending on your mood or the occasion. Take control with voice commands or using an app on your phone and segue easily from homework to dinner to movie to bed without touching a light switch or getting up off the couch.
Smart Bulbs or Smart LED Strips?
For whole-house smart lighting if you own your home and intend to remain there, there’s no substitute for smart light switches
. You might need to call in an electrician and installation might run you a little, but smart switches are cost-effective. If you want intelligent lighting across your whole house, the cost of separate bulbs soon starts to mount. Insteon smart switches
are one of the best options if you’re looking to go all-in. If, on the other hand, you’re renting your home, uncertain if you’ll stay in your home for long, or looking to start simple, smart bulbs
work well. Ease of installation is one of the primary draws of smart bulbs. You simply screw in the bulb, download the app and start taking control remotely. Here is a look at the differences between smart bulbs, smart plugs, and smart switches
. Beyond these options, you could also consider smart LED strips
. With a variety of arrangements and layouts, you can get really creative with smart light strips or tiles. You’ll get the same ease of use afforded by smart bulbs with the added versatility of creating unique lighting effects.
3 Key Differences Between Smart Bulbs and Smart Light Strips
Before we walk you through a broad cross-section of the best smart bulbs and smart light strips, we’ll highlight the major differences between this LED lighting.
- Static vs Mobile
- Task Lighting vs Mood Lighting
Static vs Mobile
With smart bulbs, you screw in your bulb and leave it in place. Smart light strips allow for far greater flexibility. Design and configuration varies from brand to brand and according to type. Most LED strips give you the ability to easily move your lighting depending on the mood or situation.
Task Lighting vs Mood Lighting
Smart bulbs serve as effective overhead lighting and task lighting. You can use these across the whole house for any type of lighting needs. Smart light strips are typically used to build out mood lighting and accent lighting.
The final key difference between smart bulbs and smart LED strips is the pricing. Since smart light strips are more of a niche solution, expect to pay proportionally more. This is not to say you can’t get cheap smart strips but they’ll normally cost more than bulbs on a like-for-like basis. OK… With that background of smart lighting in place, we’ll widen our sights to take in the best products across each vertical. We’ll get the party started with some smart bulbs…
- LIFX WiFi Smart Bulb
- Google Smart Bulb Starter Kit
- Sengled Element Color-Changing Smart Bulbs with Hub
- Philips Hue White Smart Bulb
- Wyze Smart Bulb – No Hub Required
One of the key selling points of this powerful LED smart bulb is that you won’t need a home hub to get going thanks to onboard WiFi. This is ideal if you’re looking to save money and limit the number of smart devices you need. Take control in-app on your phone or use Alexa and your favorite smart speaker for hands-free control. Interoperability is outstanding with LIFX playing nicely with most of the major players in the smart home space. Fully adjustable and dimmable at a distance, LIFX bulbs come keenly priced, too. Despite some serious competition, this remains our overall favorite smart bulb in 2020.
Due to such fierce competition in this market segment, you can pick up some awesome deals bundling smart bulbs with smart speakers. If you fancy a change from the Alexa norm, why not roll with this Google starter kit
giving you the ultra-compact Google Home Mini along with a GE C-Life smart bulb rated at 2700 kelvin with brightness at 760 lumens. Whether you take control using the Google Home app or with voice commands, you can streamline your lighting while using less electricity and making your life easier at the same time.
This all-in-one package gives you the hub you need for robust smart home control and color-changing bulbs to create bold mood lighting on tap. All you need is a 2.4GHz WiFi network and you’ll be up and running right out the box. Use either Alexa or Google Assistant if you prefer voice control to using an app. You will, of course, need the smart speaker to match. You can ramp things up from 2000 kelvin to 6500 kelvin at the upper end of brightness levels. To put this in real terms, that’s candlelight to natural daylight. Alongside a full spectrum of whites, you get 16 million colors so imagination is your only limitation with these stunning smart bulbs.
No curated list of the best smart bulbs is complete without cocking a hat at Philips Hue. Whether you opt for one of their comprehensive starter kits
or you opt for a piecemeal approach buying bulbs and hub, you’re spoiled for choice. This pack of 4 Hue bulbs
comes with the option of bundling a Hue Hub. This might not be mandatory but you should use one if you want the most from these smart bulbs. Hue Bluetooth lighting works equally well with Alexa and Google Assistant. You can control 10 or more Hue bulbs in-app with ease. Compatibility with other smart tech is broad. Build out a more ambitious and wider-reaching ecosystem using this bridge and these bulbs as a starting point.
is a young smart tech company with innovative products priced incredibly keenly. These inexpensive smart bulbs
don’t call for a third-party gateway, perfect if you’re looking to cut costs while keeping things simple. Chuck in an Echo device
and you can take over with voice commands. If you fancy broader integration, create some IFTTT recipes. You can also make use of motion sensors for even greater control. You should note that 5GHz WiFi is not yet supported by Wyze. Make sure you have a 2.4GHz network before committing to purchase. So… With no shortage of smart bulbs to choose from, how about smart light strips? We’ll round out for today with a glance at the strongest light strips in a busy sector of the market…
Smart LED Light Strips
- LIFX App-Controlled Smart LED Strip Starter Kit
- LIFX App-Controlled Smart LED Beam Kit
- Eve WiFi Smart LED Strip for HomeKit
- Nanoleaf Rhythm Edition Smarter Kit
- LED Projector Night Light
Another classic smart lighting product from LIFX, this app-controlled smart LED strip
comes with WiFi onboard so you won’t need a separate home hub. Each of this innovative strips kicks out 700 lumens of brightness with a staggering 16 million colors to brighten up the ambiance indoors. From Google Nest and SmartThings to IFTTT and Flic, you’ll find compatibility is impressive. You can also integrate these smart strips with the rest of LIFX’s weighty ecosystem. Rated for 22 years of use, while these strips aren’t exactly cheap, they translate to excellent long-term value.
Another entry from the inimitable LIFX next with this smart LED beam kit
. As with all LIFX lighting, benefit from the WiFi baked in so you won’t need to invest in a hub. Control your beam lighting in-app on Android, iOS, or Windows 10 apps. This beam kit allows you to build out striking and unique lighting scenes to inject some creativity into your modernist living space. Tweak the configuration to suit and create a highly personalized lighting environment with complete ease. If you like the idea of hands-free control, use Alexa, Google Assistant or Siri as long as you have the smart speaker or smart display to match. And thinking of HomeKit, next we have the best light strips for Apple lovers…
Brighter than most smart strips, these HomeKit-enabled Eve are rated at 1800 lumens. Unlike the more limited mood lighting afforded by some set-ups, these strips will light even large spaces effectively. The strips are easy to cut and extend so you can completely customize the layout. We find these strips work well in split level apartments and minimalist condos. Peel off the adhesive backing and fix these strips wherever you want to make a real statement.
Nanoleaf lighting isn’t cheap but you’ll get the ability to create a light show at home thanks to a customizable LED panels. Kick things off by building out the triangular panels into whatever arrangement suits. Mounting couldn’t be easier with the adhesive pads on each panel allowing you to pop them anywhere. Build in the Rhythm module so panels change color in time with music. Whether you want these light panels at home or in a small coffee shop or bar, you’ll get enormous potential from a brand you can trust.
To finish up today, something slightly different. This remote control LED projector
is a super-soothing night light that’s just as effective for adults, children or babies. Programmable with auto shut-off, benefit from 8 preset lighting modes giving your nursery or bedroom a burst of the stars. The onboard speaker means you can play your bundle of joy a lullaby or soothing music if they’re struggling to sleep. For a different application of LED lights, this projector is a nice and pocket-friendly alternative to smart LED strips.
You now no excuse not to kit out your apartment or rental with some smart bulbs or smart LED light strips. Whatever your needs, this is smart lighting at its simplest with true plug-and-play convenience at your fingertips. If you fancy treating yourself to some of the smart lighting we showcase today, why not sign up to our email newsletter
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