Still turninglights on and off by hand? Then allow us to shed light on another fascinating facet ofThe Connected Home: smart lighting. Homelighting options today relieve you of the hassle of flipping switches and curbyour electric bill to boot. Thereare other bonuses, too: Smart lightingcan help deter burglars, or set the mood for a party, a romantic dinner, and everything in between.Here’s an illuminating look at just how bright smart lighting can be.
Benefits of smart lighting
What makes certain lightbulbs smart is a chip embedded in the base thatenable them to tap into your home’s Wi-Fi network. Here are just a few of the cool things you can do:
- Turn lights up or down from your phone (even if you’re out).
- Program lightsto turn on, turn off, or dim at certain times of the day.
- Tell your lights todo any of the above, provided you sync them up with a voice-activated speaker such as theAmazon Echo, Google Home, or Apple HomeKit.
- Program lights, many of whichare motion-sensitive, to turn on when you enter a room and off once you’re gone.
- Customize lights to turn on or off gradually for a gentler wake-up in the morning or wind-down at night.
- Sync lights with a smart thermostat or smart home security system thatcan tell if you’re home or not, thenturn your lights off to save money.
- Create coloreffects that respond to triggers (e.g., making lightbulbsflash blue whenyou get a Facebook notification).
How to install smart lighting
To install smart lighting in your home, you need to swap out your bulbs, switches, or plugs.Each option has its pros and cons
Smart bulbs:Swapping in new bulbs is a great idea, particularly if you’ve been wanting to upgrade tolight-emitting diode bulbs, which consume 75% less electricity and last 25 times longer than traditional incandescents. Most smart bulbs are LEDs, which mean that although they cost more than traditional bulbs upfront, you’ll save money over time.
One affordable starting pointis Ikea’s Tradfi smart kit($24.99), which includes one smart bulb and a motion detector thatwill turn the light on when you enter a room, and off if it detects that you’ve left.
If you are digging your smart lightand want to branch out, one popular option isthePhilips Hue Connected system($150 for a three-pack).Like with all smart bulbs, you can control and program these lights witha phone app(available for Android and iOS), but the big difference is that you can connect up to 50 bulbs to this system, which means you can turn off the lights in your kid’s room, dim the lights in the dining room, and program the porch light to go on at 6 a.m. so your letter carriercan easily find your front door.
Becausethe Hue software is open source-meaning Philips encourages third-party app development-it boasts anever-growing selection of homegrown apps that expand the functionality. For example, there’s theHue Disco, which letsyou synchronize your Hue bulbs to flash on and off and dance to the beat of your favorite tunes.
Many smart bulbs also come in colors, including Philips or thebudget-friendlyFlux Bluetooth smart LED lightbulb($31), whichoffersa palette of 16 millionhues.
Smart switches: Of course, graduating to smart bulbs does mean you’ll have to swap out yourold bulbs, which is a shame if they still havewattage. If you want to keep them, you can install asmart light switch instead. Becausethesealso are Wi-Fi-enabled, they deliver the same smartfeatures(to control, program, and automate lights) along with a few bonuses.
TheBelkin Wemo Light Switch ($48), for instance,can also talk tothe Nest thermostat (which can senseif you’re home or not) and switch the lights off if you’re out.And, since it controls more than just the bulb, you can set your ceiling fans to come on if the ambient temperature hits 80 degrees Fahrenheit.
The only downside: Smartswitches typicallyrequire a direct connection to your wall’s wiring, which can make installation trickier than just screwing in a bulb.If you’re electrically challenged, you might do better withwhat’snext.
Smart plugs: The TP-LINK smart plug ($26) is as simple as it gets: It plugs into your power outlet, then you plug in a light on top.
Smart plugs enableyou to do all the usual smart lighting tricks but with the added advantage that you can turn on and off any electrical appliance, from yourhumidifier to your rice cooker.
Smart lighting to boost home security
A number of smart lights are focused on home security. To keep burglars away,one option is theBeON light ($129 for a three-bulb starter pack on Amazon), which can make your home look occupied when you’re not there.
These lights can memorize your family’s lighting patterns from a typical week, then repeat those same patterns, turning the lights on and off accordingly while you’re away, says Ry Crist, techeditor atCNET.com.
So, how does it work? Simply useyour BeON lights normally for a week, then when you are away, tap the app’s away mode so the lights run on autopilot.
For the outdoors, there’s Maximus ($149), alight that contains a security camera that, when triggered by a built-in motion sensor, streams video to your smartphone. See something suspicious? You can remotely activate a loud siren to chase the threat away.
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