Smart lighting is a rapidly growing segment of the smart home tech market — and it’s easy to see why. When done right, smart lighting can add personalization and ambiance to any part of your house. Here’s what you need to know.
Anyone will tell you that lighting can really make a world of a difference in transforming a space and creating an inviting ambiance. From enhancing day-to-day productivity to encouraging relaxation, lighting can do wonders for a home. However, finding the right lighting is the tricky part.
“Smart lighting is great because it allows for personalization and adjustments based on your activity or mood,” Cathy Choi, president at Bulbrite, wrote via email. “In the morning it’s great to get the day started with bright cool lights to help get energized, but as the day winds down warm, dim lighting is the way to go to settle in the for the night.”
“Setting schedules can even help cue when it’s time to wake up or wind down. For example, bathroom lights can be set to turn on to full brightness in the morning when it’s time to shave or apply makeup and turn down to a dim setting overnight. It can also be controlled via voice assistants like Amazon’s Alexa or Google Home as a hands-free way to set and adjust the lighting.”
The first step is deciding which areas you’d like to control the lighting. Do you want to be able to control the temperature of the light from warm to cool? Change the colors or add accents? If so, you’ll probably want to look into smart bulbs.
However, for large spaces with lots of bulbs, the price could add up, so smart switches may be a more economical approach. Another challenge with smart bulbs can be the controls, as they require constant power for connectivity.
There are a number of different solutions — anywhere from switch guards and wall-mounted buttons to specialized switches specifically designed to control smart bulbs and strips.
Smart switches present their own challenges for older homes as well. Historically, there were few solutions that would work without a neutral wire. However, more recently, there have been many advances with the electrical efficiencies for module designs that make it possible for the smart device to run without a neutral wire.
If you’re not comfortable changing out switches, be sure to hire a licensed electrician. It takes about 15 minutes to install each switch.
Smart bulbs and switches can run on a variety of different protocols including Wi-Fi, ZigBee and Z-Wave.
“You will find Wi-Fi type devices primarily in brick-and-mortar stores as well as ecommerce websites, this is mainly due to ease of customer installations,” Mitchell Davis, vice president for Connected Home at Jasco, said via email. “Hub based type solutions (Z-Wave & ZigBee) are very dominant at electrical distributors, wholesale stores as well as online.”
When too many Wi-Fi devices are added to a home network, it can exceed the capacity of some off-the-shelf or internet service-provided routers. It is always a good idea to upgrade your home network regardless, and I highly recommend a mesh network. If you’re planning on adding smart switches to a lot of rooms, a hub-based solution such as Lutron Caseta, Inovelli or Jasco is a great option.
Smart plugs are perfect for controlling lamps and holiday lighting. Personally, we prefer TP-Link, which has indoor and outdoor solutions along with options to monitor energy usage, power strips and replacement outlets. The app works with their smart switches and bulbs as well.
Light strips are a lot of fun for kids’ rooms. They also look great above or below cabinets in the kitchen, and can be used behind the TV or bar areas for entertainment, tray ceilings, around mirrors, artwork, shelves, desks and monitors.
Motion sensors and flood lights can help protect your home from intruders. If you have got outdoor security cameras, you may want to look into smart bulb options that emit infrared when they’re not visibly on, which helps the cameras see in the dark.
Smart lighting is a rapidly growing segment. Now, there are many options for different sizes and areas of the home, and they’re overall more aesthetically pleasing. You can find great options at your local hardware retailer or online. Be sure to pick products that are compatible with other devices in your home and can easily be controlled by anyone in the house.
Brandon Doyle is a Realtor at Doyle Real Estate Team — RE/MAX Results in Minneapolis and co-author of Mindset, Methods & Metrics – Winning as a Modern Real Estate Agent. You can follow him on Twitter.