24 May Smart Bulbs Vs. Smart Switches
By Eric Murrell. November 17, 2014. For athomeinthefuture.com
The Great Lighting Debate
Lighting your smart home can be confusing. A decision that used to revolve around a handful of bulbs must now account for dozens of variables… How important is power consumption? Do I need colored light? Do I want my house to send me notifications? Can I still use a wall switch?
Change the way you see the light, go beyond the limits.
Let’s take a look at the pros and cons of each setup to get things started.
What Are They?
The typical bulb you’d buy off-the-shelf at your local home improvement store. They come in halogen, compact fluorescent, and LED. LEDs are definitely the way to go.
Inexpensive, easy-to-find. They’ll also behave exactly as you expect them to, turning on and off immediately with a switch and working with regular dimmers.
They provide light, and that’s about it, nothing fancy or fun. They can also be energy efficient (if you choose the right LED bulb), otherwise they spend up to 10x more energy.
They’re the cheapest way to light your home, and costs are continuing to drop every year. But still, as mentioned before, in a long term you can even spend more on a lot of regular bulbs, than with just one smart LED light bulb.
What Are They?
Smart Bulbs include networking technology in each bulb to allow advanced scheduling, color modification, and much more. They give your home automation system unparalleled control over every lighting fixture in your home. Popular choices include the Philips HUE, the Philips HUE LUX, among a couple more.
Smart bulbs provide families with some truly novel features. Bulbs like the HUE offer thousands (if not millions) of color options including complete control over the tone of white light. You can program a room to have different lighting throughout (maybe bright in the reading corner but dim near the TV). You can even pair them with services like IF from IFTTT to notify you of various events that are important to you. Imagine your lights flashing when a new email arrives or a child arrives safely at school.
The possibilities are endless.
They may be overkill for many people who would never use the advanced features. They typically require a hub of some sort.
There’s also an issue when it comes to control. Many of the bulbs mentioned above lose their settings when you flip a switch on and off. For instance, the painstakingly chosen Christmas lighting you set up through HUE would be lost if someone accidentally flipped a switch; you’d be left with normal lighting until you opened the app again to reset the color scheme. It’s not a huge deal, but it’s something worth noting.
They’re all really expensive, compared to a regular “dumb” bulb available in any store; you’ll probably pay 3-5x the cost of a solid LED dumb bulb, but you may want to consider the cost in the long run. Since smart bulb consumes much less energy and lasts a very long time.
If you have a lot of lights, be prepared to drop some serious coin if you plan to outfit the entire house.
What Are They?
They look just like the typical light switch/dimmer you’d place on the wall, but contain networking gear that integrates with remote controls and many home automation hubs. Some popular choices include the Lutron Caséta, and the HUE Tap/Dimmer.
They look and function just like a typical switch/dimmer, but are fully accessible by your smart home hub. You can use your wall panel or smart phone to control your lights (by zone), monitor which lights are on, adjust dimness settings, and set up up triggers for different lighting scenarios. Imagine your porch and foyer lights turning on when you pull into the garage, or turning off all downstairs lights before you go to bed with just the tap of a screen. They’re extremely useful.
Since the switches only work for the zones your panels are wired for, you don’t have as much granular control over your lighting as you would with a smart bulb. Also, installing a new light switch is a little more intimidating than screwing in a fancy bulb.
Not too bad. A high quality dimmer is quite inexpensive and a smart dimmer only costs twice as much. It’s not cheap, but it’s a lot more affordable than a few dozen smart bulbs.
The Big Question: What can you do?
You can mostly use smart switches. There are lots of recessed lighting in different zones throughout the house or space, so a handful of dimmable smart switches should give you the control and automation potential you might be looking for.
That said, you can pick up a few white light smart bulbs for lamps in the bedroom, and will probably try a few HUE bulbs throughout the house as accents. Those seem especially fun for kids… You can already imagine pink light pouring into the hallway from your daughter’s room…
You know both good and bad of all kinds of lighting. Let us guide you through the process and make your life a tale.