Nowadays, there seems to be a trend of everything being ‘smart’. Smartphones, smart TVs, smartwatches and intelligently designed appliances are changing the way we experience our homes. However incorporating smart lighting into this mix is an intricate process that demands us to account for various factors. Making this grand leap necessitates thorough reflection. We have therefore written a buyer’s guide for easing this task of endless comparison and evaluation for you.
How Smart Lighting Works?
Depending on the make and model of your choice, smart lighting can work through various methods. Some lights are as simple to set up as connecting to your phone via Bluetooth while others are sophisticated networks of communication managed through a separate hub. The most common medium of communication for smart lights in [year] is a communication protocol named ZigBee, which uses your WiFi connection to enable these systems to work together. Of course, there are numerous variations but the general working mechanism for most of these smart lights is the same. The experience is where the manufacturers are able to distinguish themselves. Since each of the lights work in a slightly different manner, we will explain each one differently for you.
Costs of Smart Lighting:
Smart lighting technology may not be the cheapest solution available when it comes to illuminating your home or business. Yet if you’re willing to make the investment upfront there are some clear benefits that come with choosing LED based smart lights over other bulb types. Along with providing comparable levels of brightness and functionality these systems are designed to use less energy – ultimately resulting in lower monthly electricity bills for you. Additionally LEDs do not contain toxic mercury found in fluorescent bulbs and boast an impressive lifespan with an average longevity of up to 23 years per unit. While installation costs may seem prohibitive at first glance it is possible that these expenses will be compensated for through long term savings. In the lifespan of a single LED bulb therefore, you will have replaced three fluorescent and 20 incandescent bulbs.
Here is a comparison of the electricity bill expenditure for each of the bulbs, at an average of 12 cents per Kilowatt-hour in US, for bulbs producing equivalent light, of powers of 60 watt for incandescent, 14 watt for fluorescent, and 10 watt for LED respectively if the bulbs are used for 10 hours per day.
Benefits of LED Bulbs:
In terms of cost savings, there is not much of a difference when we compare LED lighting to fluorescent lighting, and when we factor in the costs of LED smart lighting, we may end up paying even more and offset the energy savings.
When considering modern lighting solutions , it’s hard to ignore the many benefits of LED technology.
- One key advantage is their impressive lifespan which outperforms other conventional lighting sources significantly . While typical fluorescent and incandescent lightbulbs burn out quickly with usage , commonly needing replacements within months , LEDs shine brightly for upwards of two decades . But that’s not all; these efficient lights are also eco-friendlier as they don’t contain toxic heavy metals or spew out much heat like old-style lamps do.
- Smart LED lights can additionally change warmth and hue according to the time of the day to combat seasonal affective disorder (SAD). You can sleep to warmer light and wake up to cooler light.
- Smart LED lights can also change colors according to your mood, or sync with movies or songs in some cases. Also, they can be great for parties!
- Smart LED lights can automate and ease your life. With the help of motion or geo tracking, the lights can automatically switch on or off, or change colors according to different scenarios. The possibilities are limitless.
We are hopeful that you are convinced and excited of the prospect of buying and testing smart lights yourself, so let’s get started with the products!
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Best Smart Lighting LED Bulbs of [year]
|Best Smart Lighting||Brightness (lumens)||Communication||Maximum Colors||Prices|
|Philips Hue||800||WiFi Hub||16 Million||View Deal|
|LIFX||1100||WiFi||16 Million||View Deal|
|Yeelight RGB||600||WiFi||16 Million||View Deal|
|IKEA Tradfri||980||WiFi Hub||16 Million||View Deal|
|C by GE||800/730||Bluetooth||White||View Deal|
1. Phillips Hue – Hue’s the best?
If there was one unequivocal winner at the game of smart lighting, it would definitely be Phillips. With their Hue lighting system, Phillips has managed to produce an ecosystem of products that work in a seamless rhythm and flow between each other. While the experience is nothing but the best, the quality of lights we have come to expect from Phillips shines through every product in their lineup. It is now possible to construct fully automated homes with autonomous lighting thanks to this product.
The Phillips Hue smart lighting system is controlled by a hub called ‘Hue bridge’. Streamlined connectivity is at your fingertips with the incorporation of a Hue bridge in your home or office environment. With minimal setup requiring only an Ethernet cable and power supply connectivity for internet access, you’ll be ready for seamless integration with the Hue app available on both IOS or Android smartphones – handy for when you need total control over up to 50 lighting components! Utilizing ZigBee protocols alongside reliable interconnectivity via your home network allows instantaneous precision when communicating information among all connected light sources. The three lights on the hub are for Wi-Fi connection status, power status, and communication status. The hub is rated at 1.5 watts and can he mounted over a wall mount. Over the years, Phillips has greatly improved on the response times to the point where the lights switch on about instantly. The Hue is also fully compatible with Siri, Google Assistant, and Amazon Alexa, so you can even direct and control your lighting by mere voice commands!
In addition to this, you now have the option to control your hue bulbs independently with the ‘dimmer switch’ which does not require you to use a hub anymore. Each switch can control up to 10 separate Hue lights once you assign them via the smartphone app. The switch is operated via replaceable batteries and can be attached to your wall via the adhesive tape on back, to any metallic surface via magnets, or mounted on walls via screws.
Third Generation E26 Light Bulbs:
As of [year], the standard E26 Phillips hue light bulbs are in their third generation. Chances are, these will be the ones you will be installing in your home since they emit a light of respectable 800 Lumens which is equivalent to the average 14-watt fluorescent bulbs. A pro buyer’s tip is to make sure the package has ‘richer colors’ written, which is the only way to differentiate the older generation bulbs from the new ones. If you are not buying through amazon, the retailer might have older stock. In this generation, Phillips has not only made the bulbs cheaper, but also more responsive and brighter.
|Hue White||Hue White Ambience||Hue White and Color Ambience|
|View Deal||View Deal||View Deal|
|Adjustable color temperature||No||Yes||Yes|
|Color||2700°K||2200°K – 6500°K||16 million colors|
Philips Hue Go:
If you are not ready to commit to the Philips Hue smart lighting system yet, you can try one of their standalone products: Hue Go. The reason we decided to review this amongst dozens of other Hue products is because this is a really, really cool smart light. The bowl shaped, round polycarbonate body is appealing yet minimalist. The best part about this smart light is its ability to operate on the in-built battery without power input. This means that it can be a really handy tool for parties when you want to place this light anywhere you want to. Although the 3 hour of advertised battery life is nowhere near impressive, this is the best you get in autonomous smart lighting.
Here’s some good news for those who prefer simplicity – your smart light can operate just like any other lamp by connecting it to a standard wall socket. Plus, changing its colors is effortless without even touching the Hue app – simply press its button located at the back and watch hues shift seamlessly. However, in order to take advantage of the full 16 Million colors, and use it with home automation, cool effects, and full features, you will eventually need a hub.
To get started, you can buy one of the starter kits listed below:
- Hue white starter kit E26: includes the Hue bridge, and 4x Hue white bulbs that emit a warm light of 2700 K. The bulbs are dimmable. (also available in a 2 pack)
- Hue white ambiance starter kit E26: includes the Hue bridge, and 4x Hue white ambiance bulbs that can emit lights of color temperatures 2200 – 6500 K. The bulbs are dimmable and their color temperature can be changed.
- Hue white color and ambiance starter kit E26: includes the Hue bridge, and 4x Hue white and ambiance color bulbs that can emit white and colored light. The bulbs are dimmable, and their temperature and color can also be changed.
- Hue white wireless dimming recipe kit E26: includes the Dimmer switch, and 1x Hue white bulb that emits a warm light of 2700k. The bulb is dimmable.
- Hue white ambiance light recipe kit E26: includes the Dimmer switch, and 1x Hue white ambiance bulb that can emit a light of color temperatures 2200 – 6500 K. The bulb is dimmable and color temperature can also be changed.
Design and Build:
The design of the third generation E26 A19 lamps is very impressive and unique, with a flat top and curved, seamless body. Of course, the materials are not fancy and the build is of glossy plastic, but the bulbs feels really sturdy and we have Phillips’ 125 year experience in lighting to thank for. The life is rated at an impressive 25 years, provided that the bulb is used for 3 hours a day.
Experience and App:
Perhaps the biggest reason why Philips Hue is sitting at the top of our list is the experience it provides. This is by far the most flawless smart lighting experience we have tested. Back when it was introduced in 2012, the experience was very basic at best, but with the Hue 2.0 app on Apple Store and Google Play Store the experience has become really polished. While it may not be the easiest to use or intuitive interface, it promises the best of features and future proofing. In addition to the Google Assistant, Amazon Alexa, and Apple Homekit integration, the Hue smart lighting is also compatible with IFTT (If This, Then That). This means that you can program it to do thousands of functions using very simple commands. When you want to sync your music or movies with your lighting, just install a third party app into your Hue system and you are ready to go. The Hue bridge and the whole Hue lineup provides the users a great experience and a wide choice to configure their homes the way they want. Also, in the recent years we have seen the Hue system expand and get better, which means that Philips really is serious about smart lighting and will continue to make it one of the best experiences.
The Hue Application is smooth, responsive, and feature packed. We are yet to be disappointed, although it is not the most intuitive one to use. For example, the experience is more tailored towards a smart home experience, with multiple Hue lights. When we used other applications, we felt that they were much easier to navigate.
The Phillips Hue system is for people that are serious about smart lighting. Not only does the costs reflect this, but also the app interface. It is the most secure option if you plan on switching your whole home to smart lighting because the product lineup just keeps on increasing. The ability to control 50 lights simultaneously through the Hue Bridge is also really impressive for those looking for future ease of use.
2. LIFX – the Apple of Smart Lighting
We do not exaggerate when we call the LIFX smart lighting system the Apple of smart lighting; it is simple, fast, and effective. LIFX is a startup company that has really figured out the smart lighting game. The California based startup launched its first product in 2012 on Kickstarter. Like Apple, they have few products, excellent marketing, great designs, exciting packaging, and exorbitant pricing. However, when we start comparing it with the Philips Hue smart lighting system, things start to get interesting.
Nothing beats the connectivity of the LIFX bulbs. This solution is so uniquely easy and intuitive to use, that it is truly a hassle free experience. You just have to plug in your LIFX device into a wall outlet or bulb holder and connect to it via your smartphone’s WiFi search option. Once you connect, you can control multiple bulbs from the app seamlessly. The process is really quick, and when we compare it with the Philips Hue, you do not need to use a bridge. Therefore, you avoid the up-front costs of buying the bridge and also save space and annoying cable management.
Not only this, you cannot control these bulbs in case there is a problem with WiFi or wireless system unlike Philips Hue which has the dimmer switch in case you do not want to use the app.
Third Generation A19 Bulbs:
As of [year], the LIFX A19 bulbs are in their third generation. It seems like there is a race between Philips Hue and LIFX and sooner than later, they are able to catch up in terms of features. The A19 bulbs perform better than the Philips Hue bulbs in every way possible. They emit a light of a very respectable 1100 lumens at only 1 watt higher power usage than the Philips alternative. Although they are bulkier and heavier, LIFX bulbs also match the robust build quality of the Philips Hue products. There used to be complaints regarding the dull colors offered by Philips Hue when compared to the LIFX, but as we mentioned before, Philips Hue has caught up with time and vice versa. The color temperature of the LIFX can also be adjusted between 2500K – 9000K which is much better than the Philips Hue A19 bulb.
The LIFX A19 bulbs are more expensive than the Philips Hue bulbs, but with the upfront costs of a Hue Bridge, the LIFX starts to look like a better deal especially because of the beefier specifications. The fight was tough between the LIFX and Philips Hue, but some factors enabled Philips Hue to be our choice. The LIFX support is hard to reach at times, with often weeks before we expect an answer which they justify by claiming that they are receiving a large amount of queries. Also, we must realize that LIFX is a startup company and the recent acquisition and end of pebble watches prove that great products do not necessitate the company’s survival.
3. Yeelight RGB – The ‘Yee-Haw’ for budget consumers.
Smart lighting is not as expensive as you might think, and Yeelight is here to prove that. It is a company owned by Xiaomi, one of the biggest smartphone manufacturers of Asia which is notorious for manufacturing extremely functional tech at cheap prices. You would be surprised to know that the Yeelight RGB costs less than half of what you would pay for Philips Hue or the LIFX A19 yet manages to reproduce much of the performance.
The design of the Yeelight RGB is one of the best that we have reviewed. It is compact yet functional. The ridge lines running parallel to the body of the bulb give it a truly unique character. The build quality is also really solid with the plastic coated aluminum which body which also gives it a considerable heft.
Unboxing was perhaps the most underwhelming experience since it is shipped in a small, insignificant cardboard box with only the bulb and a Chinese manual. The app is very easy to use and quite functional, although it does lack a lot of features present in the top tier smart lighting solutions. It produces a respectable 600 Lumens of light at 9 watts of electricity which is not the most efficient when compared to the flagship grade smart light bulbs.
The connectivity is enabled through the in-built WiFi chips just like the LIFX, so it does not require a hub and communicates in a very fast and efficient manner. Xiaomi has been very responsive to the early customer complaints and has consistently updated the bulb to the point where it now supports Google Assistant and Amazon Alexa. It even supports the IFTTT integration now, so the future looks good for the Yeelight system. Sure, there are hiccups, missed inputs, and lagging, but these occurrences are occasional at best and do not disrupt the overall experience. Even though the Yeelight RGB might not be as accurate and fast as the Philips Hue or the LIFX A19, it offers much of what they offer at a fraction of the cost.
If you insist on having a color smart light with all the basic functions of the advanced offerings, yet are hesitant on spending hundreds of dollars, the Yeelight is an extremely cheap and risk free option to try. Looking to explore smart lighting? Get an authentic preview before committing to the switch. But for those seeking a top of the line solution packed with customizable features that allow for endless creativity in designing their space Philips Hue is definitely worth the investment.
4. IKEA Tradfri – Juvenile.
There are no surprises here: IKEA decided to introduce its own lineup of smart LED lighting solutions. Although they are fairly new in the game with their first products launching in 2019, they have come quite a way. However, we still consider this smart lighting system a bit juvenile because it has a lot to catch up before we can compare it to the flagship models. The unique differentiating factor for this one is definitely the low costs and the reliability of a trusted brand like IKEA.
The Tradfri smart lighting system uses a hub to communicate like the Philips Hue smart lighting system. We were really surprised to find a shocking number of similarities between these two products. The starter kit comes with a manual switch we have seen ‘elsewhere’ before and the whole experience seems ‘familiar’. The best part about this system is without doubt, the application itself. The minimalist design is very alluring and simple to use. Everything seems to flow and the response times are also really great. The bulb is also really bright at 980 Lumens. However, this often translates to a very basic set of features as in the case of IKEA Tradfri.
So then, who is this product ultimately for? People who are IKEA customers, or those who want a balance between affordability and quality over raw features.
5. C by GE – Cheap and Easy.
The C bulbs by General Electric are as easy to operate as their name is to spell. The starter kit comes with four bulbs, two of which are sleep bulbs and two are life bulbs. The life bulbs are your regular LED bulbs that are only dimmable and the sleep bulbs can also change temperature. The whole kit is available for really cheap, and once you start comparing the unit costs, this is the cheapest option you can buy, if you purchase in bulk.
The design and build are like any standard LED bulb on the market. General Electric did not take any risks with this one; it is a relatively simple lighting system with simple features such as the ability to set timers, alarms, and change color temperature in case of the sleep bulb. There is no RGB or color option available as of writing this guide.
The application is also very easy and simple, which we found comparable to that of the application used by IKEA Tradfri. However, this application is crippled by the bare minimum set of features this bulb has on offer. What’s worse, is the very humble 10 meter range that Bluetooth is capable of offering so you have to be vary of the connectivity issues.
The C by GE line of bulbs are perfect for those looking to use the very basic features of smart lighting. However, we would very much recommend any consumer to buy the Yeelight RGB instead which not only uses a superior form of communication via WiFi, but also provides you the full experience for just a marginally higher price. But if you like the idea of what GE has to offer, there is no harm in trying the C bulbs.