The Ultimate Smart Bulb Buying Guide
Smart bulbs make for a great entry point into smart home, they are easy to understand, simple to install and can really enhance your lifestyle.
They’re also really well priced.
Here you’ll find a useful guide to smart bulbs, we’ll cover the why’s, the how’s and we’ll answer a few questions that you might have about them.
Why Buy Smart Bulbs
There are many reasons why smart bulbs are a useful tool, and they are definitely not just for lazy people!
- Control with your voice - using Amazon Alexa or Google Assistant you can simply ask for the lights to turn on, off and even to preset levels. This is particularly great for busy parents, having the ability to control lights hands-free is a real benefit!
- Set timers - always forgetting to turn your external lights off? Now you can simply create timers and your smart bulbs will turn on and off at preset times automatically. No more forgetting to turn lights on or off.
- Create scenes - one of the key benefits of smart bulbs which is often overlooked is scenes - you can create a scene that turns the down lights on to 50%, the lamp on to 25% and easily recall it from the app or voice command. Set the scene in seconds.
- Motion sensors - using plug & play motion sensors or integrate with smart cameras via IFTTT lets you easily turn lights on when motion is detected. Great for security as well as automatically turning lights on in the middle of the night without having to use the app or ask Alexa.
- Save Energy - all smart bulbs are LED which are much lower wattage than traditional light bulbs. So when they're on, you're using less energy. But you'll also be saving even more energy with smart timers and by using motion sensors.
As you can see there are plenty of benefits with smart bulbs, and all of it is easily achieved simply by replacing your standard lamps.
How Smart Bulbs Work
Smart bulbs are the quickest and easiest way to start your smart home, especially if you’re not competent with a screwdriver, don’t want to pay a professional or can’t alter your homes wiring - this makes them great for achieving smart home capability in rented homes.
With smart bulbs you simply replace the standard light bulb with the new smart bulb, connect it to your WiFi via the app and away you go!
You can now turn your lights on and off from the app, with voice commands, motion sensors, timers and even the light switch!
A lot of smart bulbs, such as our SmartLife range, don’t even require a hub! You can simply add one smart bulb, connect it to your WiFi and you are up and running.
Make sure you check before buying, as some smart bulbs still do require a hub like Philips Hue.
Sizes Of Smart Bulbs
Think of them as the same as your existing light bulbs, you can get various sizes from the most common bayonet cap through to small and large Edison screws.
There is a smart bulb for almost every fitting.
The most common fittings are BC (bayonet cap) and ES (Edison screw) - ES lamps most commonly come in two sizes, E14 (small) and E22 (large).
And finally GU10 - perfect for replacing those down lights. (note, you can group multiple fittings together so for example you can replace four kitchen down lights with smart GU10 bulbs, group them in the app and then have one button called “Kitchen Lights” to control them all in one go.
Smart Bulb Colours & Dimming
Another key benefit of smart bulbs is the colours.
You can get warm white, cool white, adjustable white and even full colour.
For most applications we really recommend the adjustable white, they are bright and you can set the colour temperature to suit your likings. This really is great as the colour temperature can really change the look and feel of a room.
Finally there are full colour change lamps allowing you to change between hundreds of different colours including blue, green, red and many more. These are great for mood lighting and also very useful in kids bedrooms!
Almost all smart bulbs are dimmable (but please check first) which is great as you can easily set the mood to suit your room and application. If you’re watching TV in the lounge you might only want the lights on at 10%, hallways don’t need to be super-bright so again you can dim the bulbs down to a more suitable level.
As this is all app controlled it means you can now dim lights that previously weren’t dimmable. It doesn’t matter if the driver in your light fitting is dimmable or not as the bulb itself is taking care of the brightness.
Expanding Your Smart Home
Another great benefit is that smart bulbs open you up to many more lifestyle enhancing smart home products including smart plugs, motion sensors, infrared repeaters, heating controls and much more.
Depending on the system you choose you can easily take control of other items in your home from the same app and/or from Amazon Alexa and Google Assistant.
For example if you choose our SmartLife smart bulbs you’ll get an app called “SmartLife” where you can also control other kit that we sell such as the UK Smart Plug - perfect for controlling appliances and much more. There are constantly improvements and new products being released that work on the same system.
You can also tie in other brands and products using smart home assistants like Google Assistant and Amazon Alexa.
Start with smart bulbs, expand to much more!
Here's some of the other kit available, some on the same eco-system (i.e SmartLife) and others that'll work together via Alexa/Google Assistant.
- Smart Cameras
- Smart Doorbells
- Leak Detectors
- Smart Plugs
- Smoke Detectors
- + much more.
Pros & Cons Of Smart Bulbs
As with everything there are pros and there are cons.
We’ve thoroughly played with smart bulbs and my house is currently fully kitted out with Nedis SmartLife bulbs, sensors, plugs etc. so my family live with it daily, including my five year old who can now turn the lights on and off by asking Alexa. (con?)
All in all we think smart bulbs are a great solution and a great entry into smart homes. You can quickly and easily start benefiting from the most common and most useful smart home features without spending a fortune.
We’ve found them to be very easy and very reliable.
The only real drawback is the fact that smart bulbs (from all brands including Philips Hue!) need to be left switched ON.
If you turn the wall switch OFF then the bulb is powered down and cannot be turned on by voice, app, timers etc.
This is a bit of an annoyance, but it’s not a major issue, personally we mostly use Amazon Alexa to turn our lights on and off, we find it easier, especially with two kids under 5.
It’s also a lot easier and cheaper than replacing for smart switches, so the pros outweigh the cons. We converted our house to SmartLife as a temporary measure until we re-decorate and fit smart switches, however since adding the smart bulbs and really living with them, we're no longer in a rush to change the system over.