Smart light bulbs
Unlike traditional light bulbs, which you turn on and off at the wall, smart light bulbs can be controlled remotely using a smartphone, tablet, or voice assistants like Amazon's Alexa, Google Home and Apple's Siri. Smart light bulbs can also allow you to change the brightness and colour hue of the light, schedule a programme for lights to switch on and off automatically, and have the option to group lights in different parts of your home, for example upstairs and downstairs.
What are Smart light bulbs?
Smart light bulbs connect to the internet using wifi, Bluetooth or a hub connected to your router, giving you remote control and functionality you don't get with traditional light bulbs. You can control them with your smartphone or tablet, and they're compatible with smart devices like Amazon Alexa, Google Home and Apple Home Kit, giving you voice control.
Smart light bulbs come in a wide variety of types and sizes to fit existing bayonet, screw and spotlight fittings; remember to check your light fixture before buying. You can also choose between white and colour-changing bulbs.
How do smart light bulbs work?
You need to leave the light switched on at the wall for smart bulbs to stay connected to your devices, ready to be turned on the moment you use the app or voice command. This means they draw a small amount of power even when off, though they're much more energy efficient than traditional incandescent light bulbs and have a long lifespan.
Brands that use a hub connected to your wifi router tend to supply them in starter kits along with their smart bulbs. Alternatively, you can buy the hub separately. Once you've set up a hub, you'll typically be tied to buying the same brand of smart bulbs because they need to be compatible with the hub. Some smart light bulbs can connect directly to your wi-fi, with no hub required.
One of the biggest benefits of smart light bulbs is convenience. You won't have to get up and find the light switch to turn lights on or off or adjust the brightness. You can simply tap the app or use a voice command. You can also programme a schedule for your smart bulbs to switch on and off automatically, which is useful when you're away on holiday and want your home to appear occupied. Another convenient feature of smart bulbs is combining them with motion sensors which turn lights on when they detect movement.
If you're thinking about buying smart light bulbs, check the brand you're considering is compatible with any smart home device you already use. If you want multiple smart bulbs around your home, choose a brand with an app that lets you group bulbs to control different rooms or zones easily. The initial expense of smart bulbs can be high compared with traditional bulbs. However, they are energy efficient and very long-lasting, and of course, they make it easy to check you haven't left the lights on in an empty house!
Are smart light bulbs worth it for the visually impaired?
For anyone living with sight loss, having the right lighting can help make the most of your useful vision and make home life more comfortable. Factors to think about for home lighting include:
- Ensuring overhead lighting provides good, even illumination of the room.
- Having plenty of additional lighting for tasks such as reading, working, and cooking.
- Reducing glare by ensuring bare bulbs don't show.
- Making sure areas like hallways and stairs are well-lit to help with moving around safely.
- Maintaining even levels of lighting across different areas of the home to avoid your eyes having to adjust between bright and low-lit spaces.
The benefits of smart bulbs for people with sight loss include:
- The convenience of choosing the exact type of lighting you need, using the app or voice commands to precisely control the brightness and colour hue.
- The ability to provide a consistent level of light throughout the home by grouping multiple smart light bulbs in different rooms.
- Their long lifespan, which means they only rarely need to be changed. That's one tricky job to be done much less often.
Check the manufacturer's app is compatible with the accessibility software you use. You may also want to speak to your Vision Rehabilitation Specialist, Habilitation Specialist or low-vision clinic for tailored advice on lighting your home.
How we choose the best smart light bulbs
For people with vision impairment, certain features of smart light bulbs are particularly important, such as an app that's accessible if you use a screen reader and brightness and colour options that suit your needs.
- Smart light bulbs need to integrate with your smart home device if you want to use voice commands. Most smart bulbs support Amazon Alexa and Google Home Assistant. Many also work with Apple HomeKit, and some with Samsung SmartThings.
- Some smart bulbs connect directly to your wifi (like Kasa smart bulbs), but others need a hub connected to your router (like Philips Hue bulbs).
- Check the type of light fitting you have before buying smart bulbs. Smart bulbs come with bayonet caps, Edison screw caps, and G or GU caps (typically used for spotlights).
- The light output of bulbs is measured in lumens. The higher the lumens number, the brighter the light will be. You can also get dimmable LED bulbs which allow you to vary the brightness.
- The Kelvin scale tells you about a bulb's colour temperature. A bulb with a lower Kelvin number creates a warm yellow light, and a higher Kelvin number delivers a cooler blue light. For comparison, the light on a bright sunny day will be around 5,500 Kelvin and a candle less than 2,000 Kelvin. Indoor lighting is commonly around 2,700-3,000 Kelvin, 3,000-4,500 Kelvin gives a neutral white light, and above 4,000 Kelvin gives a cool white light similar to daylight.
- Smart light bulbs don't just come in white but in colour too. Colour-changing light bulbs offer a dizzying array of choices, up to 16 million colours. They usually include pre-programmed settings to make the choice a little less overwhelming!
- Most smart light bulbs have a long lifespan of at least 25,000 hours. Good news if you find changing light bulbs a challenge.
- Smart bulb manufacturers often make other products that work with their bulbs, such as motion sensors. Put together, these can make life even easier, as they trigger lights to come on when they sense movement and can even switch them off after a selected time.
Best smart lights
Smart light bulbs for Alexa
Most makes of smart bulbs are compatible with Amazon Alexa. Some can be set up by tapping 'devices' within the Alexa app, and Alexa will find and install the bulb, leaving just the final set-up to you. Alternatively, you may have to manually add the device by tapping 'add device' and following the install and set up steps that follow. Leading brands of smart light bulbs that work with Alexa include:
- Philips Hue
- TP-Link Tapo
- TP-Link Kasa
Smart light bulbs for Google Home
Google doesn't make smart light bulbs, but you can use Google Home to control smart bulbs from other manufacturers. Leading smart bulb brands compatible with Google Home include:
- Philips Hue
- TP-Link Kasa
- TP-Link Tapo
Smart light bulbs for Apple HomeKit
Apple doesn't make smart light bulbs, but you can use Apple HomeKit and Siri to control other makes of smart bulbs. Brands of smart bulbs compatible with Apple HomeKit include:
- Philips Hue
Frequently asked questions
To know more about other types of smart lighting
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