Lights, Action: How To Set Up A Smart Lighting System That Changes Your Home
Caeva O'Callaghan | January 22nd, 2020
Smart lighting is not only a way to make your home more secure, it also makes everyday living easier: from working to entertaining to relaxing.
If your home has an internet connection, you can install smart lights easily – swapping out your bulbs or by replacing entire fittings – and interact with them via apps on your phone, or with voice assistants such as Alexa or Google Home.
Then, you can able to switch lights on or off, change the colour or temperature of the light, and automate a schedule without ever touching the switch.
Before you buy, there are various things to consider when choosing smart lights.
First, identify your goal
The smart lights you purchase will ultimately depend on what you want to accomplish in your home. With so many options available on the market, this could mean anything from making your home more secure while you’re on holiday to creating a sci-fi home of the future.
When identifying your goal, also take into consideration smart accessories you might purchase in the future.
For example, if your goal is to wake up refreshed and well rested and you want a smart light that simulates a sunrise, you might want to pick one that integrates easily with those more expensive smart blinds you might buy down the line.
But if you’re just looking for a porch light that you can switch on remotely for security and access, you can pare things back a little.
Choose the kind of bulbs you need
Will you need strip lights or spotlights? Bulbs or lamps? Smart lights can be installed in existing fixtures, but may not be compatible with older ones.
Like normal bulbs, most smart lights now come with screw and Edison (bayonet) caps, so double-check before you buy.
It’s also worth noting that because smart lights are modern LED’s and can be dimmed via the app, they do not work with traditional dimmer switches and you may hear a slight buzzing from your switch if you install a bulb and don’t set the dimmer to maximum.
This is not harmful, but can be a little annoying, so you might want to swap out the switch.
Start small – go big later
If you’re just starting out with smart lights, it’s a good idea to purchase one bulb from a well-known company, and see how you go.
This is down to a few reasons, including expense. If your goal is a smart home, you don’t want to invest a lot of money in one system only for it to go wrong later on. You might hate the app, or it might not work with the accessories or voice assistants you want.
There are many low-cost smart lights available from smaller companies on marketplaces like eBay or Amazon. These are tempting, but are often far lower quality and you run the risk of having less support.
Decide on a hub – or no hub
Some smart lighting systems, such as Philips Hue and IKEA, work via a central wireless hub. The app or your voice assistant talks to the hub, which then controls all the lights.
This is usually a less expensive option, as most of the smart technology is contained within the hub, but it does mean there are more devices to set up at the outset.
You can also purchase bulbs that, while more expensive, don’t require you to install an additional hub. This means the light itself is connected to your internet, and talks to the app as well as functioning as a light.
This may be dictated by your long-term ambitions – if you’re just installing one or two bulbs, the latter technology is fine. But if you’re building out a fully integrated smart home, it’s best to invest in the hub as the cost of expansion will be minimal.
Install your smart lights
Your lights should come with comprehensive instructions, but if you’re not tech-savvy or need a bird’s eye view it can be helpful to know the broad steps involved.
Before you begin, make sure your internet is on and you have your smartphone and your wifi password handy.
Bear in mind many smart devices connect to 2.4GHz networks, which may have a different username and password to the one you use for phone and internet. These can usually be found on the bottom of your router.
If you’ve chosen smart lighting with a hub, this is normally installed first: plug it in and switch it on, then download any necessary apps to your phone.
Finding the hub on your phone is usually done either via Bluetooth or your wifi, so you may be asked to enter your password.
Once your hub is up and running, install your lights. This should be just like swapping out a normal bulb. Switch it on, and follow the instructions to let your hub or smartphone find the lights.
Once your app has confirmed the light is working, you’ll be able to control it. Setting up your smart light with your voice assistant should be straightforward, so look to these services for more information.
Finally: a note on accessibility for your loved ones
Smart lights are changing the world for many people. If you have elderly relatives or loved ones who find flipping a physical switch difficult because of visual and/or motor delays, turning the lights on with their voice might help save trips and falls, giving them dignity and independence as well as safety.
Apps have improved in recent years, but still may not be a feasible way of turning on the lights for some people. In this case, it might be a good idea to purchase a separate voice assistant such as Google Home or Alexa, and ensure the smart lights are compatible.
Smart lights are a great solution which can improve everyone’s lives, but finding the right one for you isn’t always easy with so many options on the market. Which one you go for will depend on what you want to do with it, and how much you’re willing to spend.
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