Is Smart Lighting worth it?

Smart technology dominates our day to day lives. For the majority of people, smartphones have become an extension of the body and we are never too far from the nearest Wi-Fi hotspot. Therefore, it was only a matter of time before this type of technology made its way into other areas, for example lighting. More and more people are choosing to replace their standard incandescent bulbs with smart LED bulbs, or opting to install smart switches. Smart lighting may be on the rise but is it actually worth it? Smart lighting comes in many different forms, including smart bulbs, switches, plugs and outlets. Each type have their own respective strengths and weaknesses which should be considered prior to making a decision.

Smart Bulbs

When you think of smart lighting, the first thing that comes to mind are smart bulbs. These are LED bulbs which can be installed like any other type of bulb but have the ability to connect with other smart devices, usually through Bluetooth, Wi-Fi or ZigBee. This allows users the ability to control these bulbs using their tablet or smartphones. Features vary across different products but usually include things like dimming, colour change, automatic operation and even reaction to music. More premium features can include music playback, motion tracking and built in cameras. The use of smart bulbs is probably the easiest and quickest way to introduce smart lighting into your home. LED bulbs have dropped in price quite dramatically in recent years and are now much more affordable. This is especially beneficial when considering outfitting the entire home with smart bulbs. Even if prices are high, LEDs tend to be an extremely good investment as they are exceptionally energy efficient and last for a long time In terms of drawbacks, there are a few that should be considered. Not all smart bulbs can connect directly with other devices, some require a hub to act as a middle man. Another issue to keep in mind is that the majority of smart bulbs use E-shape screw in bases and therefore won't be appropriate for all types of fixture. Furthermore, the bulbs will only work when the light is switched on.

Smart Switches

Some people prefer to bypass the whole idea of bulbs and replace their light switches instead. This approach definitely requires more effort and you may need to bring in an expert if you don't feel comfortable working with wiring. As with smart bulbs, smart switches can either connect directly with your devices or may need a hub to bridge the gap. The main benefit of smart switches is that they can be used to control any type of bulb. This is a plus for those who prefer incandescent of fluorescent bulbs over LEDs. Unfortunately, smart switches offer a limited approach in terms of features when compared with smart bulbs. Usually the switches can control whether the light is on or off and possibly the light intensity but that is it. Therefore, users who are looking for more dramatic controls such as colours and music, should avoid the switch approach. Another drawback to keep in mind is that smart switches tend to be a much more expensive option, especially if you want to modify your entire home.

Smart Outlets/Plugs

Interestingly, smart plugs have been around for quite a while, long before smartphones were the juggernaut they are today. Back in the past they were bulky and their 'smart' capabilities were reduced to interacting with a timer. As you can imagine, the technology has become much more sophisticated and now customers can choose to replace their entire outlet with a smart counterpart. This means users can control whatever device is plugged in, allowing them to switch it on or off remotely. You can even create timed profiles for certain devices, for example have the lights come on 5 minutes before arriving home. Smart outlets and plugs can be an extremely versatile option as they can be used to control whatever is plugged in, not just lighting (although this is often the case). Also, smart plugs specifically, don't require any installation and can be used straight out of the box. Although they can be used with lamps, smart plugs and outlets cannot be used with hardwired lights and therefore are fairly limited when it comes to overall lighting control. If you are looking to install smart outlets, the process can be fairly complex and again you may need an expert to help you. In terms of cost, these type of plugs and outlets do tend to set you back more than when compared with smart bulbs. There are still issues surrounding smart lighting, including pricing, installation and connectivity. That being said, smart technology is here to stay and it's likely that as costs are reduced, more and more households will adopt these devices.