Smart Bulbs Explained: How Do Smart Light Bulbs Work?
Read Time: 5 mins
With changing technology and the growing popularity of automation in everyday life, even homes and offices have got an upgrade. The way of life has become more efficient and in this venture, smart bulbs and lighting have become extremely popular. You may have heard of smart bulbs and other smart home devices being sold in the market. But what is a smart bulb and how does it work? The following article will attempt to explain.
What Are Smart Bulbs?
Smart bulbs, to put it simply, are lighting fixtures that can be controlled wirelessly. These are different from regular bulbs as you can eliminate the need to control them manually. With a smart bulb, you can control it using a remote or through a mobile device. If the bulb is dimmable, you can also control the brightness with ease and without lifting anything more than a finger.
Smart bulbs, when paired with the right smart switches can also be intelligent enough to come on when you schedule them. You can trigger scenes, create customized settings and also schedule for the smart bulb to come on at a specified time in the day. It is a truly efficient and smart way of living. You do not have to bother with getting out of the comfort of your blanket just to turn off the lights, or even turn back from the airport simply because you cannot remember if you turned off the lights or not.
How Do They Work?
A smart bulb also works as a regular, standard bulb. But for it to work you need a smartphone, a tablet or a mobile device of some kind. In most cases, you will require a home automation hub that will allow you to operate the smart bulb wirelessly. Most home automation hubs use communication standards like Bluetooth, Wi-Fi, Z-Wave or ZigBee. The automation hub can then be connected to through an app on your mobile device, tablet or PC.
A few brands may also require you to invest in a special gateway to get the best wireless use. This is typically a separate box that needs to be bought separately and which is able to communicate with the smart bulb and give it commands. For example, the Philips smart bulbs typically work with Philips Hue Bridge. Other brands like Lutron Caseta require you to invest in Smart Bridge, which enables you to use their line of switches and other smart devices.
With a smart bulb, you can connect to the system using multiple methods — Wi-Fi, Bluetooth or Z-Wave and ZigBee networks. This gives you more reliable performance and provides a backup in case one mode of connection fails. Most people who are inching towards building a smart home tend to go with a home automation system like SmartThings or Nest to make their smart bulbs and other smart devices more efficient. You can also choose to use voice-activated systems like Google Home, Amazon Alexa, etc. to control the smart bulb. Each company and smart bulb manufacturer, however, has its own requirements when it comes to hubs that are compatible.
What Can a Smart Bulb Do?
The benefits of using a home automation system are that you can connect your smart bulb to a number of other events or devices in your home. For example, you can program the lights to come on when somebody enters the room or when somebody rings the intercom. It also allows you to control your smart bulb when you are away from home.
You can create several different ‘If This Then That’ events to trigger scenes and events based on your preferences. For example, if the clock strikes 6 pm, then the porch lights should come on automatically. You can create a system that works for you and makes your home truly smart, even if the bulb is outdoors! Once set, the devices hardly need any further instructions unless there is a problem in the network.
The Best Smart Bulb Brands
There are several smart bulb brands available in the market. You can pick dimmable bulbs or even smart bulbs that change color! Some of the best brands include Philips Hue, Lifx, Hive Active, Xiaomi and IKEA. Most smart bulb brands are compatible with Alexa but they might require a hub that also supports Alexa. Having said that, ZigBee products typically connect to Alexa directly and do not require a hub to mediate.
In a nutshell, however, there are three types of smart bulbs:
- The ones that use ZigBee or Z-Wave: Brands like Philips Hue, Hive Active Lighting, IKEA Trådfri, etc.
- The ones that use Wi-Fi: Brands like Wiz, Cree, Eufy, etc.
- The ones that use Bluetooth: C by GE is a popular brand that comes to mind.
Smart Bulbs and the Cost
Smart bulbs may be more expensive than a regular, standard bulb. But in the long term, they are bound to make your home more energy efficient. The long-term costs of using a smart bulb may even out the initial cost as they do manage to conserve more electricity, especially if you use a CFL or LED bulb. But this may take a while.
Smart bulbs can also last for a long time as compared to standard bulbs. When used efficiently, they can last for anywhere between 15,000 hours to 25,000 hours.
Things to Know before Buying
There are several ways in which you can connect to your smart bulb. But it is important to remember that you can access or control the smart bulb even when you are away from home only if you are connected to it through a home automation system.
If you choose to control the bulb through Bluetooth, you can only control it within the Bluetooth range. The further you move, the weaker the connection gets. Similarly, if are controlling the device through your Wi-Fi connection, its performance may also get affected by how many other devices are connected to the network. If there are too many devices stretching the Wi-Fi’s bandwidth, the performance of the smart bulb will be affected. If the internet stops working for some reason, the smart bulbs also will lose connection.
It is only with a Z-wave or Zigbee hub that you do not have to rely on Wi-Fi or Bluetooth. You can also control the smart bulbs when you are away from home using the certified hubs and any mobile device that has the app.
With a smart bulb and the right home automation system, you can create a truly smart and intelligent home that does not require you to spend more energy than is needed. You can get a whole intelligent system that ensures your home is energy efficient and you get the most comfortable and smart setting to live or work in. A single smart bulb can elevate your home or room.
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