When considering what inventions have made the biggest impact over the past 150 years, it’s hard to discount the simple light bulb. While it may be easy to take for granted, electric lighting has completely transformed the way we illuminate our homes, businesses, and streets in a safer more reliable way. During the 19th and 20th centuries, we saw incremental changes, but in the 21st century there has been an evolution in the design and technology. If we rewind just 10 years, what is possible with lighting today would seem like science fiction.
What is smart lighting?
Controlling conventional light bulbs is nothing new, you control them by flipping a switch on and off. Sometimes they are hardwired into a dimmer switch, knob, or slider, allowing you to dim or brighten them. However, this is typically the extent of the functionality you get with traditional home lighting.
Smart lighting gives you far more control over your lights. They are still connected to your home’s power, but each smart bulb, outlet, switch, or integrated fixture allows you to control it wirelessly with your phone, tablet, or smart assistant, such as Alex, Siri, or Google Assistant.
Benefits of Smart Lighting
While the ability to turn the lights on or off, or dim them is clear, there are countless other benefits as well. Once you realize the potential, you can start to dream up solutions that can make a big impact in your home. Below are some examples:
-One of our favorite solutions is what we have coined the “Kevin McCallister” mode. In Home Alone, Kevin had to rig a set of pulleys to make it appear people were home and partying to confuse the Wet Bandits. With smart lighting, you can schedule lights in different parts of your home to turn on or off at predetermined times. Imagine you’re traveling, but as it gets dark the kitchen lights turn on, as the evening progresses, lights in bedrooms turn on for pre-set durations then off again, giving the illusion that people are home.
-By utilizing motion sensors, you can trigger lights to turn on in low traffic areas. In my house for example, at the bottom of our basement stairs we have a small common area, a sensor here triggers the light to turn on and if it doesn’t sense motion for 5 minutes, it turns back off. This is great for saving energy, plus my kids never have to worry about walking into a dark basement.
-Another personal example is our daughter’s room. The bedtime routine was always painful so I installed a smart bulb in her lamp, and programmed it along with an Alexa so that when she would say “Alexa, night night” the light would dim from 50% to 0% steadily over 10 minutes while soft music played. Adding this routine lead to better nights sleep for everyone!
Bulbs, Wall Switches, or Outlets
There are many ways that you can incorporate smart lighting into your home that fit any budget. The most versatile with minimal maintenance would be replacing the switches, with this solution, wall switches are strategically swapped out with a new smart switch that supports internet or hub connectivity. This is ideal for rooms that have a lot of can lights vs attempting to control lamps. You still retain the wall switch functionality, however, you can also control them via voice or app. Our go to solution is via Lutron, the image below is the pro dimmer that offers great aesthetics as well as functionality.
Smart bulbs are a great way to start incorporating smart lighting. Not all bulbs are created equal however, if you go with the cheapest solution, you’ll likely have connectivity issues that can lead to frustration. One of our favorite brands is Sengled, they have multiple bulb solutions in standard white or RGB (multi-color) so you can adjust lighting colors as well. There are WiFi options, but we prefer the Zwave models, they tend to be more reliable. Many Amazon Echo devices have a built in Zwave hub, so controlling the lights via Alexa using your voice or the app is super easy!
Outlets are great for lamps that have bulbs that can’t be swapped, LED strips, or other non-connected lights like Christmas lights. A fun automation is “Alexa, Merry Christmas” then you can program the Christmas tree to turn on and you favorite holiday music can start playing.
This is the tip of the iceberg of what is possible with smart lighting, if you’re interested in learning more contact us and one of our experts can provide guidance on what may work for you.