smart lights - Small Living room with red and blue lighting

Expensive smart home gadgets are still niche and of limited use. Smart lights, on the other hand, are useful to just about everyone.

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If you can screw in a light bulb, you can set up smart lights

Smart speakers like the Amazon Echo and Google Home have brought the dream of a fully automated smart home closer to reality more than ever before. Yet, one question hangs in the air: Do you even need a smart home?

You could get a video doorbell that shows you who’s at the door. But maybe people don’t come to your door that often. You could get a smart thermostat and let it adjust your AC automatically. But maybe your basic, programmable thermostat does the job just fine.

Most smart home gadgets, no matter how useful, tend to appeal to a subset of people, but smart lights are a different story. If you’re frequently moving from the couch to turn off a light or forgot you left the lights on in a room hours later, it’s easy to imagine how smart lights can improve your life. To nudge your imagination, though, here are a few key benefits.

Controlling lights with your voice (or an app) just makes sense

With traditional light switches, you can only turn your lights on and off from one, maybe two spots in a room, and only if you have a free hand. It’s an inconvenience we’ve learned to live with, but there’s an even better way that goes beyond controlling smart lights through your phone. When paired with a voice-controlled smart speaker, the smart lights reach another level.

Walking into a room and your hands are full? Turn the lights on with a voice command. Sitting on the couch and want to turn off the overhead lights? Turn them off with a voice command. Best of all, you can crawl into bed and turn them off once you’re nice and cosy under the covers. When you’re free from the switch, it’s immediately obvious how much voice-controlled lights, again, make a lot of sense.

It even frees you to turn off lights in rooms you’re not in. In the old days, if you remembered leaving the lights on downstairs, you would have to stop what you were doing, run down the stairs, flip the switch and trudge back up. With a cheap smart speaker in your bedroom or even the voice assistant on some phones, you can control any light in the house without going anywhere.

If you want to put in a little extra effort, Mr Clauser also suggests automating your lighting tasks. If there are lights you turn on and off at around the same time every day, you can schedule those actions with smart lights, he explained.

I have my porch light on a dusk-to-dawn schedule, with the light brightness automatically fading up and down as the daylight changes. I also like using motion sensors together with smart lights, so when I walk into a room, the lights automatically turn on and will turn off again after a set amount of time without motion going by.

The apps on your phone for Philips Hue or LIFX can set schedules, but if you want to automatically turn on lights when you enter a room, you’ll need to buy a motion sensor. Philips Hue, for example, sells its own, or you can get a slightly cheaper one with the Samsung SmartThings platform.

Worry about brightness and colour, not wires

If you’re lucky, the light switches in your home might be wired with a dimming switch. If not, your only option to dim your lights would be to pull the switch out of the wall and rewire it or call someone who could. With the smart bulbs, you can adjust the brightness and even change colours with your phone or by voice command, all without complex installation. As Mr Clauser pointed out, this gives you a high degree of flexibility to redecorate your home:

I love transforming the look of a room by just changing the colour of the lighting, he said. Sometimes around holidays I place accent lights in corners and adjust the colours to suit the holiday. For regular days, I may adjust the tone of white for a more relaxing or warmer feel, and then brighten it up if I’m doing something that needs more attention, like cooking.

You can also set up scenes in the app for different activities, such as preferred colour and tone for reading and a different one for entertaining. Sometimes you just want a red room for a little while. Since LED bulbs last so long, with a standard soft white bulb, you’ll be stuck with that one colour for ten years or more. With a colour-changing bulb, you can have a new look every time you open the smartphone app.

Using the same bright, abrasive lights in the evening that you use during the day can throw off your circadian rhythms. Here, smart lights have the potential to dramatically improve your life. You can set your lights to automatically dim or turn off completely during the evening, or set them to ease you into another light for the morning. The cool, blue colours closely match the light of the sun and are ideal during the day, while warmer, more orange colours, like the colours that incandescent light bulbs emit, are ideal for the evening. Smart lights can automatically adjust between colour temperatures, that way your eyes are always comfortable and it’s easier to fall asleep at night.

Also, full-colour bulbs provide extra fun as decorations for your home. Need some Halloween decorations? Accent the lights to purple or orange to get in a spooky spirit, then as Christmas rolls around, switch to a green and red colour scheme. With the push of a button, you can transform the look of your home without hanging a single decoration.

Once you have smart lights in your home, it’s tempting to move on to hooking your thermostat, your doorbell or even your microwave up to the internet. Even if you don’t and believe us, you don’t have to smart lights are genuinely useful for just about everyone.

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