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The pros and cons of app-enabled lighting options

By Maria Kanevsky

The pros and cons of app-enabled lighting options

Out of all the smart home technologies available on the market, smart lighting is one of the easiest and most affordable technologies to integrate into your home. Photo Credit: Philips

Out of all the smart home technologies available on the market, smart lighting is one of the easiest technologies to integrate into your home. Smart lighting can be controlled by voice command, through your smartphone or through a smart home hub (like Amazon Alexa), making them relatively easy to control. They are also among the most affordable smart home devices, starting at about $10 per bulb.

There’s a range of benefits from using smart light bulbs. One of the most useful aspects of smart lighting is the ability to control the lighting while you’re away from home. For example, if you leave for work and forget to turn off the lights at home, you can easily turn them off with a few taps on a smartphone app. Alternatively, if you’re traveling but want to appear as if you’re home, you can turn on your lights at a certain time to create that illusion.

Similarly, many smart lights offer the option for a customizable schedule. Consumers can schedule lighting to turn on or off at certain times of the day depending on their preferences.

To increase safety at home, many smart light bulbs have motion-detection technology that can sense if a person is in the room or nearby. This feature can be programmed to send an alert to your phone when the smart lighting detects an unexpected motion, either inside or outside the home.

Beyond the more practical applications, smart lighting can simply be fun to use. Bulbs are available in a variety of colors and dimming options that can help to set different themes or moods for the room, from an exciting bright white to a calming dim light. Various color temperatures can create different moods and also potentially help with winding down at night and improving sleep quality. Blue light, which mimics daylight, prevents the release of melatonin, an important hormone to feel sleepy. Setting smart lights to warmer colored lights at night can help release melatonin, and therefore lead to a better night’s sleep.

With all the benefits of smart lighting, there is also a higher price tag compared to regular light bulbs. Most smart lighting options on the market use LED light bulbs, which are more expensive but use less energy than traditional incandescent light bulbs and need to be replaced much less often. Incandescent light bulbs cost about $1; however, their life spans are relatively short at around 1,000 hours. LED bulbs typically start at about $2.50 per bulb, but their life spans are almost 25 times longer than incandescent bulbs. Switching from incandescent bulbs to LED smart bulbs can help save energy and money over the long run, despite the higher initial cost.

As a new technology, there are plenty of benefits but also a few potential issues to be aware of before implementing the technology. Some smart light bulbs may have minor technical issues, such as not properly responding to a voice command. However, sticking with reputable brands should ensure a well-functioning light bulb. Another factor to consider is not all smart lighting options are compatible with dimmers since smart bulbs come with their own built-in dimming mechanisms. This could lead to inconsistent lighting between smart and regular bulbs and could cause smart lights to flicker if they clash with the existing dimmer switch. To prevent this, simply avoid placing smart light bulbs in fixtures that already have a dimmer switch.

Before making any purchases, be sure to research which smart lighting options work best for your home.


Maria Kanevsky writes on consumer and cooperative affairs for the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association.

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