What to Know About Smart Light Bulbs

Smart light bulbs enable you to easily set the lighting mood in your home with dimming, color changes and automation features.

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What are Smart Light Bulbs?

Smart light bulbs are wirelessly-controlled bulbs that give you some cool and useful new options for customizing the lighting in your home. You can control them with a smartphone app, smart light switches, or with voice commands via smart home assistants like Alexa or Google Assistant. And they’re designed to screw right into your existing lamps and fixtures, just like standard bulbs.

Dimming

All smart bulbs can be dimmed. As lighting connoisseurs already know, dimming capability provides a wide range of options to set the mood in a space with a single bulb or light fixture. But now, smart bulbs and digital control offer even more remote and automated options. If low-level dimming is important to you, Philips Hue smart bulbs will go lower than Wyze smart bulbs (an otherwise excellent value) before reaching the bottom end of their dimming capability.

Color Changes

The ranges of color-changing smart bulbs are commonly defined by a unit of measure called Kelvin (K). Yes, that’s also a unit of measure for heat, and yes they are related — check out black body radiation if you’re curious how it relates to the color of stars! Or, for a more practical explanation of how different colors of light may look in your house, check out this handy summary of color temperature, by Westinghouse.

Smart bulbs commonly range from matching old-school warm yellow incandescent light bulbs at around 3000-4000K to up to 5000-6500K, which mimics pure white daylight with a blue tint at the upper end.

RGB bulbs like Philips Hue White and Color Ambiance even can be set to the full spectrum of thousands of color combinations if you want to really make an impression. Set your bulbs to warmer colors for a relaxing evening or to promote melatonin production a couple of hours before bedtime. Choose colors in the higher daylight range for daytime reading, working spaces or to let in a little happier light on a rainy day.

Smart Controls and Automation

This is where the magic happens! With the free apps provided by the makers of your chosen light bulb, you can set up creative automated lighting solutions using sensors, custom scenes and scheduling.

Wyze Sense motion sensors are ridiculously cheap. They work great for automatically lighting your path to the laundry room or in stairwells, and Wyze’s Sense contact sensors can turn on the lights when you open a door. Automated lights can be particularly helpful for the elderly or those with mobility challenges.

With multiple smart bulbs, you can set up custom lighting scenes throughout your house — perfectly illuminating your reading nook, say, or dimming the lights for movie-watching or a party. You can also schedule your bedroom lights to wake you like a sunrise, or turn on for your morning routine and turn off when you leave for work.

Voice Control

By adding voice control, ecosystems such as Google Assistant, Amazon Alexa or Apple HomeKit can ramp up your home lighting game even further. This technology can offer life-changing conveniences for the elderly or anyone with mobility or vision challenges. If you’ve ever dreamed of turning off all the lights in your house on the way out the door with a single command, or turning them on when you arrive, here’s your chance!

Note before buying: If you have grand plans to automate your whole home, do your research first before committing to a specific smart home control ecosystem, because not all smart light bulbs work with every system.

Nick Wiesneski
As a writer, handyman, and general Renaissance guy, I draw on my broad set of skills and experiences to bring clarity to my writing. I enjoy putting my skills to use for good, helping people, and solving hard problems.​ I live in Saint Paul, Minnesota, and enjoy finding big and small adventures with my wife and two daughters. I recharge my batteries with fresh air and exploration of the great outdoors by foot, or boat, or four-wheel-drive. Personally and professionally, I try to leave it better than I found it.