Bright ideas for smart home lighting


At its heart, smart home lighting covers a range of bulbs, controls and lighting systems that are
programmable through an app on a mobile device, computer or smart speaker.

Many smart lighting systems can be controlled through smart speakers like the Amazon Echo
shown here. courtesy of Amazon

Smart lighting can do more than just turn on and off at the right time. Some smart lighting
systems can dim at various times. Some can be connected to a sensor or motion detector so
that a light goes on when a door is opened, or someone enters a room. Some smart lighting
systems can change color so you can set up a holiday light show indoors or outdoors. It can also
be practical, providing lighting that matches sunlight during the day and is more relaxing in the
evening. You may even be able to play music directly from the bulb!

In most cases, you control smart lighting through your home Wi-Fi. You can communicate to
individual smart bulbs or to a hub that, in turn, controls individual bulbs. In some cases, you can
use Bluetooth on your phone to control smart lighting, but you’ll need to be within range of the
bulb or hub. Smart lighting can also be used outdoors, but the range of your control device
could limit this approach.

If the smart bulbs are the type that connect through a hub or directly to your Wi-Fi network,

Smart lighting systems that run through a hub, like the Philips Hue shown here, can control all the lighting inside and outside your home. courtesy of Philips

you should be able to control them via smart speakers like Google Home, Amazon Echo or
Apple HomePod, and remotely through the internet or your smartphone. While a hub-based
system is more expensive, it allows lights to be grouped by floor or room, and also uses less
bandwidth on your network than running many separate bulbs. Some hub kits also allow you to
use regular bulbs instead of requiring more-expensive smart bulbs, which could save you

Will smart lighting save energy? That depends on how you light your home and control your
lighting. If you use smart lighting to turn lights off when they aren’t needed, like when rooms
are empty or no one’s home, or to reduce the wattage, you will save energy.
How much energy can you save? Lighting accounts for about 6% of electricity use in the average
home, which means your total cost for all the lighting in your home might only be $100 per
year. If you have some high-wattage bulbs that are on for long periods of time every day, your
lighting use could be significantly higher than average.

Investments in smart lighting are not likely to pay back as quickly as some energy efficiency
measures that control heating or air conditioning. Smart bulbs are more expensive than typical
LED bulbs, ranging from $15 to $80, and a hub can cost up to $125, so it could take a long time
to make your money back. Chances are, you’re better off investing in smart lighting more for
the features than the energy savings.

One alternative to smart lighting is smart wall outlets or wall switches. For example, you can

Wall-mounted smart tile lights, like the ones from Lifx shown here, can add mood lighting to your room. Courtesy of LIFX

plug a lamp with a standard bulb into a smart wall outlet, or you can have several lights wired
to one smart switch. The downside to smart switches and outlets is that installation could be
more challenging, and you may not have as many options and features that come with smart
Another strategy for smart lighting that has been around for a long time and is reasonably
priced is to use occupancy sensors, motion sensors or timers as control devices.

The wide number of options and costs makes it difficult to select the best smart lighting for
your situation. We suggest you do the research to make sure it’s worth your time and money to
make the change.

This column was co-written by Pat Keegan and Brad Thiessen of Collaborative Efficiency. For
more information on smart lighting, please visit: