The Comprehensive Smart Lights Guide For 2021 and Beyond

Every tech-savvy person dreams of setting up a fully functional smart home, complete with efficient smart lighting options. Lighting is essential in every house, and this makes smart lights one of the most important and sought-after aspects of home automation. Installing smart lights replaces traditional light bulbs with smart light bulbs. This is done to make your home more responsive, sustainable, secure, and energy-efficient.

The Common First Step in Home Automation? Smart Lights

Compared to other smart home options like smart locks and intelligent security systems, smart lighting is typically the most affordable to install. This makes it an easy entry point into home automation. The simplicity and usefulness of smart lights have made more people adopt the technology at an increasingly faster rate compared to other smart home upgrades.

In addition to convenience, smart lights have a myriad of other benefits. When installed correctly, their benefits include energy savings, safety, environmental friendliness, security, entertainment, and improved health.

In this guide, we’ll focus on the role of smart lights in home automation, their benefits, and associated smart lighting products and systems as we try to answer questions such as:

  • What are the benefits of installing smart bulbs in my home?
  • What are my smart home lighting product choices?
  • What options do I have with smart bulbs?
  • Should I use smart light switches and smart plugs?
  • What options do I have with smart switches?
  • What options do I have with smart plugs?
  • Should I install a Smart Home Hub?
  • Should I set up smart lighting voice control?
  • Should I use timers, contact sensors, and motion sensors to automate my smart lights?

The Extensive Benefits of Smart Lighting

What benefits do you get from installing smart bulbs in your home? Changing your regular lighting for smart lighting has several benefits: energy savings, convenience, security, and cost savings. Interest in any of these benefits makes installing smart bulbs in your home a solid investment.

Energy Efficiency

Smart lighting systems use CFL or LED technology, which is approximately 75% more energy efficient than traditional energy-saving bulbs. LED lights generate less heat and consume less energy than the traditional incandescent or halogen bulbs.

To improve energy efficiency, some smart light installations are equipped with light and motion sensors. Motion sensors turn on the lights only when there is a person in the room and turn them off when they leave. Light sensors adjust the brightness of the lights depending on the amount of natural light in the room. This is known as daylight harvesting. The lights will dim or switch off on bright days and brighten on dark-gloomy days.

Smart lighting systems without sensors can be programmed to automatically turn on or off or to brighten or dim at different times of the day or night. They can also be programmed to change the temperature at different times of the day.


There is a wide range of smart lights in the market today, with different functionalities meant to serve different people’s needs. You can find the product that that best suits your needs. Depending on the model and use, a smart bulb can last for more years than a traditional bulb. A standard smart LED bulb can last for 15,000 – 25,000 hours while an incandescent bulb can only clock 1,000 – 2,000 hours.

Smart lighting systems can be controlled conveniently using simple voice commands thanks to AI home assistants like Google Assistant, Alexa, and Apple Homekit. You can turn the lights on and off or change the appearance and décor of your house with a voice command or a swipe of your Smartphone. This saves you the time and effort you’d otherwise use moving around the house, switching the lights on or off.

Some smart lights can be programmed to act as light-based alarm clocks. They work by either changing the light intensity of the color when the set time is reached. A change in color or blinking can also be used to notify a ringing doorbell or social media message.

You can program your smart lights to give you better sleep quality by developing a consistent sleep-wake cycle. This entails programming them to dim their brightness in the evening and increase their brightness in the morning. Dim light prompts the release of melatonin, which gives you better sleep quality. A reduction in melanin production due to an increase in brightness in the morning will help you wake up.

Safety and Security

When used as security lights, smart lights equipped with motion sensors can be programmed to send alerts to your phone when they are turned on by unexpected motion. When not at home, you can remotely control the smart lights in your house on your mobile phone to trick burglars into thinking you never left. Vacation-mode lighting will automatically control the lighting in your house to make it look like you are home when you are not.

Smart bulbs produce significantly lower amounts of carbon dioxide emissions compared to traditional incandescent or halogen bulbs. This makes them safer for use and more environmentally friendly than traditional lighting options.

Cost Efficiency

Although smart bulbs are energy efficient and consequently cost-efficient, the initial cost of installing then in your house is high. Over time, the installation cost is offset by the money saved from operating costs. Using energy-efficient LED technology, motion sensors, geolocation on your phone, and programming to dim or turn off the lights when they are not in use saves a lot of electricity, which then saves money.

Smart Lighting Systems and Products

The smart systems and products you use in your home and your approach to setting them up, greatly determine the benefits you will reap from them. In this section of the guide, we focus on smart lighting systems and products.

Should I Install a Smart Home Hub?

When installing a smart lighting system in your home, a smart home hub is likely unnecessary. Often referred to as a smart home bridge, a smart home hub acts as a go-between for smart devices in a smart home network and controls communication. Before digital assistants like Alexa, which is found in popular smart speakers such as Amazon Echo, hubs were essential components of a smart home, but not anymore.

Smart home hubs, however, have sophisticated capabilities that digital assistants cannot provide. While digital assistants are limited to Wi-Fi and cloud-based devices, hubs can control devices using multiple technologies, including ZigBee, Bluetooth, ClearConnect, Z-wave, and Insteon.

You should include a smart home hub to your smart lighting setup if:

  • You want to use motion detection and other sensors to control the smart lights in your home.
  • If you want to expand smart lighting in your home to smart lights, smart switches and smart plugs to multiple rooms
  • If you want to add other smart devices to your smart home networks such as automatic blinds, water sensors or smart door locks

Popular smart home hubs include:

Samsung SmartThings Hub

The Samsung SmartThings hub supports Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, Zigbee, and Z-Wave protocols. It can be controlled using Siri, Google Assistant, and Amazon Alexa voice commands, making it extremely versatile across a range of voice control devices.

This smart home hub is compatible with smart devices from more than 200 companies, including Ring, Phillips Hue, Honeywell, Ecobee, Yale, Schlage, and Kwikset.

See Latest Price

Wink Hub 2

It supports Wi-Fi, Z-Wave, Bluetooth, and Zigbee protocols and can be controlled using Google Assistant, Siri, and Amazon Alexa voice commands. It is compatible with smart devices from several manufacturers, including Yale, Phillips Hue, Ecobee, Chamberlain, Ring, and GE smart light bulbs.

Other Smart Home Hub Options

Other smart hub options include Harmony by Logitech, Insteon Hub from Insteon, VeraLite by Vera, and Almond by Securifi. They also include hybrid systems like Samsung’s SmartThings Wi-Fi and TP-Link Deco M9 Plus.

Smart Lighting Product Choices

After you’ve decided whether or not you need a smart hub in your smart lighting network, you can proceed to select your smart lighting products. Light switches, light bulbs, and outlet plugs all have a place in your smart lighting setup. There are many smart products to choose from, and making the right choice determines if you will enjoy the experience or get frustrated by it.

The guide below should help you make the best choices when installing smart bulbs, smart switches, and smart plugs.

Smart Bulbs

Start your smart lighting project with smart bulbs. It is the fastest, easiest, and cheapest way to add smart lighting to your home. You can get a dimmable white LED bulb for less than $10, making it relatively cheap to put a smart light in every room of your house.

Smart bulbs require that you leave the power source turned on constantly. When smart lighting your home, your focus should be secondary lighting sources like single bulb lamps, recessed lights, and accent lights. When turned on automatically with the help of motion sensors, they can provide enough light to walk through a room.

Primary ceiling lights controlled with a wall switch will eventually get turned off, rendering your smart bulbs useless for home automation and wireless control.

What options do I have with smart bulbs?

You can replace almost every style and size of the bulb you use today with a smart bulb. The challenge comes with selecting the bulb type. Here is a smart lights guide on where you should use various types of smart bulbs:

  • Dimmable White: These are the standard dimmable light bulbs with a fixed temperature. They are then the cheapest smart bulbs in the market.
  • Dimmable and adjustable white bulbs: These are dimmable light bulbs with an adjustable temperature ranging from warm white to cool white. They are more expensive than the standard dimmable white bulbs and are ideal for supporting multiple activities. You can set the lights too bright white to study or work out or warm white for relaxation.
  • Dimmable color: These are dimmable light bulbs with adjustable temperature and a range of color options. They are the most expensive smart bulbs. You can use them in entertainment rooms or for notifications such as doorbells or water alarm.

Installation and setup of smart bulbs

Installing a smart bulb is similar to installing an ordinary bulb, but the complete setup depends on your technology choice. Smart bulbs like Lifx are supported by your Wi-Fi network and do not need a gateway or light hub. They are ideal for small setups that are not critical to the home. Their downside is that their functionality relies on the quality and availability of your Wi-Fi network.

Other smart bulbs like Philips Hue connect to a gateway or light hub included in the starter kit. In this setup, the smart bulbs connect to the hub or gateway on a ZigBee mesh network, and the hub then connects to your home automation controller, smart speakers, or phone through your local area network (LAN) or the cloud. This setup is stable, and the timers, home automation triggers, and triggers continue to operate even when the internet is down.

The Best Smart Light Bulb Options

There are pretty good options for smart light bulbs on the market. Your best bet is a bulb that combines quality, affordability, and integration with other products. Phillips Hue is a good example. It has the most smart-lighting options in the market today. This allows you to expand your lighting options using the same technology and setup.

Philips Hue uses a gateway or light hub that can support up to 50 bulbs and 12 accessories. The hue hub connects to the light bulbs on a ZigBee mesh network. It connects to a home automation controller like Samsung’s SmartThings through your LAN. This means your light bulbs will continue to function with timers, scenes, and home automation triggers even when the internet is down.

The Philips Hue White A19 (4 Pack) offers excellent value if you want to expand smart lighting quickly and cheaply throughout your home. These bulbs work with the Phillips Hue Hub or Bluetooth. The Phillips White and Color Ambience Starter Kit gives you entertainment and visual notifications options. It includes the Philips Hue Hub and 3 or 4 color-changing bulbs.

Smart Light Switches

Smart light switches are a perfect blend of smart and traditional lighting in your home. They are ideal for primary home lighting. These are the primary task lighting in your house and are controlled with wall switches. They include ceiling lights, pendant lights, ceiling fan lights, and chandeliers. Smart switches work like a traditional paddle or toggle light switches on the wall. They can be automated and controlled with a smart speaker or an app. Switching them on and off does not interfere with the automation of your smart lighting system.

When to use smart switches

You do not have to replace all the light switches in your home. Strategic replacements can help you realize your home automation goals. Place smart switches in areas where automation provides value. Places that you should replace traditional switches with the smart alternatives include:

  • Primary rooms – Switches will be used a lot in primary rooms. When traditional switches are switched off, they negate the usefulness of smart bulbs. Smart switches can help you solve this problem.
  • Hallways – In high traffic areas like hallways, you should connect the lights to a motion-triggered switch.
  • Entertainment areas – Ceiling lights are usually in entertainment areas like family rooms, home theatre rooms, and basements. You should have the main lighting in these rooms connected to a smart wall switch. For example, when watching TV, you will want to create a scene by turning off the main ceiling lights, dimming the recessed lights and lamps, and changing their color to blue.
  • Garages – Garages should have a smart switch. The switch can be triggered by a motion sensor or a door contact sensor to turn on the lights when you are in the room and turn them off when you leave.
  • Restrooms – Rooms that must have the lights on when your present like restroom should have a smart switch.

What options do I have with smart switches?

Smart switches are available in two primary options: Dimmer switches and on/off switches.

  1. On/Off Switches – These are ideal for rooms that don’t need dimmings, such as front porch lights and garage lights. They are cheaper than dimmer switches.
  2. Dimmer Switches – These are ideal for primary rooms. They are more expensive than on/off switches but offer more value than traditional dimmer switches. Unlike their traditional counterparts, smart dimmer switches offer automation options. You can dim the smart lights with the switch, an app, a smart speaker, or automation scenes and routines.

 Installation and Setup of Smart Switches

Installing smart switches is similar to installing regular light switches. You can do it yourself or hire professional help to avoid electrocution or damage. Smart switches are larger than regular switches and require a neutral wire at the box. Installing them may prove problematic in some older homes that have two-wire setups and very small switch boxes.

Your primary choices for smart switch technology are ZigBee, Z-Wave, or WI-FI. Wi-Fi is ideal for simple, small installations. ZigBee and Z-Wave devices have to be controlled by a home automation hub like Samsung’s SmartThings. Most smart switches act as repeaters for your mesh network to extend the range of your home controller. This means that your mesh network will be more robust when you use devices on the same technology.

The Best Smart Light Switch

Based on quality, price, and reliability, the GE Z-Wave smart switch is the best choice. GE is a reliable brand that offers excellent value for money, and Z-Wave is a leading smart home technology found in numerous devices. This switch is available in multiple colors, making it blend in easily with the other light switches in your home for a seamless look.

Add automation and dimming options to your existing smart lights with a GE Z-Wave smart lighting dimmer switch. It requires a neutral wire for installation and acts as a Z-Wave repeater that extends the range of your mesh network.

Smart Light Plugs

The smart light plug is the third option for smart home lighting. You simply plug this device into the existing wall outlets of your home and then plug your lamp to turn it into a smart lamp. You can use the smart plug to turn the lamp on and off or dim its light. In addition to lamps, you can also plug in other devices onto the smart plug.

Smart plugs and smart outlets have the same functionality, but smart outlets are more permanent. Smart plugs are smaller, more portable, and are not as difficult to install as smart outlets.

When to Use Smart Light Plugs

Smart light plugs are generally used to supplement smart light bulbs. They are ideal in the following situations:

  • Under Cabinet Lights – Under cabinet light improves the lighting in the kitchen, making navigation easier. You can automate you under cabinet lighting to respond to the motion by adding a smart plug.
  • Multiple light bulb lamps – Smart plugs provide the cheapest option for automating lamps with two or more bulbs.
  • Specialty bulbs and lamps – Smart bulbs are available in many options, but some lamps have sealed or unique bulbs that do not have smart alternatives. Smart plugs provide the best option for automating such lamps.

What options do I have with smart light plugs?

With the ever-increasing options for smart plugs, you can only group them based on size, capability, and function.

  • Size – The size and design of a smart plug should influence your buying decision. If you need several smart outlets in an area, you should buy a multi-outlet plug. When plugging your smart plug to a duplex, you should consider if its size will block the use of the second outlet in the duplex. The size of some plugs will limit the size of the plug that can fit the second outlet in a duplex.
  • Function – Plugs have varying functionalities. All smart plugs can automate the switching on and off of a lamp, but some also have energy monitors or the ability to dim light.
  • Capability – Smart plugs are ideal for controlling indoor lamps, but they can be used to automate any device with simple on and off controls. The ability of a smart plug to control other household devices like microwaves and coffee makers depends on its wattage/amperage. You can use waterproof smart plugs to control outdoor lighting like holiday lights using a smart home controller, smart speaker, or phone.

Smart Plug Installation and Setup

Installation of a smart plug involves plugging it into an ordinary outlet. The setup process involves connecting it to your Wi-Fi network or pairing it to your smart home tub. Your technology choices include Wi-Fi, ZigBee, and Z-Wave. Wi-Fi is ideal for simple setups, while ZigBee and Z-Wave are used with a home hub like Samsung’s SmartThings.

Since they act as repeaters for the ZigBee and Z-Wave mesh networks, you can use them to expand your home controller’s reach for better connectivity.

The Best Smart Light Plug

Samsung’s SmartThings Outlet is one of the best smart plugs in the market today. It has no delay when triggered and can strengthen your network since it also functions as a repeater of the ZigBee mesh network. It requires a home automation hub like Samsung SmartThings Hub to function.       

Voice Control and Automation in Smart Lighting

To experience the benefits of smart lighting, you must set up the smart products in the most efficient way. Automation and voice control are the most efficient ways to control your smart lights.

Smart Lighting Voice Control

Voice control of smart lights makes use of virtual digital assistants that use speech recognition technology to understand and respond to voice commands. The most common virtual digital assistants are Google Home Assistant, Apple Homekit/Siri, and Amazon Alexa.

Commonly used devices that respond to voice commands are smart speakers like Amazon Echo and Google Home. Smart speakers are useful devices on their own, but their true potential is realized when integrated into your smart home. Smart speakers are quite affordable with some devices like the Amazon Echo Dot retailing for as little as $25 each.

Voice control requires structured voice commands and advanced configuration. For example, Amazon Alexa has a feature called “Smart Home Groups” that allows users to organize and group smart lights into appropriate groups for easy control. This can be challenging in a large multi-room installation, but voice control technology is continually improving with time.

Situations when voice control of smart lights is useful to include:

  • When you are getting into the house with your arms full
  • When you can’t find the light switch in the dark
  • When you are sick in bed
  • When you don’t want your kids or guests fiddling with your controls
  • When you get back from work tired
  • When you are occupied with a task like cleaning, cooking, painting or feeding your child

Smart Lighting Automation

Lighting automation is better than using an app to control your smart lights from your phone or voice control with a smart speaker. It provides the benefits of energy savings, convenience, and security. You can fully automate the smart lighting in your home with a home automation hub like Samsung’s SmartThings.

To automate your lighting, you need:

  • Smart light bulbs, plugs or switches
  • A trigger for the lights
  • A controller that defines what happens after the trigger

After selecting the right bulbs, plugs, and switches for your smart lighting, the next step in automation is choosing the most suitable trigger. The primary Light automation triggers include:

  1. Contact sensor – Used primarily on doors to turn lights on and off when the door is closed or opened
  2. Motion sensor – These turn lights on and off in response to the motion
  3. Time-based triggers – These are ideal for dusk to dawn lights. They can be used to improve the functionality of motion and contact sensors.

The smart home controller allows you to set what happens after a trigger by creating an “IF this THEN that” logic. For example, IF the security motion sensor is triggered, THEN turn the security lights on. You can use the home automation controller to create the automation routines that suit your needs. The controller works with a lot of devices and can function even when your internet is down.

The three main elements to consider when automating your lighting are primary lighting automation, secondary lighting automation, and lighting scenes.

Primary Lighting Automation – Ceiling fan lights, ceiling lights, chandeliers

Primary lights are usually located on the ceiling in relaxation areas, areas of work, kitchens, pathways, and outdoor areas. These lights are very bright and are controlled by a switch. Automating your primary home lighting should depend on the room. However, primary rooms should not play a significant role in your motion-based lighting automation.

Do not automate primary lights to turn on when motion is detected. Instead, automate them to turn off when motion is not detected. For outdoor areas, automate the primary lights to turn on based on timers.

Secondary Lighting Automation – Lamps, recessed lights, under-cabinet lights

Secondary light automation should be based on motion. This is because secondary lights do not blast you with bright lights, which can be loud and irritating. They only give off enough light to help you see. Secondary lights include lamps, recessed lights, and under-cabinet lights.

Lighting Scenes – A combination of lights set for a particular purpose or mood

Scenes are a combination of lights set for a particular activity. They involve controlling both primary and secondary lights to produce a preferred color and brightness that serves a purpose or creates a mood. Each scene involves several actions of controlling multiple switches, which would be greatly inconveniencing if performed individually. Having all these actions performed in a single command is the pinnacle of convenience.

Lighting scenes include relaxing lighting, TV lighting, and work lighting.

Our Final Thoughts on Smart Lights

Smart lighting provides convenience, security, and saves energy and money. However, when poorly implemented, it can be costly and ineffective. Use this guide to help you choose the right bulbs, switches, or plugs and integrate them into an automated smart lighting system.

Additional Home Automation Resources

Interested in getting more information about home automation, including deep dives into specific smart lights and other automation options for your home? If so, you may be interested in the Home Automation Network mailing list. We won’t spam you, and we don’t sell your data. That’s a promise.