In the past, the ability to easily control lights within the home has been fairly rudimentary. You flipped a switch on or off. Perhaps you had a dimmer switch. To turn lights on when you were on vacation, you plugged a lamp into a gadget with a dial, and the timer turned the lamp on and off. Today, consumers have more options.
The growing use of LED bulbs and the proliferation of smartphones and Wi-Fi have brought lighting to a new level. In addition to using less energy, many LEDs can be controlled from a smartphone app, making the LED more of a consumer electronic than a lightbulb.
When shopping for new LEDs, you essentially have two options.
A less expensive LED still offers longer life, lower energy use and will work for most fixtures. However, consumers with older dimmer switches often find they must replace switches to work with newer LEDs.
The second and more expensive option is a “connected” LED. These LEDs offer sophisticated features that allow controlling lights remotely from a smartphone app or via voice control through an in-home speaker. They can also be connected to a home security system or dimmed to enhance entertaining.
Connected LEDs require a central controller or hub, such as Amazon’s Alexa or Apple HomeKit. The hub can control other smart devices and become the center of a smart home system.
When buying connected LEDs, consumers can choose from a variety of manufacturers. Some bulbs are compatible with different hubs or systems. If you’re planning a major overhaul to your home lighting, it’s best to buy one brand and stick with it.
Smart lighting options aren’t necessarily about saving energy, but if they can help you remember to turn the light off when you are not in a room, a small amount of savings can be achieved.
As technology advances, more smart home products will become available. Many will include features that focus on home security and quality of life.
If you are interested in smart technologies for your home, the key is to research your options and understand how the system works with other devices in your home.