7 things you need to know about Smart Bulbs – How Do Smart Bulbs Work?


By Bradly Spicer
Published on: June 21st, 2020

Smart Lights are quite simply the future of lighting, they’re cheaper, have multiple layers of functionality, getting cheaper by the year, and are great for setting the mood.

How do Smart Bulbs work? – To put it simply, Smart lights are just like your normal bulb, except they can be controlled entirely by a voice assistant, Smart Phone, Tablet, Computer, and even a Smart Wall Switch.

If you’re not sure if you should get a Smart Bulb, I’m going to give you 10 reasons as to why you should.

Smart Lights are EXTREMELY easy to set up

Setting up a Smart Light system can be done in around 5-10 minutes if you’ve read up beforehand, once you have it set up it takes no more than a couple of minutes to add additional bulbs.

Simply remove your current bulb and fit the new Smart Bulb, voila, you have Smart Lights! The next step is to set up your wireless connection, this depends purely on how much you spent on your bulbs and if you have a hub.

If you don’t have a hub, you’ll likely be connecting your bulbs via a mesh system where you have one main bulb or using Bluetooth, although, your bulbs will explain which method you’ve got. I highly suggest picking up a hub system, a great starting point is the Sengled Start Pack.

Sengled Smart Bulb and Hub

If you go down the route of LIFX, you won’t need a bridge or hub, but you will be limited to how many bulbs you can add to your WiFi network before you see networking issues.

If you’re looking to connect with a hub, it’s even easier. For example, we use the Philips Hue bridge to set up our Smart Bulbs, the Philips Bridge will work as a middle man between your Philips Hue bulbs and your router.

Once you’ve set up your hub (Simple plug and play), download the hub app (In this example, the Philips Hue App) and get connecting!

What are Smart Bulbs?

Smart Bulbs Guide

Smart Bulbs, like your standard light bulb provide lighting at a variety of different lumens but with the accesibility of being controlled remotely from your phone, voice assistant and Smart Light Switch.

Most Smart bulbs now have dimming capability as a default, this allows you to control the brightness of your bulb without moving. Simply ask your voice assistant “Ok Google, lower living room lights” or “Alexa, turn light brightness down to 2“.

If you pair your Smart Bulb with a Smart Switch, you can have the capability to provide extra features. Some smart bulbs don’t have an app or if they do, it’s lacking in features.

They simply connect to your Smart Assistant and turn on or off, however, with the power of Dimmable Smart Switches you may be able to turn that cheap Smart Bulb into a fully featured Smart bulb with scheduling.

Did you know you can also use Smart Switches to turn your normal bulbs into Smart Bulbs?

How do Smart Bulbs work?

Smart Bulbs as part of the IoT allow you to control them via a multitude of ways, most Smart Bulbs allow you to turn them on or off, dim them or set them on a timer from your Phone, Smart Assistant or on a prior set schedule.

It is worth noting that some of the cheaper Smart Bulb brands only let you control them via a third party Smart Phone app, which is why I always recommend you purchase a starting bundle for any of the major players in the industry.

It’s not necessary for you to have a Smart Home Hub, some of these bulbs work on a system where only one connects to your WiFi and the others simply ‘jump’ or ‘hotspot’ from that main bulb.

The easiest way to understand Smart Bulbs is to think of your standard LED bulb, but for it to fully work it needs access to a Smartphone, Tablet or Voice Assistant along with an internet connection.

If you have a Smart Home Assistant, it may work as a Smart hub to connect either Zigbee or Z-Wave devices, if you have an Amazon Echo Dot (4th Generation onwards) for example, you will be able to use Zigbee compatible device.

I suggest for most beginners to go with the Philips Hue Smart Bulbs or the Sengled Beginner Smart Bulbs whilst they can be an expensive ecosystem to get involved in, they do come with a Bridge (Which is its own system for managing bulbs fluidly).

There are other brands that don’t come with a bridge or hub and require one like the Samsung SmartThings Hub.

What if I use a Wi-Fi Bulb?

Typically a Wi-fi based network of bulbs will cause issues with your connectivity. Routers weren’t designed to hold a standard household of bulbs meaning you’ll likely only be able to add 10 bulbs before your entire internet connection in the house struggles.

What if I use a Zigbee Bulb?

Having a specific hub opens you up to much better connectivity, features and organising your lighting infrastructure. Not to mention most hubs support 5G and have a boosted connection.

Most Smart Bulbs have the ability to connect to any system through the use of a variety of methods, these are Wi-Fi, Z-Wave and ZigBee or Bluetooth.

There’s plenty of ways to weigh up the pros and cons of each, but there’s only one best option and that is likely a Zigbee network.

Whilst you can have backup networks incase the Zigbee network fails, more people tend to just use a SmartHub like Samsung SmartThings to keep their devices at least controllable from home.

There is no better voice assistant just for Smart Lights, so you can pick the Google Home, Amazon Alexa, Apple Siri etc with no worry of not getting the best value.

What can I do with my Smart Bulb?

Thanks to the wonders of Smart Homes, you can get your bulbs to do a ton of different things based on events, triggers and manual control.

Geolocation Smart Bulb Technology – Turn all your lights on or off based on whether or not your Smart Hub detects your home. This is normally done by having your phone connected to your WiFi network or via a Geolocation. A geolocation simply means you’re constantly tracked and as such it will change the status of your lights once you’re in a certain area.

Use Smart Bulb Sensors to trigger lights – If you’re someone who goes in and out of the garage a lot, you may find that a light sensor is just what you need, put a sensor by your door and never forget about the electricity bill again. Your lights will turn on and off based on whether or not it’s detected you entered or exited the room.

Using IFTTT to create custom rules – Whilst I don’t recommend it now due to the pricing, IFTTT allows you to set up your own rules for multiple devices which wouldn’t typically communicate. For example, have ring right down the times and dates it triggered movement into a Google Sheet.

Another example for IFTTT – You can make it so your porch lights turn on when Dominoes sets the delivery to “On its way”. Pretty pointless, but pretty cool!

Once set up, you need not touch these again as they should just work. In 2019, I ran through all my favourite IFTTT, definitely go check that out!

What are the best Smart Bulbs?

There’s a few I pick from, some are hated by others, some loved. But that’s really down to what you need from the market, whether they are dimmable, color-changing or simply very bright. The brands you’ll often see picked out are Philips Hue, Lifx, Hive, Xiaomi and Ikea Tradfri.

There are lots of third party bulbs as well which can be pretty good if you’re feeling adventurous, but I would avoid these if you’re new to Smart Home Automation.

Almost all bulb brands are compatible via Zigbee which means they will work with Smart Home assistants like Amazon Alexa.

If you’re looking for a full run down on which bulbs we recommend, check out my Recommended Smart Home Products.

Which Smart Bulb Technology should I pick?

This depends on your configuration as per above, however, this list of popular brands can be filtered into their respective technology which may help you decide what to use:

Zigbee & Z-Wave

  • Philips Hue
  • Hive Active
  • IKEA Trådfri

Wi-Fi

  • Wiz
  • Cree
  • Eufy
  • Sengled

Bluetooth

  • Philips Hue
  • C by GE


Not sure what to get? Check out our Recommended Smart Bulbs

How much do Smart Bulbs cost?

Smart Bulbs do cost more than your regular bulb, however, you can actually save money with Smart Bulbs.

Most Smart bulbs end up paying themselves off, especially when they are CFL or LED based, this is due to the amount of electricity that you will conserve when using these bulbs. Combine this with scheduling and triggers and you have yourself a much more eco friendly home!

Typically speaking a Smart Bulb will last anywhere between 15,000 to 25,000 hours before breaking. This makes them last a considerably longer time that most standard bulbs on the market.

Most Smart Bulbs cost anywhere between $15 to $50 per bulb, whether it’s a KASA bulb or a Philips Hue, the price will vary based on quality, popularity and reviews.

To conclude…

Having Smart Bulbs and setting them up correctly can save you $1000s in the long run. You can impress your friends, live in comfort and have a much more energy efficient home.

A bulb with diming capabilities can really make you feel at home after a long day at work.

So why not put your feet up and ask Alexa to close your blinds and dim the lights?


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