Strategies for Smart Home Lighting Projects
Perhaps you have decided to tackle your home lighting as part of your Smart Home project. Before starting, there are a couple of strategies to consider that will have substantial impacts on the overall cost and the ease of use for you, your family and guests.
One method of Smart Home lighting is to have the bulbs themselves be “Smart”. This means that each and every bulb under Smart Home control is connected to the home network and is individually controllable. Typically these bulbs can produce different colors on command, and are dimmable which can create many different room ambiances. On the downside, this is probably the most expensive route to Smart Home lighting due to the relatively high cost of each bulb. For example, Phillips Hue Smart color bulbs cost about $50 each. Another important thing to consider about Smart bulbs is that in order to use them, ALL of the bulbs on a given light switch have to be smart bulbs to work properly. So, if you turn on the kitchen lights and there are 8 bulbs that come on, all 8 of those would have to be replaced with Smart Bulbs. Also, from an ease of use perspective for the bulbs to work, the physical switch(es) have to be in the ON position, otherwise there is no power to the bulbs and your smartphone won’t be able to control them. That’s why the smart bulb approach is often used in smaller specific applications like the outdoor porch lights, individual lamps or in a specific room where you want to set a special mood.
The second approach uses a Smart Switch and regular bulbs. You may have taken some steps in this direction already by installing a manual dimmer switch in the dining room or perhaps a timer on a lamp or outdoor lights. With the Smart switch approach, the standard light switch is replaced with a Smart switch enabling on/off and often dimming control over all the bulbs controlled by that switch. It is important to note that not all bulb types are dimmable so it might be time to go shopping for some new low energy dimmable LED bulbs at the same time. While this is a much more cost effective way to approach Smart lighting, it does require some electrical skills that some may not be comfortable with. Any electrician can do this work though, so looking over his/her shoulder and reading the directions might give you the confidence to try this yourself as you grow your Smart Home.
There is an extensive, yet simple chapter in the “How to Make Your Home a Smart Home” book devoted to lighting solutions that also includes how to handle rooms that have more than one light switch to turn the lights on and off, different wiring types and how to identify and navigate your situation, and even how to buy an LED bulb that will be right for you to match your current lighting so that you can slowly migrate from whatever your current bulb selection is.