Smart Lighting: What You Need to Know
Smart lighting is the all-powerful new technology which is dominating interior design in modern homes. You can control lights with your voice, your phone or even a simple clap - and everyone wants a piece of the action. With so much smart lighting out there on the market, how do you know if it is worth it, and whether it's right for you? Here is everything that you need to know about smart lighting.
What exactly is smart lighting?
Smart lighting is a type of lighting which can be controlled by an app on your phone, or by using your voice. The app allows you to turn the lights on, change the brightness, and depending on your bulb - the colour. It opens up a whole new world of possibilities - you could have one method of lighting for movie night in the living room, another for dinner parties and another for getting dressed on a dark winter's morning without waking your partner. To swap from each type of lighting, you only need to press a button or even just speak.
What equipment is required for a smart lighting system?
Smart lights generally work by networking, connecting each smart bulb wirelessly to it's nearest neighbour, using a central hub which you can plug into your router. This means that when you are connected to your wifi using a device such as your phone or iPad, you can control the lights. There are some systems available on the market which enable you to control your lights even when you are not at home, which is useful if you leave home and realise that your house is lit up like Blackpool Illuminations! You can usually add accessories to your smart lighting systems, such as dimmer switches and motion detectors. You can even link it with IFTT (If this then that) technology to create custom lighting - for instance, the bulb could flash green when you got a new message on your phone.
Does smart lighting work with virtual assistants like Alexa?
Yes - smart lighting can be controlled using virtual assistants like Alexa, along with a smartphone app. The popular Phillips Hue system, for instance, can function with Apple's HomeKit, Google Home, the Amazon Echo. You can use the voice control to communicate with the bulbs - for instance, saying 'Siri, turn the lights to cinema mode' or 'OK Google, turn the living room lights off'. You can also control Hue lights using your Apple Watch. Other smart lighting providers are expected to follow suit with the virtual assistant technology, although it's bad news for Cortana fans - there are no plans for a direct app for Microsoft devices.
Is smart lighting LED? What type of bulbs are available?
As smart lighting is cutting edge technology, it makes sense to use the most technologically advanced type of lighting - so yes, it is LED. Currently, there are three types of smart lighting bulbs available - standard, candle, and GU10 Spotlights. You can replace a 50w incandescent spotlight bulb with a 5W GU10 spotlight - so it makes sense economically too. Generally speaking, there are two choices of bulb colours - white (either warm or cool) or colour changing. Colour changing bulbs are more expensive, but you also have the most fun with them.
How much does smart lighting cost?
Bad news, smart lighting systems don't come cheap, although the more retailers that provide them, the cheaper they are getting. For example - the Philips Hue Bridge 2.0 with three multicolour bulbs is approximately £150. Coloured spotlights are £50 each. IKEA is cheaper, with the gate costing £25 and bulbs ranging from £9-£15.
Does smart lighting save money?
If saving money is important to you, it's probably better to just swap to LED lights without the smart lighting capability, as you get the energy/money saving without the initial expense. The main benefit of smart lighting is the fun factor - children will love turning the living room into their own little disco, and visitors will be suitably impressed when you can dim the lights to entertain without so much as flicking a switch. If money is a concern, don't kit out the whole house - turn your dining room, living room or bedroom into a smart lighting hub.
The future of smart lighting
Smart lighting is just one piece of the puzzle in the new 'internet of things' - smart appliances which connect to the internet. There's a whole new realm of possibility opening up for homeowners. You could switch your alarm off with your voice, raise your blinds without getting out of bed, switch on the light downstairs for a dark winter morning, boil the kettle without even stepping foot in the kitchen. It's all part of a seamless society, one that we seem to be edging towards with self-driving cars and the aforementioned technology. Whilst the inventors of the world get to work, you can enjoy a little bit of the future right now, with the smart lighting.