In the two previous instalments of our 12 months of smart home improvements series, we’ve covered a variety of great items specifically intended to meet the criteria of the Safety and Security category of the three pillars of a smart home. First we considered products intended to enhance your smart home’s Front Door Security, and in the second article, we moved on to take an extensive look at Smart Locks. Today is the first time that we break away from safety and security concerns to examine a few products from one of the other three pillars of a smart home: Comfort and Convenience. We’ll save our examinations of products under the heading of Energy and Efficiency for future instalments in the series. For now, our focus will be on the considerable conveniences that one can enjoy just by installing a few smart lights, plugs, and switches. Read on to enjoy our full examination of this classification of smart home products, and be sure to add your questions, comments, concerns, and experiences in the discussion section at the end of the article. We’d love to hear what you think!
Step Three: Why Install Smart Lights, Plugs, and Switches?
The decision to install smart lights, plugs, and switches is primarily a matter of convenience. Being able to more easily control your lights, electronics, and various other devices is handy whether you’re at home or away. With special apps to run them, most smart lights, plugs, and switches may be controlled from virtually anywhere on Earth. This gives them more than just the convenience factor, as it’s a useful security feature to be able to make people think you’re at home when in fact you may be traveling half way around the world. You can achieve this nifty little trick merely by opening your device’s specialized app and pressing a couple of buttons. All you need is to ensure that you’ve got access to a Wi-Fi connection.
On the convenience front, you can now turn your lights and other electronic devices on and off without ever getting up from the couch. If you’ve just tucked yourself in to bed for the night and realized that you mistakenly left a light on downstairs, simply grab your smart phone from the bedside table and turn the light off without ever getting up. This is just one of the many ways you’ll add ease and convenience to your life with smart lights, plugs, and switches. As we explore a few more of the key features and benefits of these devices throughout the remainder of today’s blog, and as we specifically examine a few of the top examples from each of these smart product categories, try to see if you can think of some additional ways in which you could put these convenient devices to work making life easier in your home.
Features & Benefits to Look For
The variety of features available for smart lights, plugs, and switches has a lot of overlap across the three product types. Not all features will apply to every single product, but the majority of the features in the following summarized list are a pretty good bet to be present in many of today’s top smart home products of this nature:
- Easy Installation – Most products in the realm of smart lights, plugs, and switches are fairly easy to install. Some smart switches may require physical wiring in, but even this is generally considered a quick and easy process for those with minimal screwdriver skills.
- App Based Control – No matter which smart light, plug, or switch interests you most, you can almost certainly be assured of being able to use your smart device to control it. This gives you remote access to your various smart home gadgets via your smart phone, tablet, or other connected device from virtually anywhere in the world that has a Wi-Fi internet connection.
- Integration – Most of these products (at least among the top examples) are easy to integrate into a whole-home smart home ecosystem where they can work together alongside your other smart home products. In many cases, you can control them via systems like Works with Nest, Apple HomeKit, Google’s Alexa, or other home automation control systems.
- Programability – The ability to program moods, timers, schedules, and other similar control options exists for most products in the smart lights, plugs, and switches realm. This is both convenient and useful as a security feature.
- Device Compatibility – Generally, most smart home products of the kind we’re discussing today will work with either Android or iOS based smart devices. In many cases, the products with work with other device types as well, such as tablets running the Windows 10 operating system.
- Energy Management – Being able to set timers for lights and appliances to shut off when you’re away from home is a great benefit when it comes to managing your home energy consumption and its costs.
Some Excellent Options From Top Name Brands
If you’d like to enter the realm of smart home convenience by way of smart lighting, there are few options that rival the possibilities brought forth by Philips Hue. As one of the most trusted names in smart home products today, they’ve got a strong position in the market and a ton of great devices. The first one that I’d recommend to smart home newcomers has got to be the Philips HUE A19 Smart LED Starter Kit. This kit comes with everything you need to get your smart lighting system up and running (1 bridge modem, 1 ethernet cable, 1 power adapter, and 2 x A19 white LED smart lightbulbs). With these components, you’ll enjoy easy installation, complete app based control (via the Philips Hue App – for both Android and iOS based devices), and the ability to integrate into a larger smart home ecosystem via home automation products like Nest and Apple HomeKit. Each Philips Hue lightbulb also provides a 15,000 hour operational life, programmable moods that you can easily set, and the ability to set your lights via a timer that makes them come on or go off according to your own specific schedule. What a great way to begin your smart home lighting journey!
In the realm of the smart plug, one of the best options has got to be the TP-LINK Smart Wi-Fi Plug Mini. With this amazing little plug, you’ll be able to control any electronic devices that are plugged into it thanks to the freely downloadable Kasa App (compatible with smart devices running iOS 9 and up or Android 4.1 and up). This level of control may be exercised from virtually anywhere on the planet. All you need is a useable Wi-Fi connection for your device and you’re all set. You’ll also have the ability to schedule your devices to come on or go off whenever you please, thanks to the handy scheduling function, and you can even create the appearance of being home (when you’re not) by manipulating lights, appliances, or whatever other of your electronic devices are perceptible to those outside your home.
Finally, in the category of smart switches, there’s the Belkin WeMo Wi-Fi Light Switch. With this easy-to-install switch, you’ll enjoy complete control over the lighting in your home. Working in conjunction with the special WeMo App (which serves as a virtual hub for any and all WeMo products you may have), you can easily control your lights from practically anywhere in the world. What’s more, this smart switch provides all of the same functionality that you’re quickly coming to expect from smart lights, plugs, and switches in general. From setting a lighting schedule (to reduce energy consumption), to programming an IFTTT recipe, the Belkin WeMo Wi-Fi Light Switch is designed to do it all. You may never again have to rise from your comfortable chair to turn on or off a light, and you also won’t have to worry about your home appearing empty when you’re away on vacation. Simply throw the lights on or off at will via your smart device and the WeMo App, and nobody’ll be the wiser. It’s the ultimate in convenience, with a little touch of security thrown in!
If you’re just starting to explore the world of smart home automation, smart lights, plugs, and switches is a great place to begin. I would certainly advise going back to the first two articles in this series (both linked at the beginning of the article) and getting your safety and security needs off the ground first. But, if you’re more interested in the comfort and convenience aspects of a smart home, you really can’t go wrong with picking up a few of the products discussed here today. They’re pretty much the best of the best when it comes to smart home lights, plugs, and switches.
For more great smart home options, check out Best Buy’s dedicated hub for Smart Lights, Plugs, & Switches, and be sure to check back again next month as we continue our 12 months of smart home improvements series. Thanks for stopping by!